1.         Indigenous institutions and the strengthening of nations  

            The member states of the OAS (hereafter the states),  

            Recalling that the indigenous peoples of the Americas constitute an organized, distinctive and integral segment of their population and are entitled to be part of the national identities of the countries of the Americas, and have a special role to play in strengthening the institutions of the state and in establishing national unity based on democratic principles; and,  

            Further recalling that some of the democratic institutions and concepts embodied in the constitutions of American states originate from institutions of the indigenous peoples, and that in many instances their present participatory systems for decision-making and for authority contribute to improving democracies in the Americas.  

            Recalling the need to develop their national juridical systems to consolidate the pluricultural nature of our societies.  

            2.         Eradication of poverty and the right to development  

            Concerned about the frequent deprivation afflicting indigenous peoples of their human rights and fundamental freedoms; within and outside their communities, as well as the dispossession of their lands, territories and resources, thus preventing them from exercising, in particular, their right to development in accordance with their own traditions, needs and interests.  

            Recognizing the severe impoverishment afflicting indigenous peoples in several regions of the Hemisphere and that their living conditions are generally deplorable.  

            And recalling that in the Declaration of Principles issued by the Summit of the Americas in December 1994, the heads of state and governments declared that in observance of the International Decade of the World's Indigenous People, they will focus their energies on improving the exercise of democratic rights and the access to social services by indigenous peoples and their communities.  

            3.         Indigenous culture and ecology  

            Recognizing the respect for the environment accorded by the cultures of indigenous peoples of the Americas, and considering the special relationship between the indigenous peoples and the environment, lands, resources and territories on which they live and their natural resources.     

            4.         Harmonious Relations, Respect and the Absence of Discrimination  

            Reaffirming the responsibility of all states and peoples of the Americas to end racism and racial discrimination, with a view to establishing harmonious relations and respect among all peoples.  

            5.         Territories and Indigenous Survival  

Recognizing that in many indigenous cultures, traditional collective systems for control and use of land, territory and resources, including bodies of water and coastal areas, are a necessary condition for their survival, social organization, development and their individual and collective well-being; and that the form of such control and ownership is varied and distinctive and does not necessarily coincide with the systems protected by the domestic laws of the states in which they live.  

            6.         Security and indigenous areas  

Reaffirming that the armed forces in indigenous areas shall restrict themselves to the performance of their functions and shall not be the cause of abuses or violations of the rights of indigenous peoples.  

            7.         Human Rights instruments and other advances in international law  

            Recognizing the paramouncy and applicability to the states and peoples of the Americas of the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man, the American Convention on Human Rights and other human rights instruments of inter-American and international law; and  

            Recognizing that indigenous peoples are a subject of international law, and mindful of the progress achieved by the states and indigenous organizations, especially in the sphere of the United Nations and the International Labor Organization, in several international instruments, particularly in the ILO Convention 169.  

            Affirming the principle of the universality and indivisibility of human rights, and the application of international human rights to all individuals.  

            8.         Enjoyment of Collective Rights  

            Recalling the international recognition of rights that can only be enjoyed when exercised collectively.        

        9.         Advances in the provisions of national instruments  

            Noting the constitutional, legislative and jurisprudential advances achieved in the Americas in guaranteeing the rights and institutions of indigenous peoples.  




1.        Draft United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UN 1994)  


Affirming that indigenous peoples are equal in dignity and rights to all other peoples, while recognizing the right of all peoples to be different, to consider themselves different, and to be respected as such.  

Affirming also that all peoples contribute to the diversity and richness of civilizations and cultures, which constitute the common heritage of humankind. 

Affirming further that all doctrines, policies and practices based on or advocating superiority of peoples or individuals on the basis of national origin, racial, religious, ethnic or cultural differences are racist, scientifically false, legally invalid, morally condemnable and socially unjust.  

Reaffirming also that indigenous peoples, in the exercise of their rights, should be free from discrimination of any kind.  

Concerned that indigenous peoples have been deprived of their human rights and fundamental freedoms, resulting, inter alia, in their colonization and dispossession of their lands, territories and resources, thus preventing them from exercising, in particular, their right to development in accordance with their own needs and interests.  

Recognizing the urgent need to respect and promote the inherent rights and characteristics of indigenous peoples, especially their rights to their lands, territories and resources, which derive from their political, economic and social structures and from their cultures, spiritual traditions, histories and philosophies.  

Welcoming the fact that indigenous peoples are organizing themselves for political, economic, social and cultural enhancement and in order to bring an end to all forms of discrimination and oppression wherever they occur.  

Convinced that control by indigenous peoples over developments affecting them and their lands, territories and resources will enable them to maintain and strengthen their institutions, cultures and traditions, and to promote their development in accordance with their aspirations and needs.  

Recognizing also that respect for indigenous knowledge, cultures and traditional practices contributes to sustainable and equitable development and proper management of the environment.  

Emphasizing the need for demilitarization of the lands and territories of indigenous peoples, which will contribute to peace, economic and social progress and development, understanding and friendly relations among nations and peoples of the world.

Recognizing in particular the right of indigenous families and communities to retain shared responsibility for the upbringing, training, education and well-being of their children.  

Recognizing also that indigenous peoples have the right freely to determine their relationship with States in a spirit of coexistence, mutual benefit and full respect.  

Considering that treaties, agreements and other arrangements between States and indigenous peoples are properly matters of international concern and responsibility.  

Acknowledging that the Charter of the United Nations, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights affirm the fundamental importance of the right of self-determination of all peoples, by virtue of which they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development.  

Bearing in mind that nothing in this Declaration may be used to deny any peoples their right of self-determination.  

Encouraging States to comply with and effectively implement all international instruments, in particular those related to human rights, as they apply to indigenous peoples, in consultation and cooperation with the peoples concerned.  

Emphasizing that the United Nations has an important and continuing role to play in promoting and protecting the rights of indigenous peoples.  

Believing that this Declaration is a further important step forward for the recognition, promotion and protection of the rights and freedoms of indigenous peoples and in the development of relevant activities of the United Nations system in this field.  

Solemnly proclaims the following United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.  

          2.      C 169, Convention on Indigenous and Tribal People (ILO Convention 1989)  

The General Conference of the International Labor Organization, Having been convened at Geneva by the Governing Body of the International Labor Office, and having met in its 76th Session on 7 June 1989, and  

Noting the international standards contained in the Indigenous and Tribal Populations Convention and Recommendation, 1957, and  

Recalling the terms of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the many international instruments on the prevention of discrimination and

Considering that the developments which have taken place in international law since 1957, as well as developments in the situation of indigenous and tribal peoples in all regions of the world, have made it appropriate to adopt new international standards on the subject with a view to removing the assimilationist orientation of the earlier standards, and  

Recognizing the aspirations of these peoples to exercise control over their own institutions, ways of life and economic development and to maintain and develop their identities, languages and religions, within the framework of the States in which they live and  

Noting that in many parts of the world these peoples are unable to enjoy their fundamental human rights to the same degree as the rest of the population of the States within which they live, and that their laws, values, customs and perspectives have often been eroded, and  

Calling attention to the distinctive contributions of indigenous and tribal peoples to the cultural diversity and social and ecological harmony of humankind and to international co-operation and understanding, and  

Noting that the following provisions have been framed with the co-operation of the United Nations, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization and the World Health Organization, as well as of the Inter-American Indian Institute, at appropriate levels and in their respective fields, and that it is proposed to continue this co-operation in promoting and securing the application of these provisions, and  

Having decided upon the adoption of certain proposals with regard to the partial revision of the Indigenous and Tribal Populations Convention, 1957 (No. 107), which is the fourth item on the agenda of the session, and  

Having determined that these proposals shall take the form of an international Convention revising the Indigenous and Tribal Populations Convention, 1957; adopts the twenty-seventh day of June of the year one thousand nine hundred and eighty-nine, the following Convention, which may be cited as the Indigenous and Tribal Peoples Convention, 1989  

On distinctiveness  

3.      Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, General Recommendation XXIII (51) Concerning Indigenous Peoples (Agust 1997). UN.  

          "4. The Committee calls in particular upon States parties to:

a. recognize and respect indigenous distinct culture, history, language and way of life as an enrichment of the State's cultural identity and to promote its preservation."  

4.         Copenhagen Declaration on Social Development and Programme of Action of the World Summit for Social Development (Copenhagen, Denmark, March 6-12, 1995). UN.  

Annex II:  Programme of Action of the World Summit for Social Development Content. Chapter IV. Social Integration


"Basis for action and objectives....67. Nevertheless, progress has been noted, as shown in the continuation of the ongoing process of decolonization; the elimination of apartheid; the spread of democracy; wider recognition of the need to respect human dignity, all human rights and fundamental freedoms and cultural diversity; the unacceptability of discrimination; increasing recognition of the unique concerns of indigenous people in the world;..."  

                        On Collective Rights plus  

5.         Draft United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UN 1994)  

Article 11:  

"Indigenous peoples have the right to special protection and security in periods of armed conflict. States shall observe international standards, in particular the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949, for the protection of civilian populations in circumstances of emergency and armed conflict, and shall not:


a.         recruit indigenous individuals against their will into the armed forces and, in particular, for use against other indigenous peoples;


b.         recruit indigenous children into the armed forces under any circumstances;


c.         force indigenous individuals to abandon their lands, territories or means of subsistence, or relocate them in special centers for military purposes;

d.         force indigenous individuals to work for military purposes under any discriminatory conditions."


Article 43: "All the rights and freedoms recognized herein are equally guaranteed to male and female indigenous individuals."  

6.        C 169, Convention on Indigenous and Tribal People (ILO Convention 1989)  

Article 11: "The exaction from members of the peoples concerned of compulsory personal services in any form, whether paid or unpaid, shall be prohibited and punishable by law, except in cases prescribed by law for all citizens."  

Article 23:


1.         "Handicrafts, rural and community-based industries, and subsistence economy and traditional activities of the peoples concerned, such as hunting, fishing, trapping and gathering, shall be recognized as important factors in the maintenance of their cultures and in their economic self-reliance and development. Governments shall, with the participation of these people and whenever appropriate, ensure that these activities are strengthened and promoted.


2.         Upon the request of the peoples concerned, appropriate technical and financial assistance shall be provided wherever possible, taking into account the traditional technologies and cultural characteristics of these peoples, as well as the importance of sustainable and equitable development."  

7.        International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (UN 1966)  

Article 27: “In those States in which ethnic, religious or linguistic minorities exist, persons belonging to such minorities shall not be denied the right, in community with the other members of their group, to enjoy their own culture, to profess and practice their own religion, or to use their own language.”  

8.        International Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination (UN 1965)  

Article 5: "State Parties undertake to prohibit and to eliminate racial discrimination, notably in the enjoyment of the following rights: (d)(v) The right to own property alone as well as association with others."  

9.        Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UN 1948)  

Article 17(1): “Everyone has the right to own property alone as well as in association with others.”


Article 27(1): “Everyone has duties to the community in which alone the free and full development of his personality is possible”  

10.      Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic Religious or Linguistic Minorities (UN 1990)  

Article 3(1): “Persons  belonging to minorities may exercise their rights including those set forth in the present Declaration individually, as well as in community with other members of their group, without any discrimination.”    

11.      African Charter on Human and Peoples` Rights (Banjul Charter 1981)  

Article 22(1): "All peoples shall have the right to their economic, social, and cultural development with due regard to their freedom and identity and in the equal enjoyment of the common heritage of mankind."  

12.      International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (UN 1965)  

Article 2(2): "States Parties shall take special and concrete measures to ensure the adequate development and protection of certain racial groups or individuals belonging to them, for the purpose of guaranteeing the full and equal enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms.  These measures shall in no case entail as a consequence the maintenance of unequal or separate rights for different racial groups after the objective for which they were taken have been achieved."  

Article 5: "State Parties undertake to prohibit and to eliminate racial discrimination, notably in the enjoyment of the following rights: (d)(v)  The right to own property alone  well as association with others."  

                        On poverty  

13.      International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (UN 1966)  

Article 11(2): “The State Parties to the present Covenant, recognizing the fundamental right of everyone to be free from hunger, shall take, individual and through international co-operation, the measures, including specific programmes, which are needed: (a) to improve methods of production, conservation and distribution of food..."  

14.      Alliance for Sustainable Development documents signed by the Presidents of Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Panama and a Representative of the Prime Minister of Belize, at the Central American Ecological Summit for Sustainable Development in Managua, Nicaragua, (October 12, 1994)  

Basis of the Alliance for Sustainable Development:


2.         Social and Cultural Development: The major social challenge is to overcome extreme poverty in the countries. Poverty is not only a manifestation of serious backwardness but also one of inequality, which is an obstacle to harmonious conciliation and national integration and is a potential threat to democratic coexistence and firm and lasting peace."        


          On Collective Rights Plus  

15.      Colombia  

                   Decreto No. 715 (1992)  

Article 1: "Créase como organismo coordinador para la defensa, protección y

promoción de los derechos humanos de las comunidades indígenas y de sus miembros, el Comité Nacional de Derechos Indígenas”.  

16.      Nicaragua  

Constitution of Nicaragua  

Article 89: “The state recognizes the communal forms of land ownership of the Communities of the Atlantic Coast.”  

17.      Peru  

         Constitución Política del Perú  

Artículo 2 “Toda persona tiene derecho: (20): [A] formular peticiones, individual or colectivamente, por escrito ante la autoridad competente, la que está obligada dar al interesado una respuesta también escrito dentro del plazo legal, bajo responsabilidad”.  

18.     Bolivia  

                   Decreto 7765 de 1966 (Ley de Colonización)  

Artículo 93: "se deben respetar en forma irrestrictamente las áreas de explotación colectiva o individual de los grupos étnicos marginales"  

19.     Guatemala  

                   Constitución Política de la República de Guatemala  

Artículo 58: “Identidad cultural.  Se reconoce el derecho de las personas y de las comunidades a su identidad cultural de acuerdo a sus valores, su lengua y sus costumbres”.  

20.      Canada  

                   - Nisga'a Final Agreement  

“WHEREAS the Parties intend their relationship to be based on a new approach to mutual recognition and sharing, and to achieve this mutual recognition and sharing by agreeing on rights, rather than by the extinguishment of rights; and

WHEREAS the Parties intend that this Agreement will provide certainty with respect to Nisga'a ownership and use of lands and resources, and the relationship of federal, provincial and Nisga'a laws, within the Nass Area.”  

          21.      United States  

Presidential Memo of January 18, 2001. “Guidance for U.S. to the U.N. Commission on Human Rights, the Commission’s Working Group on the UN Draft Declaration on Indigenous Rights and to the OAS Working Group on the similar OAS Draft Declaration, and the Preparatory Meetings on the UN World Conference Against Racism…”  U.S. Secretary of State, Washington D.C.


International human rights instruments generally recognize the rights of individuals.  We accept, however, that some collective rights are appropriate for indigenous communities.


We believe collective and individual rights can coexist in the indigenous context without underminig the individual rights that are firmly rooted in international human rights law. In general, when considering how best to express our position in human rights instruments, the US has used the phrase individuals in community with others.  This formula clearly recognizes the collective aspect of some human rights while at the same time protects the rights of the individual.  US domestic law recognizes collective rights for native americans, alaskan natives, and native hawaiians, and in the domestic indigenous context.  Collective rights are viewed as furthering the rights of individuals.  


On Poverty  

21.      Canada

                   - Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples  

                   Volume 4 Ch 7 s.6.4-s.7  

“Finally, the information presented in this section highlights the poverty, high dependency ratios and disadvantaged labour market position of urban Aboriginal residents and the particular plight of Aboriginal women living in urban areas. At the same time, socio-economic characteristics do vary widely between urban areas, so that Aboriginal people in different areas have distinct needs and priorities. Their aspirations and capacity to consider and implement self-government will also differ.


These factors suggest that while some initiatives should focus on providing immediate relief, others require more long-term planning and implementation strategies. The varying capacity of urban Aboriginal populations also suggests that information, strategies and experience relating to governance should be shared so that each community is not required to bear the entire burden of developing its own approaches to self-government and the provision of services.” 


 Vol. 3 Ch 3 s 1.4 Part 1  


“We conclude that poverty among Aboriginal people is a serious health issue. Its negative health effects will persist if social assistance is maintained at its present levels and in its present form. They will increase if social assistance is reduced without realistic alternatives.” 


 Vol. 5 Ch 1 s1-2.3  


“The best forms of interim relief combine a high degree of protection for a portion of the territory, institutions for the co-management of critical resources in the territory, and financing for Aboriginal people in the form of a share of resource revenues.”  

                   - Royal Commission on Aboriginal Rights, Vol. 2 Ch 3 s.2.3 Part 1  

“To summarize, under the common law doctrine of Aboriginal rights, Aboriginal peoples have an inherent right to govern themselves within Canada. This right is inherent in that it originates from the collective lives and traditions of these peoples themselves rather than from the Crown or Parliament.”    


On distinctiveness  

22.     Nicaragua  

                  Constitution of  Nicaragua  

Article 8: “The people of Nicaragua are multi-ethnic and are an integral part of the Central American nation.”  

23.     México  

                   Constitución Política de los Estados Unidos Mexicanos  

Artículo 4: "La Nación mexicana tiene una composición pluricultural sustentada originalmente en sus pueblos indígenas”.    

24.     Canada  

                   Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples  

                   Vol. 2 Recommendations  

“The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms applies to Aboriginal governments and regulates relations with individuals falling within their jurisdiction. However, under section 25, the Charter must be given a flexible interpretation that takes account of the distinctive philosophies, traditions and cultural practices of Aboriginal peoples.”  


          Vol. 2 Ch 4 s. 6 to s. 6. 2  

“With respect to claims of Aboriginal rights to engage in particular practices and activities associated with lands and resources, the courts have noted that such rights are collective and protect integral aspects of Aboriginal identity. Like the communities in which they are exercised, Aboriginal rights are not frozen in time, but instead evolve with the changing needs, customs and lifestyles of Aboriginal peoples.”


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