Pushed for Time

The General Assembly Has More Work Than Expected

Der Spiegel | Vancouver | 8 January 2017 |

After a long day of working hard in the General Assembly, it still seems that there is much more work to be done. Upon the first opportunity to motion for suspensions, the dais verbally smiled upon a 30 minute suspension to allow delegates to finish their second draft papers. This recommendation was met with opposition namely from the delegates from Italy and Finland.

Delegates pushed for a 35 minute suspension, begging the question of what the delegates could do in five minutes more if they had already used up an entire day to express their ideas on paper. Another delegate asked if the dais would smile upon a “10 minute extension to the suspension,” begging the same question.

Some groups are farther along than others, especially the group containing Nigeria and Lesotho. These delegates have already submitted their paper and are attempting to fill a gap in the UN Declaration of Rights of Indigenous People regarding the definition of “indigenous people.” According to these delegates, “there is no definition of ‘indigenous people’” in this document, and the only somewhat-accepted definition comes from the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA). This is understandably a very odd omission in a declaration that uses the words “Indigenous People” in its title.

The DESA accepts indigenous peoples as those persons who mainly “have a historical continuity with pre-invasion and pre-colonial societies that developed on their territories and consider themselves distinct from other sectors of the societies now prevailing on those territories,” according to the Nigerian delegate.

This exact definition will be codified in the aforementioned paper, and this may affect the decisions of other delegates to merge, namely the delegates from Australia, the United States. When approached, the Australian delegate did not seem to phased by the definition. The delegate does not “completely oppose” the definition, but is wary that indigenous people are on territories where colonial societies have prevailed.

With this merger possibly out of the picture, it appears that multiple papers may result from the deliberations of the General Assembly.

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