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Communique from the Workshop on the draft Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

9 August 2003, International Day for the World's Indigenous Peoples.

Kia ora koutou,

Please find below a copy of the Communique that the Maori participants of the workshop held 1 and 2 August on the draft Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, sent to NZ government officials today. The feedback from participants was that the first draft was too mediatory in tone and that more explicit references needed to be made about the significant concerns we had with the amendments to the text of the draft Declaration being proposed by government officials.

Communique of the 2nd Technical Workshop on the draft Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples convened by Victoria School of Management

Maori attendees of the 2nd Technical Workshop on the draft Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, held at the Victoria Law School Theatre on Friday 1 August and Saturday 2 August 2003, join with the 350 million indigenous peoples worldwide in commemorating the International Day for the World's Indigenous Peoples on August 9th.

In spite of the increased global awareness about the unequal and adverse situation of indigenous peoples; the legacy of the experience of colonization of indigenous peoples continues today. We honour the lives of those who have now passed on and who endeavoured to seek increased rights for their own indigenous peoples as well as indigenous peoples globally through their participation in the development of the draft Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

We call on indigenous youth to take an increased active role in ensuring that the draft Declaration is finalized, progressed through the United Nations system, adopted by the UN General Assembly, and implemented by UN member states. We ask those Maori who participated in the early development of the draft Declaration and chose to leave due to lack of equal participation between States and Indigenous Peoples, to reflect on what part they wish to make in these final and crucial years of the draft Declaration's journey. We acknowledge and appreciate the few Maori who have supported and advised during the recent Intersessional meetings on the draft Declaration.

There are thanks to be given for everyone who participated in the Workshop, but particular acknowledgement to; Sam Jackson, Te Ati Awa; Te Puni Kokiri for providing financial assistance towards the costs of holding the Workshop; Joris de Bres, Race Relations Commissioner, the Maori attendees at the 2nd Session of the Permanent Forum who reported and shared information on the developments of the Forum, all those who presented, the Maori attendees and officials.

The 2-day Workshop covered a range of issues, but the focus of attention was the analysis of a document prepared by officials from Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Ministry of Justice, Te Puni Kokiri, Crown Law Office and the Office of Treaty Settlements, proposing a revised position and approach for New Zealand to adopt in the remaining sessions of the Intersessional draft Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

The timeframe for finalization of the draft Declaration was to be 2004, the final year of the International Decade for the World's Indigenous People. All participants were mindful that only two sessions remain for this milestone to be met.

Workshop participants welcome moves by officials to improve New Zealand's position on the draft Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, its participation in the Intersessional Working Group meetings, and to engage in an open, free and frank dialogue with Maori in relation to the proposed revised New Zealand position on the draft Declaration;

In particular, we celebrate the following positive elements of the officials' working text:

- Eleven of the 19 Preamble paragraphs of the draft Declaration can be accepted by the New Zealand government without amendment.

- Nine of 45 Articles of the draft Declaration can be accepted by the New Zealand government without amendment

- The term indigenous peoples can be accepted in the context of individual and collective rights by the New Zealand government

- New Zealand no longer supports a definition for indigenous peoples and argues for self-identification

- New Zealand wishes to demonstrate leadership with other governments in finalizing the draft Declaration.

We noted that officials have had the benefit of six-months to meet and discuss a possible revised position and approach, and be fully resourced to do so, and that the decision to amend the existing text of the Draft Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples already has currency within the Crown.

Maori workshop participants however, were only able to consider the proposals over a 24-hour period, as the working text was not distributed to participants until 7:30pm on the Friday, 1 August. The vast majority of the participants come from a position of not wanting to see any amendment, or minimal amendment, to the text of the draft Declaration. To agree to support the officials' initiative, requires Maori to agree to open the draft Declaration for amendment, and this is a profound and significant decision that participants do not wish to take without considerable thought, discussion and dialogue with more Maori and with other indigenous peoples.

The 'working text' proposes amendments to 8 Preamble paragraphs, 35 Articles, as well as two new additional Articles. In mathematical terms, that equates to seeking amendment on 42% of the Preamble paragraphs and 74% of the Articles; or a total of 67% of the entire draft Declaration. We do not consider the amendments to be of a minor nature.

In a spirit of showing willingness to engage in a constructive manner, in spite of the short period of time given for analysis of the 'working text', participants did provide comments and feedback to officials, in both general terms as well as in relation to specific Articles and Preamble statements. These should be considered initial comments and should not be interpreted as meaning that participants have accepted the strategy and approach proposed by officials.

The participants articulated genuine and deep concerns about some of the recommended changes as proposed by officials. There was a strong view that some of the changes required, such as sustainable development and democracy, were issues far broader than the scope and intent of the draft Declaration, and that in recommending the inclusion of these terms government would be asking indigenous peoples to accept a 'battle' that can be more effectively fought in other contexts and forum in the UN system.

While understanding that government officials have a tight timeframe in order to present their text to Ministers if they wish to obtain government support in time for the September meeting on the draft Declaration, it is our view that more time is needed to consider and discuss the proposals. The working text should be distributed more widely amongst Maori. The levels of discussion need to be carried out concurrently at several levels; amongst Maori, between Maori and the Crown, between government and other states, and between Maori and other indigenous peoples.

The Recommendations of the Workshop Participants made to officials therefore are as follows, we:

(1) Request government to commence lobbying other UN states to agree to extend meetings on the elaboration of the draft Declaration beyond the conclusion of the International Decade on the World's Indigenous Peoples, and for a maximum period of five years, 2005-2010;

(2) Endorse the principles put forward by Dr Mick Dodson of Australia recommending that discussion of the text of the draft Declaration should only be considered if they meet three standards, these being that any changes are; (a) necessary, (b) strengthen or improve the text, and (c) are consistent with other international standard of equality and non-discrimination;

(3) Anticipate that the revised 'working text' as provided by the government to the workshop be made available as the basis for on-going dialogue and consultation between officials and Maori;

(4) Request that the 'working text' should not be submitted for confirmation by Cabinet this year, but rather that the revised working text be used as a basis for dialogue and consultation with Maori as stated above, and also as a basis of dialogue amongst other States to ascertain their willingness to endorse it;

(5) Propose a strategy to enable greater Maori engagement and analysis in the draft Declaration process, that being,

a) To convene further meetings with a wider cross-section of Maori

b) To enable a delegation of at least ten Maori to attend the upcoming Intersessional meeting, with a view to the delegation carrying out informal discussions with other indigenous peoples to ascertain their position and approach for the finalization of the draft Declaration, participate in the discussions, and to report back to Maori on their return

c) For the key departments [MFAT, Justice, TPK, OTS and Crown Law] to collectively provide funding for the Maori delegation, noting that Victoria School of Management and the Human Rights Commission are willing to facilitate the fund and selection of Maori attendees.

(6) Note that we considered this 2nd Technical Workshop to be very constructive and would recommend that future meetings could be similarly organized

Professor Ngatata Love, Aroha Te Pareake Mead, Facilitators.

Related index pages: Indigenous Rights (Aotearoa) and Human rights (Aotearoa).

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