Statement by IOSDE on “Dialogue on an optional protocol to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples”
United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues
New York, 20 April – 1 May 2015
Item 5: Half-day discussion on the expert group meeting on the theme “Dialogue on an optional protocol to the
United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples”
28 April 2015
Statement made by India Reed Bowers for International Organization for Self-Determination and Equality
IOSDE honors the traditional territories of the Lenape Nation, Onondaga Peoples and all Indigenous Peoples here today.
IOSDE is concerned that over the many years of submissions and interventions at the UNPFII from Indigenous Peoples concerning mass atrocities against their Peoples, families and communities and thus humanity through
State- and business-initiated torture, murder, militarization, criminalization and systematic devastation the
Permanent Forum and UN system still refer to such horrors as human rights violations only. The concern is that
Indigenous victims’ submissions are not being outwardly identified as reporting atrocities also in the context of
international crimes and violations of international criminal law from a legal and/or victim-based advocacy
perspective and analysis.
Yes, the United Nations is a Human Rights institution- however, the UN was founded with the primary goal and commitment of the world community stop genocide from ever happening again after the holocaust and WW2. In
the context of Indigenous Peoples, is the UN actually doing this, and can we have this discussion if we are going
to talk about a rights violation mechanism for Indigenous Peoples and the UNDRIP? What is the plan for how a
UNDRIP complaint or review mechanism will address serious crimes against humanity and other crimes against
peoples such as genocide, such as those we hear testimonials of here every year at the UNPFII, if reporting to the
Human Rights Council? And in such a mechanism, where will claims of right to decolonize as a form of self-
determination go within the UN system?
UNDRIP Article 7(2) reads: “Indigenous peoples have the collective right to live in freedom, peace and security as distinct peoples and shall not be subjected to any act of genocide”. As someone trained at the Master’s level
in both international human rights law and international criminal law with the purpose of furthering Indigenous
Rights and participating in ending the atrocities happening to Indigenous Peoples, I am concerned by the lack of
presence, analysis, accessibility to and participation at the Permanent Forum and all other UN Indigenous events,
procedures and mechanisms of the UN agency of the Office of the Special Advisers of the Prevention of
Genocide and on the Responsibility to Protect.
IOSDE welcomes the initiative of the Permanent Forum to have sent the WCIP follow-up questionnaire to UN agencies as a way to create dialogue with said agencies on follow-up to, in general, implementation of
Indigenous Rights. IOSDE also gratefully welcomes the transparency and willingness of the Office of the
Prevention of Genocide to have completed such a questionnaire. However, upon reviewing the Office of
Genocide’s responses, it is clear that the Office of the Prevention of Genocide must not only urgently and
drastically build its capacity to immediately and thoroughly analyze the situations of Indigenous Peoples around
the world collectively and per-peoples in the context of genocide. It is also clear to all of us who have been in
this movement for decades living and breathing the struggle that such an analysis needs to happen both in
accordance with current international criminal law, including restorative justice, and the testimonials of the
victims themselves, including within the context of testimonials concerning cultural genocide and statements
delivered at the UN at mechanisms such as the Permanent Forum, which, essentially, could have been, say, a
tribunal, including in the form of restorative justice, concerning the crimes of humanity and genocide occurring
against Indigenous Peoples.
Why are we being led to believe somehow that the legal agenda of the United Nations was and thus should now be business and “development”, and not the prevention of genocide and the obtaining of the right of self-
determination of Peoples, as it was at its founding as an institution?
IOSDE welcomes and further recommends the submission given to the forum by the UN agency the IDLO,
concerning development within UN of rule of law, speaking of informal and legal justice systems of Indigenous
Peoples working on the ground and incorporating Indigenous justice systems. IOSDE recommends the Forum
firmly engage the Trusteeship Council (via ECOSOC), in the context of Indigenous Peoples rights to
decolonization and self-determination, and Office of the Prevention of Genocide in incorporating Indigenous
voice and analysis of the world-wide Indigenous situation, with a particular eye to the protection of traditional
Indigenous religions, healing, lands and leadership as well as human life security itself and living culture in these
IOSDE recommends the Forum members and additional persons with an eye for criminal law as well as spiritual and traditional elders and leaders focus together on the massive database of victims testimonials in what
is called the UNPFII Papersmart and UN archives, and processes these testimonials with the seriousness that they
deserve with an eye to both criminal and human rights law, empowering the content and contributors of the
statements themselves rather treating them as means to dialogues and thus money flow and empowerment for a
few universities, states or designated experts.
In the spirit of the UNDRIP and participating in the ending of cultural genocide, IOSDE recommends the Forum also ask Indigenous community-based spiritual leaders and elders how to develop the UN system, and not just those who attend these sessions or have UN access, and allow those leaders to be deemed experts and
governance if they are such in their communities and amongst their Peoples.
IOSDE also recommends, in the spirit of the UNDRIP, that UN positions concerning Indigenous Peoples are effective and inclusive in prioritizing the voice and complaints of the Peoples themselves as well as their due
space in space and time at the UN, and undergo processes of selection that are fair, transparent and open,
maintaining also representation from spiritual leaders and elders who hold the sacred goals this movement was
built upon and professes. In this way, perhaps even the UN can itself not participate in the cultural genocide of
Indigenous Peoples, including cultures of traditional Indigenous values and religions.
*(Note: IOSDE is a member organization of IPMSDL)