Nov 8/97: Walkout! Last Report from IWG 1997


NetWarriors (Guerreros en la red)
Saturday, November 8, 1997

We can no longer tolerate the activities of memberstates at the UN when working with Indigenous Peoples... We must not allow this to continue. We must not allow them to think that it is subsided now that the session is done. More than ever now we need to strategize on how we will impact the media and the governments, missions etc. Your strategies etc are welcome.


Walk-out occurs on the last day of the Working Group, on the Elaboration of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples!

News from the United Nations Human Rights Commission Open-Ended Inter-Sessional Working on the Elaboration of the United Nations Draft Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

Ron Barnes, for the Indigenous Peoples Media Committee
November 7, 1997

On November 7th, 1997 indigenous peoples and their supporters walked out of the last meeting of Working Group on the elaboration of the United Nations draft Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples during the review of the draft final report of the session. At issue were the provisions regarding Paragraph 42 of the draft final report which addressed the debate of Article 3 - the right of self-determination. Several indigenous delegates noted that the report did not present a fair reflection of the debates on this critical article. For example, the report contained no mention that all that the indigenous peoples' delegates supported in consensus the language in the current draft Declaration of this article without changes, alterations or amendments or deletions.

Article 3 states the following:

Indigenous peoples have the right of self-determination. By virtue of that right they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development.

This article is the most crucial article in the current draft Declaration and is considered to be the backbone of the entire draft Declaration.

Despite the fact that several indigenous peoples delegates had indicated to the Chairman Urrutia their request to speak, he ignored their requests and closed the discussions on Paragraph 42. As a result, indigenous peoples and their supporters walked out of this meeting. After consultations with the Chair, the indigenous peoples agreed to walk-in and to continue the dialogue on Paragraphs 43 and 44 and then returning to the debate on Paragraph 42. All three paragraphs were then discussed and adopted by the chair. Chairman Urrutia officially apologised to those indigenous peoples he had previously not recognised and in one instance had even cut-off during his intervention.

Indigenous peoples' delegations also expressed their outrage that the Chairman Urrutia had invited governments to submit their proposed changes to the text of the draft Declaration for inclusion into the annex of this report. The Chairman had previously guaranteed that no changes to the document would be allowed in the final report. He defended his position by stating that although he had agreed not to put amendments into the final report, he never stated that he would not include them in an annex to the report. This annex, however, was challenged by several indigenous peoples and it was asked to have a disclaimer put on it, thus not allowing it to become part of the official final report. This annex was at no time presented to the indigenous peoples' delegations nor will they have a chance to review it before the Chair adopts it into his final report, if he so chooses.

The final meeting only came to a positive end due to the prayer given by Melvin Grey Owl, Elder of the Teton Sioux Nation.

Back to SIS