- Dotting the i's, and crossing the t's crucial to indigenous peoples existence The Secretary General of the United Nations, Kofi Annan stirred a hornets nest, and raised the hopes of the representatives of the indigenous caucuses at this conference, when during his keynote speech he said, "Large parts of the Declaration and Programme of Action have been agreed,
including texts on difficult issues as indigenous peoples ." The letter s in the word peoples has never been more pivotal to representatives of indigenous peoples as it is today. According to International Law, "peoples" have rights to self-determination but "people" do not. Hence, in past U.N. Declarations,
omitting the s essentially meant that Indigenous peoples did not exist as separate entities in different countries, but as one amorphous race, and implicitly had no rights. Within the first seven years of the UN Decade for Indigenous People there has been serious debate and lobbying in in numerous world meetings regarding the s . Finally as a compromise, during the preparatory meetings leading up to this conference, the UN inserted a paragraph 27 into the Draft Declaration Against Racism
including the s but with a qualifying remark stating, "the term peoples does not imply rights under International Law." Essentially, this again nullified their existence, and hence rights. So, even as focus in the intergovernmental meeting has been on the Palestinian issue, slavery, colonialism, and
reparations, Indigenous Peoples have furiously lobbied government delegates, to delete paragraph 27. Says Kenneth Deer, and Indigenous Mohawk from Canada who has served on several international coordinating and drafting bodies in the UN, "if the Draft Declaration is passed as it is, this World Conference will be guilty of the very racism that it is trying to fight. The s makes all the difference because it is a deliberate play with words. Without it, the UN is saying that all indigenous peoples are one race regardless of their colour and country of origin. This is not true, each country has their own indigenous people with rights within their own nations.
The s will compel each government in the world to recognize the existence and rights of indigenous peoples within their nations, as well as, put in place concrete measures to meet their needs." The wording of any UN Declaration from a World Conference is most important because it carries the weight of the General Assembly Resolution from New York. It is a set of
principles that the UN bases its future actions on. It is a statement of intent that guides the agenda of the UN, and
governments worldwide on future development plans, laws, and programmes of action.