Announcement of U.S. Support for the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
And some comments on its language:
UN hails U.S. Backing For Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
By Terri Hansen
However, she also expressed IITC’s strong disappointment with the limitations the US decided to place on its support. The “Announcement of U.S. Support for the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples” released today contains a number of qualifications which call into serious question the US government’s intention to fully recognize and implement many of the key rights contained in the Declaration.
Several references are made to implementation of rights in accordance with existing Federal Laws and policies. Of particular concern is the statement that the US plans to recognize “a new and distinct international concept of self-determination specific to indigenous peoples…“different from the existing right of self-determination in international law.” This interpretation by the US has no basis in the actual text of the Declaration or the principles of international human rights standards which uphold non-discrimination and equal rights. In Article 3, the Declaration defines Self-determination for Indigenous Peoples consistent with the language affirming this right for “All Peoples” in international law.
The US statement also limits the US interpretation of the right to Free Prior and Informed Consent contained in many provisions of the Declaration to “consultation”, a much more limited and diminished standard.
The UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples is an international standard adopted overwhelmingly by the UN General Assembly. It must not be subject to selective redrafting or new interpretations by the US or any other State attempting to redefine or limit the inherent rights it recognizes. It also can’t be limited by narrow interpretations subject to existing federal laws and policies. The IITC calls upon the US government to reassess its position on these qualifications and express its full support for all of the Declaration’s provisions.
Here are what I consider the key points after skimming this document, along with some good rejoinders from a Facebook friend:
1) No mention of actually endorsing or signing the declaration. The US simply "supports" it.
But Canada did more than simply "support" it:
2) The US offers no criticisms of or changes to any of its existing laws or policies. In fact, in a couple of cases it redefines the declaration to match existing laws and policies.
Of course, I also expect our government not to crack down on Wikileaks simply for revealing confidential information. The government should operate much more openly and transparently--as Obama promised. Part of that is tolerating if not encouraging constructive criticism.
3) The Obama administration provides a long laundry list of its accomplishments and implies Obama is giving Natives everything the declaration demands. Therefore, the declaration doesn't require anything except a continuation of Obama's policies.
For more on Obama's actions, see Obama Backs UN Declaration, Obama Signs Cobell Settlement, and Obama Proclaims NA Heritage Month.