On June 15, the Organization of American States (OAS) General Assembly adopted the “American Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples”, during its 46th Period of Sessions that took place in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.
This resolution concludes 17 years of negotiations and a compromise between OAS Member States and Indigenous organizations of the continent. The Declaration builds on the international standards set by 169 ILO Convention and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
The Declaration establishes provisions on self-identification (Art. 1.2) and reaffirms the right to self-determination (Art. III). It also acknowledges the importance of gender equality (Art. VII and Art. XXXII), which could have a positive impact in enhancing the participation of indigenous women in the administration of justice and in the decision-making process of their communities. The Declaration also acknowledges the importance of protecting traditional forms of property (Art. XXV), cultural heritage (Art. XXVIII) and their right to development (Art. XXIX), among other measures.
The Canadian delegation at the OAS has refrained from taking a position on the text of the Declaration arguing that it has not participated in the negotiations. However it has reiterated the commitment of the current government to work with Canadian First Nations as well as the rights of Indigenous Peoples in the Americas.
The challenge that remains is the monitoring in the respect and fulfillment of the provisions from this Declaration, as well as the absence of specific financial resources to begin its implementation process. Although it is unusual to have these types of provisions in Declarations, there is nothing that prohibits the OAS from showing a concrete commitment towards the respect of the rights of Indigenous Peoples.