Ambassador Chartier Attends OAS meeting in Guatemala, March 20-22, 2023

March 28, 2023

In June 2016 the General Assembly of the Organization of American States (OAS) adopted the American Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (ADRIP). In 2017 the OAS GA adopted a five-year Plan of Action for the implementation of the ADRIP. In 2021 the OAS GA extended the Plan of Action for a further five years.

Canada at the June 2016 GA indicated that they would take a non-position on the ADRIP as they were newly elected in October 2015 and had to consult Indigenous peoples in Canada before deciding. To date, that consultation has not occurred. In the footnote accompanying Canada's taking a non-position, Canada did commit "to continue working with its partners in the OAS on advancing indigenous issues across the Americas".

The Plan of Action contained a provision for the holding annually of an Inter-American Week of Indigenous Peoples mainly focussed on culture. The week falls around August 9th, the International Day of Indigenous Peoples established by the United Nations. The first Inter-American Week of Indigenous Peoples was held in August 2018.

The Plan of Action also called for the convening of a meeting to explore adoption of a mechanism for the implementation of the ADRIP. The first meeting to address this objective was held from March 20 - 22, 2023 in Antigua, Guatemala, hosted by the government of Guatemala. Indigenous delegates from throughout the Americas were in attendance.

Ambassador Clément (Clem) Chartier of the Manitoba Métis Federation, the National Government of the Red River Métis and President of the American Council of Indigenous Peoples participated in the meeting. In advance of the meeting Ambassador Chartier prepared a Background Note setting out statements by Indigenous delegations at various OAS meetings since 2001 to assist Indigenous delegates, as well as States Members, in advancing proposals at this meeting.

The meeting started with a traditional Mayan ceremony, followed by the Official Opening where the OAS Secretary General, His Excellency Luis Almagro and other dignitaries made opening remarks. The meeting continued for the rest of the day with presentations by various States Members outlining the activities they have carried out in their respective countries in conformity with the ADRIP.

After the first day's session ended, the Indigenous delegates met to express their frustration with the agenda for which they had no input and the absence of meaningful Indigenous participation on the first day of the meeting, and the absence of including Indigenous representation in the agenda's closing ceremony. It was decided that the Indigenous delegates would find opportunities over the next two days to caucus to ensure their input for a successful outcome of this meeting.

On the morning of the second day, there was a continuation of presentations by States' governments, which while providing country-by-country activities which provided State governments an opportunity to share information amongst themselves, did nothing to advance the objectives of the Indigenous delegates, which was to ensure that the OAS and member countries accord Indigenous peoples, nations and governments their rightful place with the OAS and its various institutions, including the General Assembly and the Summit of the Americas and not continue to try and pigeon-hole them as part of Civil Society. And certainly, to ensure that a mechanism be agreed to which would enable Indigenous peoples to be directly engaged in the implementation of the ADRIP.

Finally at noon on the second day the agenda turned to the analysis and dialogue on the Structure for the Creation of a Follow-up Mechanism for the Implementation of the ADRIP, followed by Proposals and Recommendations after the lunch break.

Most of the interventions by Indigenous delegates were general in nature but spoke loudly to the need to move more rapidly in adopting a mechanism which would assist in the implementation of the ADRIP, and that it must be at a higher level of the OAS than the delegation participating at this meeting: Groups in Situations of Vulnerability Section of the Department of Social Inclusion. It was stated that at the very least the dialogue must be with members of the Inter-American Juridical Committee.

Ambassador Chartier in one of his interventions proposed as an interim measure, while pursuing a mechanism for the implementation of the ADRIP, that the OAS could immediately provide space outside of Civil Society for Indigenous peoples, nations, governments and representative organizations in their own right within all institutions of the OAS, including the General Assembly and the Summit of the Americas. That this must be as of right and not at the discretion of Member States.

At the end of the second day, the OAS Secretariat shared with the Indigenous delegates a draft proposal for the creation of a working group worked on by States Member governments as a potential mechanism to assist in moving forward on the implementation of the ADRIP. The draft proposal was scheduled for discussion on the afternoon of the closing day.

At the third and final day, the morning session dealt with presentations by representatives from the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), with an opportunity for questions and comments by Indigenous delegates which generated a robust discussion as health is of major concern to the Indigenous delegates.

Beginning at 2 p.m., a lengthy discussion took place between the Indigenous delegates and State Member representatives on the draft working group proposal. The outcome was general agreement by consensus of a recommendation going forward to the OAS decision-making process leading to the June 2023 OAS GA. This centered on the establishment of a Working Group composed of four (4) representatives of State Members and four (4) representatives of Indigenous peoples, one from each for the four regions of the OAS: North America, Central America, the Caribbean and South America.

The State Members of the Working Group will be appointed by the OAS Permanent Council for of period of three (3) years, with the potential of serving a further three (3) years. The Indigenous Members will be appointed by the President of the OAS Permanent Council from a short list of nominees provided by representative Indigenous organizations.

The Working Group has a broad mandate, including analysing and monitoring the progress of the implementation of the ADRIP.


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