Secretary General’s Diary – Wednesday

Today we travel.  Buses take us up the mountain side to the site of an original zoque settlement which eventually gave birth to Tuxtla Gutierrez, the State capital.  By 10 o’clock the museum is packed with indigenous leaders and representatives from Chiapas, along with the MPs who have joined us at the conference.  Within minutes the Governor of the State arrives and we sit down for a discussion.

The atmosphere in the room is electric.  The questions addressed to our indigenous hosts show an enormous interest in finding out about their ways of doing things, the challenges they face and the solutions they have found.

The answers they give surprise many in the audience.  Consultation is the rule, at many different levels and in many formal and informal settings.  The indigenous representatives explain that things are changing in the State; little by little their voices are being heard and solutions adapted to their needs and aspirations.

At the end of the exchange, the State Governor explains how he has acted to address the needs of the indigenous communities; how the publication of a UNDP Human Development Report on Mexico motivated him to change course in the State and to implement the Millennium Development Goals, focussing in particular on the indigenous peoples.  Chiapas must be just about the only State in the world where the MDGs have been written in to the State Constitution.

In the afternoon we move to the Congress of the State of Chiapas.  We talk about what we have learnt so far before debating and adopting an outcome document.  The text is brief and to the point.  It invites parliaments to take precise steps to institute change and to meet two years from now to measure progress and set new targets.  What we are doing is laying the foundations for a global campaign to push parliaments to ensure more effective representation of minorities and indigenous peoples in politics.

By the time the closing ceremony comes around it is already past nine o’clock at night.  Not unusual, I am told, in a town and State where many important meetings continue to the early hours of the morning.

After signing the Chiapas Declaration we congregate in the lobby of the Congress to unveil a plaque commemorating the event.  It is placed on the wall next to the Statue of Benito Juarez, the first indigenous President of Mexico; a highly symbolic way of concluding a conference that has sought to advance the rights of minorities and indigenous peoples everywhere.

Anders B. Johnsson

Secretary General

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