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Mayans May be #1 at the Box Office but Don’t Rate with the UN General Assembly

LatinaLista — It’s funny that in the same week a movie about an indigenous people is number one at the Box Office, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples failed to be adopted so yesterday’s International Human Rights Day could be celebrated with special significance.

Mayan character from Apocalypto movie

Of course, the movie is Mel Gibson’s creation, Apocalypto. At last count, it had brought in $15 million — and that was only after three days.

Yet, it took 24 years of advocacy from the world’s indigenous populations to get the world to recognize their existence and rights with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People before it was finally adopted by the Human Rights Council on June 29, 2006.

The next step to make the Declaration “official” was for the United Nations Third Committee of the General Assembly to adopt it. Yet, some Member States on the committee, that have large indigenous populations, felt that granting such rights to their indigenous groups was empowering them too much.

In an e-mail to Latina Lista from a source at the United Nations regarding the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People:

This document is especially significant because it gives substance to the collective rights of indigenous peoples. Existing human rights agreements that deal with categories of people — such as women, children, and
immigrants — address only the rights of individuals within those groups. The
Declaration, on the other hand, recognizes that issues such as self-determination and land rights apply to the whole group, and can be addressed only at that level.

Obviously, some countries feel threatened by this and so have been successful in derailing any kind of adoption on the Declaration.

In fact, the United Nations Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) of the General Assembly, responsible for adopting the Declaration, were successful instead in adopting a resolution on November 28, 2006 that defers any adoption of the Declaration as it now reads without further review of the text.

On October 20. 2006, representatives of the Indigenous Peoples Caucus, the Chairperson of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues and the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights and fundamental freedoms of Indigenous People met with the President of the General Assembly.
(Source: UN web site)

Needless to say, this action by some countries is disturbing and disappointing and proves that discrimination of indigenous people, people of color, still exists in the 21st century – with blatant impugnity.

In a statement by the Chairperson of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, Victoria Tauli-Corpuz:

The Permanent Forum is convinced that a declaration on the rights of
indigenous peoples will be an instrument of great value through which to advance the rights and aspirations of the worldÂ’s indigenous peoples. The Permanent Forum therefore recommends the adoption without amendments of the draft declaration on the rights of indigenous peoples Â… by the General Assembly during its sixty-first session in 2006. This would represent a major achievement for the Second International Decade of the WorldÂ’s Indigenous People.

For the United Nations to not recognize indigenous people but to recognize the countries that are home to these groups seems ironic in that it is the indigenous groups whose ancestors populated and gave history to their respective countries.

In essence, without the existence of these groups, no country would be what it is today.

It is the indigenous who were the original caretakers of the land, who lived (and some still continue to do so) in such harmony with the earth that they can tell when things are not right with our planet, and what medicinal antecdotes could be picked, boiled or eaten to relieve sickness.

These people should have been the first to have been recognized for their contributions and their value in present day society.

The United Nations has been losing credibility and respect among the peoples of the world.

If ever there was a way to stem that loss, it would be with the passage of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Indigenous leaders are tired of waiting for justice, and who can blame them. The time is now for the United Nations General Assembly to act – indigenous leaders are.

Tomorrow, a press conference (viewed via the web) will be held at the United Nations headquarters in New York City at 11 a.m. There, leaders will try to impress the importance of the passage of this Declaration before the end of 2006.

It’s a message that needs no translation.

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