Permanent Council of the
Organization of American States Committee
on Juridical and Political Affairs
June 2003

Original: Spanish

Working Group to Prepare the
Proposed American Declaration on the
Rights of Indigenous Peoples


This consolidated text has been prepared by the Chair of the Working Group to Prepare the Proposed American Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, based on the original proposal by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) and taking into account the contributions, comments, and proposals presented by the States and the indigenous peoples since the process of preparing the Draft American Declaration began.

The consolidated text has not been subject to consultations or negotiation. The Chair hopes that this document will be broadly disseminated and that the Member States of the Organization of American States (OAS) can use it for the domestic consultations with the respective indigenous peoples.

The Chair proposes that the beginning of the final stage of negotiations of the Draft American Declaration will be carried out starting from this consolidated text, and considering the draft Declaration submitted by the IACHR, as well as the proposals of the States, the representatives of the indigenous peoples, specialized agencies, and other entities. With that purpose in mind, to date the following documents are available: the original proposal by the IACHR, the written proposals from the States and indigenous peoples up to 2001 and the previous proposal by the Chair that appear in the three-column document (GT/DADIN/doc.53/02), as well as the proposals by the States and the indigenous peoples from 2002 (document GT/DADIN/doc.71/02), and those corresponding to 2003 document GT/DADIN/doc.122/03 rev. 1). Washington, D.C., May 30, 2003


The Member States of the Organization of American States (hereinafter “the States”),

RECOGNIZING that the rights of indigenous peoples constitute a fundamental and historically significance issue for the present and future of the Americas;

RECOGNIZING, moreover, the importance for humankind of preserving the indigenous cultures of the Americas;

1. Indigenous Peoples and National Strengthening

Recognizing that indigenous peoples are foundational societies that form an integral part of the Americas and that their values and cultures are inextricably linked to the identity both of the countries they live in and of the region as a whole.

Aware that the indigenous peoples of the Americas play a special role in strengthening the institutions of the State and in achieving national unity based on democratic principles.

Recalling that some of the democratic institutions and concepts embodied in the constitutions of the American States have their origins in institutions of the indigenous peoples, and that many of their present participatory systems for decision-making and for authority contribute to the improvement of the democracies in the Americas.

Mindful of the cultural wealth and diversity of the indigenous peoples of the Americas, the variety of national situations, and the varying degrees of indigenous presence in the States.

Recalling the need to develop and strengthen national legal frameworks and policies to respect the cultural diversity of our societies.

2. The Eradication of Poverty

Recognizing that eradicating poverty is a common and shared responsibility of the States, and concerned about the severe impoverishment and vulnerability of the indigenous peoples in various regions of the Hemisphere.

Reiterating that the Charter of the Organization of American States establishes as one of its essential purposes eradicating extreme poverty, indicating that constitutes an obstacle to the full democratic development of the peoples of the Hemisphere.

Mindful of the importance the Inter-American Democratic Charter accords to the relationship among democracy, integral development, and fighting poverty.

Recalling the commitments assumed by the Heads of State and Government at the Third Summit of the Americas with respect to the indigenous peoples regarding the need to adopt special measures so that said peoples can attain their full potential, and the importance of their inclusion to strengthen our democracies and economies.

Reaffirming the right of indigenous peoples to develop in accordance with their own traditions, needs, and interests.

3. Indigenous Culture and Ecology

Recognizing the respect the indigenous peoples of the Americas have for the environment and ecology.

Recognizing, moreover, the value of the cultures, knowledge, and practices of the indigenous peoples for maintaining sustainable development and for living in harmony with nature.

4. Lands, Territories, and Resources

Recognizing the special relationship that the indigenous peoples maintain with their lands, territories, and resources.

Recognizing, that for the indigenous peoples their traditional collective forms of ownership and use of lands, territories, resources, waters, and coastal zones are a necessary conditions for their survival, social organization, development, spirituality, and individual and collective well-being.

5. Harmonious Relations, Respect, and Non-Discrimination

Considering the importance of eliminating the various forms of de facto and de jure discrimination that still affect indigenous peoples.

Mindful of the responsibility of the States to combat racial and ethnic discrimination, xenophobia, and other related forms of intolerance.

6. Human Rights Instruments and Other Legal Advances

Reiterating the universality, indivisibility, and interdependence of the human rights and fundamental freedoms recognized by the international community.

Noting the progress made at international level in recognizing the rights of indigenous peoples, and, in particular, the Convention concerning Indigenous and Tribal Peoples in Independent Countries (Convention No. 169) of the International Labor Organization.

Recalling the importance that the Inter-American Democratic Charter assigns to the promotion and protection of the human rights of indigenous peoples, and to respect for ethnic and cultural diversity in the Americas.

Considering the national constitutional, legislative, and jurisprudential progress made in the Americas to guarantee, promote, and protect the rights and institutions of indigenous peoples, as well as the political will of the States to continue moving forward in recognizing the rights of indigenous peoples in the Americas.

Section One: Scope of Application

Article I.

1. This Declaration applies to the indigenous peoples of the Americas and their members, who within the national States descend from a native culture that predates European colonization and who conserve their fundamental distinctive features, such as their language, normative systems, usages and customs, artistic expressions, beliefs, and social, economic, cultural, and political institutions.

2. Self-identification as indigenous peoples will be a fundamental criterion for determining to whom this Declaration applies. The States shall ensure respect for self-identification as indigenous, individually and collectively, in keeping with the institutions of each indigenous people.

Article II.

The States recognize the multiethnic and multicultural character of their societies.

Article III.

Within the States, the right to self-determination of the indigenous peoples is recognized, pursuant to which they can define their forms of organization and promote their economic, social, and cultural development.

Article IV.

Nothing in this Declaration shall be construed so as to authorize or foster any action aimed at breaking up or diminishing, fully or in part, the territorial integrity, sovereignty, and political independence of the States, or other principles contained in the Charter of the Organization of American States.

Section Two: Human Rights

Article V. Full Effect and Observance of Human Rights

Indigenous peoples and persons have the right to the full and effective enjoyment of the human rights and fundamental freedoms recognized in the Charter of the OAS, the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man, and, where applicable, the American Convention on Human Rights, and other international human rights instruments. Nothing in this Declaration may be interpreted so as to limit, restrict, or deny in any way those rights, or so as to authorize any action that is not in keeping with the principles of international law, including international human rights law.

Article VI. Collective Rights

1. Indigenous peoples have collective rights that are indispensable for their continued existence, well-being, and development as peoples, and for the enjoyment of the individual rights of their members.

2. In this regard, the States recognize, inter alia, the right of the indigenous peoples to their collective action; to their social, political, and economic organization; to their own cultures; to profess and practice their spiritual beliefs, and to use their languages.

Article VII. Gender Equality

All the rights and freedoms recognized in the present Declaration are guaranteed equally to indigenous women and men. The States condemn violence based on gender or age, which impedes and diminishes the exercise of those rights.

Article VIII. Right to Belong to an Indigenous People

Indigenous persons and communities have the right to belong to a given indigenous people, in accordance with the traditions and customs of that people.

Article IX. Juridical Personality

Indigenous peoples and communities have the right to recognition of their juridical personality by the States. The States shall adopt the necessary measures to ensure that said juridical personality respects the indigenous forms of organization and allows for the full exercise of the rights recognized in this Declaration.

Article X. Rejection of Assimilation

1. Indigenous peoples have the right to maintain, express, and freely develop their cultural identity in all respects, free from any external attempt at assimilation.

2. The States shall not adopt any policy to assimilate the indigenous peoples or to destroy their cultures.

3. Indigenous peoples have the right to not be subjected to any form of genocide or attempts to exterminate them.

Article XI. Special Guarantees Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia, and Related Forms of Intolerance

1. Indigenous peoples have the right to protection from racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia, and related forms of intolerance. In this regard, the States shall adopt special measures, when necessary, for the full enjoyment of internationally and nationally recognized human rights, and shall adopt all necessary measures so that indigenous women, men, and children can enjoy their civil, political, economic, social, cultural, and spiritual rights.

2. Indigenous peoples have the right to participate in the determination of those special guarantees.

Section Three: Cultural Identity

Article XII. Right to Cultural Identity

1. Indigenous peoples have the right to their cultural integrity and to their historical and ancestral heritage, which are important for their collective continuity, and for their identity and that of their members and their States.

2. Indigenous peoples have the right to restitution of the property that is part of that heritage of which they have been dispossessed, or, when restitution is not possible, to fair and equitable compensation.

3. The States shall guarantee respect for and non-discrimination against the indigenous ways of life, world views, usages and customs, traditions, forms of social organization, institutions, practices, beliefs, values, dress, and languages.

Article XIII. Logical Conceptions and Language

1. Indigenous peoples have the right to use, develop, revitalize, and transmit to future generations their own histories, languages, oral traditions, philosophies, systems of writing, and literature; and to designate and retain their own names for their communities, members, and places. The States shall adopt adequate measures to protect the exercise of this right, in consultation with the peoples concerned.

2. The States shall take measures to promote the broadcast of radio and television programming by the mass media in indigenous languages in regions with a large indigenous presence. The States shall also support the creation of indigenous radio stations and other means of communication.

3. The States shall take effective measures so that the members of the indigenous peoples can understand administrative, judicial, and political rules and procedures, and be understood in such proceedings. The States shall make the necessary efforts for the indigenous languages to be established as official languages in the areas where indigenous languages predominate.

Article XIV. Education

1. The States shall include in their national educational systems content that reflects the intercultural, multiethnic, and multilingual nature of their societies. The indigenous peoples have the right to bilingual intercultural education that incorporates their own world view, history, knowledge, values, spiritual practices, and ways of life.

2. Indigenous peoples have the right to:

a) define and implement their own educational programs, institutions, and facilities; b) prepare and apply their own plans, programs, curricula, and teaching materials; and, c) educate, train, and accredit their teachers and administrators.

The States shall take the necessary measures to ensure that the indigenous education systems guarantee equal educational opportunity and teachers for the general population and complementarity with the national educational systems.

3. The States shall guarantee that the indigenous educational systems have the same level of quality, efficiency, accessibility, and in every other respect as those provided for the general population. In addition, the States shall facilitate access for indigenous children who live outside of their communities to learning in their own languages and cultures.

4. The States shall take measures to guarantee for the members of the indigenous peoples education of equal quality as for the general population at all levels. The States shall adopt effective measures to provide adequate resources for these purposes.

Article XV. Indigenous Spirituality and Freedom of Conscience

1. Indigenous peoples and their members have the right to freedom of expression, conscience, spirituality, and religion or belief, and to express them both in public and in private, individually or collectively.

2. The States shall take the necessary measures to prohibit efforts to convert or impose beliefs on the indigenous peoples or their members without their free and informed consent.

3. The States shall adopt the necessary measures, in consultation with the indigenous peoples, to preserve, respect, and protect their sacred sites and objects, including their burial grounds, human remains, and relics.

4. The States and their institutions shall guarantee that society as a whole respect the integrity of indigenous symbols, practices, sacred ceremonies, expressions, and spiritual protocols.

Article XVI. Family Relations and Ties

1. The indigenous family shall be respected and protected by society and the State. The State shall recognize the various indigenous forms of family, particularly the extended family, matrimonial union, filiation, family name, and all other rights of the indigenous family. These indigenous forms of family organization shall be respected by public and private persons, including cooperation and development agencies. In all cases, the criteria of gender and generational equity shall be recognized and respected.

2. In determining the best interest of the child in matters related to the adoption of indigenous children, severance of the ties, and other similar circumstances, the courts and other relevant institutions shall take into account the customary law and shall consider the points of view, rights, and interests of the respective people, including the positions of individuals, the family, and the community. The indigenous institutions shall have primary jurisdiction for determining the custody of indigenous children.

Article XVII. Health

1. Indigenous peoples have the right to the exercise and legal recognition of their traditional indigenous medicine, pharmacopoeia, health practices and promotion, including those aimed at prevention and rehabilitation, as well as the right to use, maintain, develop, and administer their own health services; all in accordance with internationally recognized standards.

2. Indigenous peoples have the right to the use and protection of the plants, animals, and minerals for medicinal use in their ancestral lands and territories, as necessary for the practice of indigenous medicine.

3. The States shall take measures to prevent indigenous peoples from being subject to programs of biological or medical experimentation without their free and informed consent.

4. Indigenous peoples have the right to use, without any discrimination whatsoever, all the health and medical care institutions and services accessible to the general population. The States shall promote an intercultural approach in the medical and health services provided to indigenous persons, including the formation of indigenous technical and professional health care personnel.

5. The States shall provide the necessary means for the indigenous peoples to improve the health conditions in their communities insofar as they fall short of the standards accepted for the general population.

Article XVIII. Right to Environmental Protection

1. Indigenous peoples have the right to live in harmony with nature and to a healthy and safe environment, which are essential conditions for enjoyment of the right to life, to their spirituality, and to collective well-being.

2. Indigenous peoples have the right to conserve, restore, make use of, and protect their environment, and to the sustainable management of their lands, territories, and resources.

3. Indigenous peoples have the right to be informed and consulted with respect to measures that may affect their environment, as well as to participate in actions and decisions that may affect it.

4. Indigenous peoples have the right to participate fully in the formulation, planning, organization, and implementation of government programs and policies to conserve and exploit their lands, territories, and resources.

5. Indigenous peoples have the right to assistance from their States for the purpose of protecting the environment, and from international organizations, in keeping with the procedures established in the national legislations, and without discrimination.

6. The States shall prohibit, punish, and prevent, in conjunction with the indigenous authorities, the introduction, abandonment, or deposit of radioactive materials or waste, or toxic substances or waste, in violation of legal provisions in force; as well as the production, introduction, transit, possession, or use of chemical, biological, or nuclear weapons on indigenous lands and territories.

7. When the State declares an indigenous territory to be a protected area or subject to wildlife reserve conditions and in the case of lands and territories claimed by indigenous peoples, the conservation areas shall not be subject to any natural resources development without the informed participation of the peoples concerned.

Section IV: Organizational and Political Rights

Article XIX: Rights of Association, Assembly, and Freedom of Expression and Thought

1. Indigenous peoples and their members have rights of association, assembly, organization, and expression, without interference and in accordance with their values, usages, customs, ancestral traditions, beliefs, and spirituality. 2. Indigenous peoples have the right to assembly and to make use of their sacred and ceremonial areas.

3. Indigenous peoples have the right to maintain full contact, bonds, and common activities with their members who inhabit the territory of neighboring States.

4. The States shall adopt measures aimed at facilitating the exercise of the rights recognized in this article, mindful of the rights of third persons.

Article XX. Right to Self Government

1. Indigenous peoples, in the exercise of the right to self-determination within the States, have the right to autonomy or self-government with respect to, inter alia, culture, language, spirituality, education, information, means of communication, health, housing, employment, social well-being, maintenance of community security, family relations, economic activities, administration of land and resources, environment and entry of non-members; and to determine the ways and means of financing these autonomous functions.

2. Indigenous peoples have the right to participate without discrimination in decision-making at all levels, in relation to matters that may directly affect their rights, lives, and destiny. They may do so either directly or through their representatives elected by them in accordance with their own procedures. They also have the right to maintain and develop their own indigenous decision-making institutions; and to equal opportunity for gaining access to and participating in all national institutions and fora.

Article XXI. Indigenous Law and Jurisdiction

1. Indigenous law shall be recognized as part of the legal system and of the States’ framework for social and economic development.

2. Indigenous peoples have the right to maintain and strengthen their legal systems for addressing internal matters in their communities, and to apply them in accordance with their own rules and procedures, including matters related to the resolution of conflicts within and between indigenous peoples, and to the preservation of peace and harmony.

3. The matters referring to indigenous persons or to their interests in the jurisdiction of each State shall be conducted so as to provide for the right of the indigenous to full representation with dignity and equality before the law, and, if necessary, the use of interpreters.

4. The States shall take measures to reinforce the judicial capacity of the indigenous peoples, to establish their jurisdiction, and to coordinate it with all other national jurisdictions, as appropriate. In addition, the States shall take measures to ensure that the judiciary is knowledgeable of and applies indigenous law and custom, and to ensure that it is taught in the law schools.

Article XXII. Contributions of the Indigenous Legal and Organizational Systems

1. The States shall facilitate the inclusion, within their national organizational structures, as appropriate, of the traditional institutions and practices of the indigenous peoples, in consultation with and with the consent of said peoples.

2. The relevant institutions of each State that serve the indigenous peoples, as well as their respective public policies, shall be designed in consultation with and with the participation of the peoples concerned to reinforce and promote the identity, culture, traditions, organization, and values of those peoples.

Article XXIII. Treaties, Agreements, and Constructive Arrangements

Indigenous peoples have the right to the recognition, observance, and application of the treaties, conventions, and other arrangements that the States or their successors may have concluded, in keeping with their spirit and intent, and to have the same be respected and observed by the States.

Section Five: Social, Economic, and Property Rights

Article XXIV. Traditional Forms of Property and Cultural Survival. Right to Land, Territory, and Resources

1. Indigenous peoples have the right to the recognition of their property rights and ownership rights with respect to the lands and territories that they historically occupy, as well as the use of the lands to which they have traditionally had access for carrying out their traditional activities and for sustenance, respecting the principles of the legal system of each State. These rights also include the waters, coastal seas, flora, fauna, and all other resources of that habitat, as well as their environment, preserving these for themselves and future generations.

2. Indigenous peoples have the right to legal recognition of the various and particular modalities and forms of property, possession, and ownership of their lands and territories, in accordance with the principles of the legal system of each State. The States shall establish the special regimes appropriate for such recognition, and for their effective demarcation or titling.

3. The rights of the indigenous peoples to their lands and territories they occupy or use historically are permanent, exclusive, inalienable, imprescriptible, and indefeasible.

4. The titles may only be modified by mutual agreement between the State and the respective indigenous peoples, with full knowledge and understanding by their members with respect to the nature and attributes of that property and of the proposed modification. The agreement by the indigenous people concerned shall be given following its practices, usages and customs.

5. Indigenous peoples have the right to attribute ownership within the community in accordance with the values, usages, and customs of each peoples.

6. The States shall take adequate measures to avert, prevent, and punish any intrusion or use of such lands, territories, or resources by persons from outside to claim for themselves the property, possession, or right to use the same.

7. In case the property rights over the minerals or resources of the subsoil belong to the State, or it has rights over other resources existing in the lands and territories of the indigenous peoples, the States shall establish or maintain procedures for the participation of the peoples concerned for determining whether the interests of those peoples would be prejudiced and to what extent, before undertaking or authorizing any program involving prospecting, planning, or exploitation of the resources existing on their lands and territories. The peoples concerned shall participate in the benefits of such activities, and receive fair compensation for any harm they might suffer as a result of such activities.

8. The States shall provide, within their legal systems, a legal framework and effective legal remedies to protect the rights of the indigenous peoples referred to in this article.

Article XXV. On Transfers and Relocations

1. The States may not transfer or relocate indigenous peoples without their free, genuine, public, and informed consent, unless there are causes involving a national emergency or other exceptional circumstance of public interest that makes it necessary; and, in all cases, with the immediate replacement by adequate lands of equal or better quality and legal status, guaranteeing the right to return if the causes that gave rise to the displacement cease to exist.

2. Compensation shall be paid to the indigenous peoples and to their members who are transferred or relocated for any loss or harm they may have suffered as a result of their displacement.

Article XXVI. Indigenous Peoples in Voluntary Isolation

1. Indigenous peoples in voluntary isolation have the right to remain in that condition and to live freely and in accordance with their ancestral traditions.

2. The States shall adopt adequate measures to protect the territories, environment, and cultures of the indigenous peoples in voluntary isolation, as well as the personal integrity of their members. These measures shall include those necessary to prevent intrusion into their territories.

Article XXVII. Labor Rights

1. Indigenous peoples and persons enjoy the rights and guarantees recognized in labor legislation and have the right to special measures to correct, repair, and prevent the discrimination to which they are subjected.

The States shall adopt immediate and effective measures to guarantee that indigenous children are protected from all forms of labor exploitation.

2. In case they are not protected effectively by the legislation applicable to workers in general, the States shall take the special and immediate measures that may be necessary in order to:

a) protect workers and employees who are members of indigenous peoples in relation to contracting, and to obtain fair and equal conditions of employment, in both formal and informal labor arrangements;

b) establish and improve the labor inspection service and the enforcement of rules in the regions, companies, or salaried labor activities in which indigenous workers or employees participate;

c) guarantee that indigenous workers:

i. enjoy equal opportunities and treatment in all employment conditions, in promotions and raises; and other conditions stipulated in international law;

ii. enjoy the right to association, the right to engage freely in trade union activities, and the right to enter into collective bargaining agreements with employers or workers’ organizations, directly or through their traditional authorities;

iii. are not submitted to racial, sexual, or any other type of harassment;

iv. are not subject to coercive hiring systems, including debt servitude or any other type of servitude, whether they arise from law, custom, or an individual or collective arrangement, which in each case shall be deemed absolutely null and void;

v. are not subject to work that endangers their health and personal safety; and

vi. receive special protection when they provide their services as seasonal, occasional, or migrant workers, as well as when they are contracted by labor contractors such that they receive the benefits of the national legislation and practices, which shall be in accordance with the international human rights standards established for this category of workers; and

vii. ensure that the employers of indigenous workers are fully aware of the rights of indigenous workers according to the national legislation and international standards, and of the remedies and actions available to them to protect those rights.

Article XXVIII. Protection of Cultural Patrimony and Intellectual Property

1. Indigenous peoples have the right to the recognition of the property, control, development, and protection of their cultural patrimony through special regimes that recognizes the communal nature of said property. Such regimes shall be established with their informed consent and participation.

2. Indigenous peoples also have the right to the legal protection of that property through patents, commercial trademarks, copyright, and other general procedures of intellectual property.

3. The patrimony of indigenous peoples includes, inter alia, the knowledge, ancestral designs and procedures, artistic, spiritual, technological, scientific, and biogenetic expressions, as well as the knowledge and developments of their own related to the utility and qualities of medicinal plants.

Article XXIX. Right to Development

1. Indigenous peoples have the right to determine and implement autonomously the values, options, objectives, priorities, and strategies for their development. This right includes participation in determining and developing health and housing programs, and other economic and social programs that affect them, and, when possible, in administering these programs through their own institutions. The indigenous peoples have the right, without any discrimination whatsoever, to obtain adequate means for their own development, including those from international cooperation, and to contribute in their own ways to national development.

2. The States shall take the necessary measures to ensure that the decisions referring to any plan, program, or project subject to directly affecting the rights or living conditions of the indigenous peoples are made in consultation with those peoples so that their preferences may be recognized, and so that no provision whatsoever is included that impact them directly. Such consultations shall be carried out in good faith and in a manner appropriate to the circumstances, for the purpose of reaching an agreement or securing consent to the measures proposed.

3. Indigenous peoples have the right to fair and equitable compensation for any damage caused to them by the implementation of such plans, programs, or projects, despite the precautions established in this article; and for measures to be adopted to mitigate adverse ecological, economic, social, cultural, or spiritual impacts.

Article XXX. Protection in the Event of Armed Conflicts

In the event of armed conflicts, the States shall take special measures, with the agreement of the indigenous peoples concerned, to protect the human rights, institutions, lands, territories, and resources of the indigenous peoples.

Section Six: General Provisions

Article XXXI

The States shall guarantee the full enjoyment of the fundamental civil, political, economic, social, and cultural rights and spirituality of the indigenous peoples, and shall adopt the legislative and other necessary measures to enforce the rights recognized in this Declaration.

Article XXXII

The nature and scope of the measures that shall be taken to implement this Declaration shall be determined with flexibility, taking into account the particular conditions of each country, and in genuine and informed consultation with the indigenous peoples concerned.

Article XXXIII

Any interpretation and application of the present Declaration shall respect the fundamental human rights, the democracy, and the constitutional principles of each State.

Article XXXIV

Nothing in this Declaration may be interpreted as to diminish or eliminate rights in force or that may be recognized in the future.

Article XXXV

The rights recognized in this Declaration constitute the minimum standard for the survival, dignity, and well-being of the indigenous peoples of the Americas.

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