Fight for Indigenous Rights

General Assembly Is Definitely More General Than Specific

Der Spiegel | Vancouver | 7 January 2017 | 16:23

The crowded ballroom of the General Assembly has made itself a home for a hodgepodge of ideas and thoughts bouncing from one group to another . Delegates are divided into factions, each with separate ideas to attempt to grant indigenous peoples of each nation more human rights.

The delegates from the United States, Australia, and New Zealand among others are focusing on creating better standards of living for indigenous people. This involves using the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights (UN DHR) as a resource as well as the United Nations Declaration of Rights of Indigenous People (UN DRIP).

Interestingly, Australia, New Zealand and the United States did not ratify the UN DRIP, but they assure that the reason for this is state sovereignty. From a general standpoint, many components of the UN DRIP appear to be targeted towards those countries in particular. “We feel as though the UN would be telling us to act like another country does toward its indigenous peoples,” the Australian delegate states.

The indigenous people who live within these nations live on reservations, they explain, and the UN DRIP is not “compatible.” This does not mean however, that the nations in question do not support rights of indigenous people.

The delegations of these three countries currently hope to use a UN panel through the UNHDR to provide recommendations to countries in order to foster a better living environment for indigenous people. The metric of “better” has yet to be created, the incentives for abiding by these reservations are limited and may not outweigh the costs of implementation, and as of right now there appears to be no indigenous voice on this panel. The delegates assure that in time they hope to attain an indigenous voice in the panel, but for the time being the current UN panel has none.

Another idea put forth that also appears to lack substance lies with a group spearheaded by the Finnish delegate. When asked what the main objective of the paper is, the delegate from Denmark replied “Everything.” The delegates do not seem to have a clear roadmap, and when pressed further, the delegates stated that the paper would encourage “more cooperative programs,” and possibly a data collection system.

The data collection system is most concerningly not thought out even after one day of debating, but when mentioning that the group headed by the Netherlands is creating a data collection system as well, Denmark remarked “that’s weird, we’re doing that too.”

The Netherlands and nations from the African continent have thought out the data collection system, however. It involves sending questionnaires through NGO’s to survey indigenous people on their standard of living. This would bypass corrupt governments, according to the Dutch delegate, because it would never pass through the government itself.

Netherlands presents a somewhat idealistic viewpoint considering that the most corrupt governments may not care if they have jurisdiction over an NGO or not; they may easily be able to seize information that is not meant for their eyes to see or their pencils to modify.

The General Assembly appears to be very disorganized at this point in time, but the press conference this evening will hopefully dispel some controversies and questions that many news sources have asked.


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