Indigenous peoples: perspectives on effective participation

Carlos Morales Morales, Chairperson of the UN Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (EMRIP):

  • Indigenous peoples’ right to participate in decision-making has been recognized in various international legal instruments. These include the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenants on Civil and Political Rights and Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and ILO Convention No. 169 on Indigenous and Tribal Peoples.
  • Indigenous peoples see decision-making as a collective process, as opposed to the modern style of parliamentary democracy which is individualistic and based on party lines. Most  indigenous people do not belong to a political party.

Wilton Littlechild, member of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada and former member of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues

  • When indigenous peoples win a court case, implementation of the court’s decision is very slow. However, when the government wins the case, implementation tends to be much faster.
  • Are people ready to accept indigenous peoples? Much depends on their understanding of indigenous peoples’ rights.

Rahui Ketene, member of parliament, New Zealand

  • The one-person one-vote system is an obstacle. Maori are used to collective and consensual decision-making processes.
  • Most Maori are not aware of the role of parliament and feel that it is not relevant to their lives. 40% of Maori population is under 18 and are not able to participate in the decision-making process.

Beatriz Paredes, member of the Mexican Chamber of Deputies

  • The effective participation of indigenous peoples is conditioned by power and the relationship between the State and indigenous communities.
  • The real power of indigenous peoples in politics is at the local or municipal level. Congress and Senate should also provide measures to ensure indigenous peoples’ participation at the national level.

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