A Case for the Setting Up of a Fully Operational Indigenous Peoples Secretariat - UNWGIP 19-30 June 1993
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                      A CASE FOR THE SETTING UP OF

      This paper has been produced for presentation to the United 
      Nations Working Group on Indigenous Populations, Eleventh 
      Session, 19-30 June 1993. 

                 Participants in its preparation were:

Te Runanga o Whangaroa


Te Kotahitanga o Te Tai Tokerau.

This latter group represents the following iwi (tribes):

- Te Aopouri
- Te Rarawa
- Ngatikahu
- Ngapuhi
- Ngapuhi o Whangaroa
- Ngati Kahu o Whangaroa
- Ngatiwhatua


Members of the Mikmaq delegation of Canada.

                       THE EXISTING WORKING GROUP

     The Working Group has a limited mandate: "standard-setting" which 
has come to mean drafting of the Declaration, and an annual "review of 
developments", which has been an opportunity for Indigenous Peoples to 
speak to the Working Group about their own situations. There has been 
no systematic collection or printing of information, and no authority 
to comment upon, or respond to the situations in particular countries. 
As a subsidiary body of the Commission on Human Rights, the Group does 
not have much influence on other fields of UN activity such as peace 
keeping, development, or environment. 

     The Working Group is authorized to meet for 5 days annually, but, 
since 1989, ECOSOC has given the Group an additional 5 days each year 
for drafting the Declaration. 

     Staff resources are critically inadequate; one full-time person, 
at the Centre for Human Rights, supplemented during the International 
Year by 3 Indigenous persons donated by Norway, Denmark and Australia. 

     Indigenous Peoples have been fortunate that the 5 members of the 
Working Group, who are nominated and elected by government members of 
the Commission on Human Rights, have generally been supportive. There 
is no guarantee that this will continue, however. 


1.  To set in place at the UNO an Indigenous Peoples secretariat, 
working within criteria to be determined. 

     The work of the secretariat to be performed by an infrastructure 
to be determined by the indigenous peoples. 

     Regions have attempted and found strength through established 
regional bodies. 

     A central committed, active central body is now needed to cater 
for worldwide indigenous groups of peoples, i.e. to facilitate an 
ongoing global aspect of cooperation, communication and sharing in 
efforts to promote social, cultural, economic and spiritual strengths. 

2.  Such a selected body (by indigenous peoples) would give reality to 
the operative nations that the indigenous peoples are a contributing 
part of the life of their nation. 

     The indigenous people seek to give strength to their nation not to 
divide it. Diversity is slowly but surely becoming identified as a 
strengthening agent within nations. 

3.  A central body would give strength to the negotiating processes 
with States. 

     Partnership is a process that voluntarily presents discussion, 
inter-information and negotiation. 

     Negotiation is a positive action. It is identified as negative 
only if a more powerful party is forced to share its power. A provision 
of working options must cease to be associated with an established 
myth, as nations separators. 

4.  Indigenous peoples appreciate the place for such factors as 
accountability in performance, and the need of monitoring to give 

     It is for the nation States to appreciate that the indigenous 
peoples will determine the nature of accountability; who to, and what, 
why and how monitoring should be included. Monitoring and evaluating 
would lead to improvements in processes. Accountability to its people 
is a well established process amongst the indigenous peoples. 

5.  The United Nations must hear an authentic voice which represents 
the indigenous peoples. Such organizations as UNICEF, UNDP, ILO, World 
Health, the Security Council - all should take account of the 
indigenous voice, and the content reflected from its thinking. 

6.  A central body, properly resources, structured and committed, can 
create a positive public awareness of the potential contributions of 
the indigenous peoples. Whilst a repetitive comment, the reality is 
that two peoples sharing their skills in one nation have the potential 
to provide greater strength to that nation. 

     Diversity is a strengthening process for it offers options in the 
use of resources especially the resources that are used to provide 
services for humans. 

7.  The United Nations or League of Nations was born, as the world 
nations recognized a need for the nations to meet together; to 
coordinate and give strength, and to give expression to whanaungatanga 

     The worlds peoples are the worlds family. As such meeting together 
in Geneva or New York, is a larger duplication of a simple family 
meeting a groups of friends at home. 

     The conception and birth of a unified indigenous body within and 
as a part of the United Nations is the birth product of the identical 
experiences and hopes of the worlds nation States. 

8.  A Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples is due to be 
progressed. As a statement of the rights and principles to be adopted, 
because of those rights of the indigenous peoples, it should be the 
work of a central indigenous body to promote, monitor and evaluate such 
a declaration. 

     To re-emphasise, monitoring has a positive implication. It would 
simply take note of the integrity of peoples, as they work in 
partnership to provide an exciting, satisfying quality of life. 

9.  Nations working together provide better opportunities to 
whakatinana (give body to) a wawata (a dream). 

     An indigenous secretariat fully functional provides opportunity 
for distant "dreamers" to see their aspirations reflected amongst a 
host of peoples. 

     Building relationship, sharing caring, disseminating information, 
exchanging gifts. 

     An indigenous component to the UN would reinforce and contribute 
an image of persons who care for others. 

     The term United Nations appears to infer nations in unity. The 
presence of indigenous persons could provide the option of such a 
working humanity. 

     Two weeks of discussion concerning a Declaration will have raised 
a range of expectations. 

     An indigenous persons secretariat would enable indigenous persons 
to share their visions with fellow and other States. More especially, 
those who do not follow the discussions but for whom the nature and 
fruits of discussion have been an important part of decision making. 

10.  The turangawaewae (standing place) of a nation's peoples must be 
shared. Just as it is right and proper that the indigenous people have 
a place to stand within their nation, so too should there be a place 
for them "to stand", within the world. 

     The Nations of the world recognize a building standing on certain 
lands in Geneva and New York as their turangawaewae. So too should the 
indigenous peoples have a world turangawaewae. This place need not be 
different from that of the Nations but rather be "shared with" and be 
"operational beside", thus expressing the whakatinanatanga of people 
sharing in partnership. 

11.  The establishment of such a central body as an indigenous 
secretariat is an expression of the acceptance of the consent of the 
International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and of 
the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the 
affirmation of the right of self determination, tempered by the desire 
for partnership. 

                        PRECEDENTIAL PROMOTIONS 

     Support for such a partnership is already evidenced in the United 
Nations. Such a proposed partnership has already been created by the 
United Nations, of its own identification of need. 

(a) The appointment of Rigoberta Menchu, 1992 Nobel Prizewinner, as a 
Goodwill Ambassador for the Indigenous peoples for the year 1992/93, 
recognizes the need by the UN for such a person (persons) within the 
established units of the UN. 

     The vision that such persons would give strength to world 
understanding amongst the worlds peoples is already a United Nations 

(b) The UN has in its structures already recognized a status of 
"nations in waiting". For example, the ANC, the PLO, the Secretariat of 
the Vatican. 

     Each of these organisations has access support by UN decrees to 
meetings of the Sub Commissions, the Commissions and ECOSOC. 

     Such access already established for these organizations, is the 
equivalent of that sought by the Indigenous peoples. 


     Attention is drawn to the closer ties being established within the 
UN Agencies working in New York on Conservation and Environmental 

     Already it has been recognized by the UN that the indigenous 
peoples have expertise and support philosophies and practices that 
makes an effective contribution to operative systems within the UN. 

(d) Attention is drawn to the Agenda Item No. 4 - Standard Setting 
Activities - Text of the New Zealand Statements delivered in Geneva on 
29 July 1993, by the New Zealand Permanent Representative. 

This statement includes the following: 

     "for many years the Working Group has been the only Forum within 
the UN System at which indigenous peoples could make their voices 
heard. It is only in the last year or so that the UN system has been 
prepared to take account of the special position of indigenous peoples 
for example in the context of the UNCED process, and there is still a 
way to go before their contribution can be valued as it should". 

     Thus does a nation state acknowledge the importance of the 
indigenous voice and admit to time taken to take account of the special 
position of the indigenous people. The statement further acknowledged 
that there is a special valued position for the contribution of the 
indigenous peoples. 

(e) Note also the following content of the Australian Government 
statement delivered by Mr. Colin Willis on 19 July 1993: 

     "We also express our indebtedness to you...and for your address to 
the Conference on the position of Indigenous Peoples in National 
constitutions. Your thoughts on the rights of indigenous peoples, on 
self determination and reconciliation engendered a more holistic 
awareness of the international dimensions of indigenous peoples issues 
among key thinkers in Australia." 

     The papers of these two Nations acknowledge the potential "valued" 
and "holistic awareness" of the indigenous contributions. 

     The establishment of a UN Secretariat for Indigenous People would 
be a UN response towards the acquisition of "a special valued position 
for the contribution of the indigenous peoples". 

     As well the key thinkers of all of the UN Agencies would have 
ready access to an holistic awareness of peoples issues. 

(f) Reference has already been made to the Working Party chaired by 
Madame Diaz. The indigenous peoples are aware that their 
representatives have been invited by the UN to contribute toward Global 
issues, and possible resolutions. Already a positive message has been 
received by them that there appears to exist a process whereby there 
could be established for them a prominent and secure representative 
position within a global community. 

(g) A Secretariat for the International Year has been established, and 
now is operational. The functions of its members are to ensure the 
participation of indigenous people in the day to day administration of 
the year "in a spirit of new partnership" as established by the General 

     This paper submits that precedentially that which is sought is an 
affirmation of recognised UN protocols already identified ant 
established within the UN systems. 

     This paper further submits that "self-development" is an ongoing 
human experience for 811 indigenous peoples, ant peoples of recognized 

     For those people holding responsible positions in policy making, 
there lies a concurrent need for self determination, in the 
understanding of other peoples, all of whom could contribute positively 
to world development. 

     Responsibility for self determination rests with all peoples. It 
is not a focus inferring responsibilities and commitments for only one 
collective group of people, i.e. the indigenous peoples. 

     Appended to this proposal are statements submitted by the New York 
NGO Committee on the International Year of the Worlds Indigenous 

Particular attention is drawn to paragraphs: 

PARA 2:   "that a focal point be assigned within each agency to 
          coordinate activities" 

PARA 3:   "the establishment of an inter-agency mechanism..." 

PARA 5:   "urge the creation of a Centre of Indigenous Affairs or 
          division of Indigenous Affairs within the appropriate 

PARA 6:   "the establishment of a permanent fund relating to indigenous 

PARA 7:   "the appointment of a special rapporteur on Indigenous 
          Affairs to the Commission on Human Rights" 

                       SUGGESTED RECOMMENDATIONS 

1.  The Working Group must eventually be replaced by a UN Council of 
Indigenous Peoples. This must be a major goal of the UN Decade of 
Indigenous Peoples.. 

2.  The Council should be open to the participation of all Indigenous 
Peoples, choose its own officers, and report, through its Chairperson, 
to ECOSOC and the General Assembly. The Council should have a mandate 
to coordinate and evaluate all UN activities that affect Indigenous 
Peoples and to report on, and respond to, the situation of Indigenous 
Peoples in all countries. 

3.  The Council should be supported by a strong independent Centre in 
the UN Secretariat, under the direction of a Special Representative of 
the Secretary-General, whose "good offices" can be used to promote 
Indigenous Peoples' rights, and defend Indigenous Peoples as needed in 
particular situations. The Centre must have adequate Indigenous staff 
to maintain communication with Indigenous Peoples worldwide and ensure 
that they are informed, and able to participate in the U.N. 

4.  As a transitional measure, the Secretary-General should establish a 
strong, independent Secretariat unit for the Decade, with Indigenous 
staff. It can immediately begin to increase access to information and 
participation in UN activities, and, by promoting the Decade, build 
political support for the creation of a Council. As part of this, the 
office of the Goodwill Ambassador for the International Year could be 
extended and strengthened. Five full-time professional staff members 
are considered a minimum requirements for managing the Decade. 

5.  Until the creation of the permanent Council, the existing Working 
Group should continue to function with the following immediate changes 
in its structure and mandate. It should be given additional mandates to 
evaluate the implementation of an Indigenous Peoples Council. And 
Indigenous Peoples must be able to select three persons to be voting 
members of the Group at each of its annual sessions. 

6.  To ensure that the greatest possible number of Indigenous Peoples 
have an opportunity to make their views known, prior to the meeting of 
the Commission on Human Rights in February 1994 that will consider the 
Working Group's future mandate, the Chairperson of the Working Group - 
in cooperation with one Indigenous People in each geographical region 
agreed upon by the Indigenous Peoples' caucus - should disseminate this 
proposal and related documents, solicit responses and suggestions, and 
prepare a summary of the responses for the Commission. 

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