EMRIP 2013 – Self-Determination

EMRIP  2013

 Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

Sixth Session, United Nations, Geneva, 8-12 July 2013

Notes provided by Foundation for GAIA and taken by Jordi Mallarach Parés


The right of Indigenous Peoples to self-determination was emphasized throughout the meeting. West Papua Indigenous People called on UN to establish referendum for independence so that peace and justice can be achieved. They underscored the fact that despite being granted special autonomy, poverty is widespread and human rights abuses remain rife throughout the region but that independence would help them achieve their rights and dignity. Similarly, the Indigenous world association, focusing on Native Americans highlighted the reluctance of states to grant Indigenous Peoples their right to self-determination – in this case the American government. This group asserted that the issues of colonization and decolonization must be confronted if justice is to be achieved. Many countries also stressed the right for all Indigenous Peoples to be given participatory status in world meetings, with Finland drawing special attention to the participation of Indigenous youth and women in this conference.

The Grand Council of the Crees that states have an obligation to ensure access to justice for Indigenous Peoples and to eliminate barriers (such as discriminatory laws and practices) that deny the access of Indigenous Peoples to law. The Russian Federation stressed the necessity of councils and commission in providing legal support to Indigenous Peoples. An emphasis was also placed on the need to strengthen the legal system of Indigenous Peoples within the UN framework and international law.

Yet, June Lorenzo pointed out that even if Indigenous Peoples have access to the law and courts and even if they win the case, many Indigenous Peoples understand justice differently e.g. In USA the Indigenous claims have been given money, but Shoshone and Lakota have refused to be given money, as they believe being given money for land is not justice. This must therefore be acknowledged.

Yet problems over access to justice for Indigenous Peoples also emerge in the international arena, as occurred with the Chilean–Peruvian maritime dispute. This refers to a territorial dispute between the South American republics of Peru and Chile over the sovereignty of an area at sea in the Pacific Ocean. This case was taken up by the international court of Justice by the Aymara people, the Indigenous community that lives in that region, were excluded because they were not recognized as a state.  The Aymara people asserted that this ocean was theirs before the existence of states who later claimed it and the Aymara people have long used this ocean for fishing and agricultural means – as has been documented by many museums.  As Tomas Alarcan said “This shows how international tribunals are not sufficient and are of no use to us.” Likewise, in the Ryuku islands in the Southwest of Japan the territorial rights of land has been dividing among China, Korea and Japan while the rights of the Ryuku people has been ignored. This, despite the fact that for 400 years the Ryuku people had their own independent country before being annexed by force to Japan in 1875. Such measures by states tend to be regarded by Indigenous Peoples are colonization.  The Russian Federation had previously mentioned the problem that rises from there being no designation of names of Indigenous territories, as there is of states.  He reiterated the need for Indigenous people to be granted the names of their nations and territory.

The right to education and information in Indigenous languages is another area of crucial importance. Bolivia has made progress in this area. For example, in education, Bolivia has  created multilingual educational programmes (which teach in Aymara, Quechua and Guaraní) as well as education centres in Indigenous peoples’ regions. James Anaya emphasized the necessity of translating UNDRIP into Indigenous languages.