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Open letter to the U.N. General Assembly president

Dec. 30, 2006

H.E. Sheikha Haya Rashed Al Khalifa of Bahrain

President, United Nations General Assembly

United Nations

New York, NY 10017

Your Excellency:

We, the undersigned Indigenous peoples, nations and organizations, are writing in regard to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. If adopted by the General Assembly, the Declaration would constitute a key step towards eliminating the widespread and persistent human rights abuses suffered by Indigenous peoples worldwide.

Regretfully, member States in the Third Committee voted to defer adoption of the Declaration by the General Assembly ''to allow time for further consultations'' (Resolution A/C.3/61/L.18/R.1, adopted as corrected and amended by L.57/Rev.1, 28 November 2006, results of vote 82/67/25). At the same time, the adopted Resolution has undermined the credibility and crucial work of the Human Rights Council and set back current U.N. reforms.

On December 20, 2006, the same Resolution was adopted without changes by the General Assembly. Presently, in considering fair and viable means of undertaking ''consultations,'' the limited terms of the Resolution should be fully respected. They should not be exceeded in any way. In this regard, we feel it crucial that the following key factors be highlighted:

Further ''consultations'' permitted. The Resolution authorizes ''time for further consultations.'' These ''consultations'' should not be converted into a working group or other process that opens up the Declaration to any changes.

Nature of ''consultations.'' A key purpose of ''consultations'' is to bridge understanding, especially for many States that chose not to participate in the standard-setting process that took place for over 20 years. ''Consultations'' are to obtain State and Indigenous opinions, which must be fully consistent with the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations.

Indigenous participation essential. Indigenous peoples should be ensured full, direct and effective participation at all stages of consideration of the Declaration by the General Assembly. In order to ensure fairness, balance and legitimacy, any ''consultations'' must include such Indigenous participation. Indigenous peoples are not considered simply as non-governmental organizations. For over 20 years, U.N. practice has ensured active, democratic involvement by Indigenous peoples in matters relating to our human rights.

Support for Human Rights Council. In engaging in ''consultations,'' it is important that the Human Rights Council and its essential work be supported and respected.

Limited time period for ''consultations.'' The ''consultations'' should be completed in a timely manner prior to September 2007. The General Assembly decided ''to conclude its consideration of the Declaration, as contained in the annex to the present resolution, before the end of its sixty-first session.'' (Resolution, para. 3).

We greatly appreciate your consideration of the above matters.

Respectfully submitted,

Indigenous Peoples' Caucus

with representation from the following Regional Caucuses:

African Caucus

Arctic Caucus

Asian Caucus

Latin American and Caribbean Caucus

North American Caucus

North, Siberia and Far East of the Russian Federation Caucus

Pacific Caucus