Dina Gilio-Whitaker: A realistic assessment of indigenous meeting

A participant listens at the recent World Conference on Indigenous Peoples. Photo by Whitney Minthorn, GCG Media Team / Facebook

Dina Gilio-Whitaker of the Center for World Indigenous Studies discusses whether the recent World Conference on Indigenous Peoples can be considered a success:
I’ve been writing on the WCIP since 2013, when I was involved in the WCIP preparations in my role as associate researcher at the Center for World Indigenous Studies (CWIS). CWIS was contracted by the Quinault Indian Nation to assist in their international outreach efforts in the United Nations and in their diplomatic relations with foreign governments. After the contract terminated in early 2014, CWIS continued to assist other indigenous nations outside the United States in their preparations to participate in the WCIP and to help them develop strategies in dealing with state governments. In some cases, these were nations who were experiencing active persecution by dominant state governments.

One of the most significant aspects of the four-year long WCIP preparations was the eventual participation of indigenous governments—who, for the most part, were not involved until three years into the process. Throughout the history of IP’s engaging in the United Nations, the work has by and large been carried out by civil society groups in the form of non-governmental organizations. These NGOs’ accomplishments speak for themselves. Their influence on international conventions like the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), International Labour Organization Convention 169, and the establishment of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues are all significant achievements that advance the human rights of indigenous peoples worldwide.

The concept of “human rights,” however, is a slippery slope for IP’s as fourth world nations, with governments of their own. In state-centric international law, human rights protection is considered within the purview of state governments; it is their responsibility to protect the rights of individual citizens, not nations. UNDRIP was the first international instrument to incorporate collective rights into its platform, with its language supporting the right to self-government, self-determination, and autonomy, augmented by the right of free, prior, and informed consent (FPIC).

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Dina Gilio-Whitaker: The World Conference on Indigenous Peoples: "Not OUR Conference" (Intercontinental Cry 1/5)

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