28 July 2010

US Support Urged for Indigenous Declaration

Press Release

American Samoa Delegate Calls for US Support of UN Declaration on Rights of Indigenous Peoples

The Chairman of the Subcommittee on Asia, the Pacific and the Global Environment, Rep. Eni F.H. Faleomavaega, introduced H. Res. 1551 yesterday calling on the United States to promote respect for and full application of the provisions of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, consistent with U.S. law. Reps. Keith Ellison, Barbara Lee, Donna Christensen, Raúl Grijalva, Bill Delahunt, Mike Honda, George Miller and John Lewis joined Faleomavaega as original cosponsors of the legislation.

“The Declaration is a landmark instrument outlining the rights of the world’s 370 million indigenous peoples in 70 countries. A non-binding text comparable to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples sets out the individual and collective rights of indigenous peoples, as well as their rights to culture, identity, language, employment, health and education,” Faleomavaega said.

“The United States was one of only four member states of the United Nations to vote against the declaration in 2007, while 143 voted in favor. Three of the four states who initially voted against it have already reversed their opposition to the Declaration or are in the process of doing so. Meanwhile, the U.S. Government has launched a formal review of the Declaration to determine whether the United States will change its stance.”

“Today, indigenous peoples face disproportionate discrimination, inadequate health care, violent crime, poverty, unemployment and environmental degradation even as they struggle to maintain their own institutions, cultures and traditions,” Faleomavaega noted.

“The United States has taken great steps to improve the condition of indigenous peoples, including hosting a historic meeting of nearly 500 tribal leaders last year and President Obama’s issuance of an Executive Order on Consultation and Coordination with Tribal Governments. Yet, as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice has said, ‘far more must be done – at home and abroad – to tackle’ the challenges facing indigenous peoples.”

“The Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples provides an important framework for addressing indigenous issues globally. To further U.S. leadership in improving the conditions faced by indigenous people, the United States should promote respect for and full application of the provisions of the Declaration as soon as possible,” Faleomavaega concluded.