Monday, October 3, 2011

Kenneth Deere at the UN General Assembly: The Durban Declaration

Indigenous World Association – UN ECOSOC

c/o P. O. Box 2069  v  Kahnawake, QC Canada J0L 1B0
514-591-6704 phone w


UN Headquarters, New York
Thursday, 22 September 2011, New York

Roundtable II - Victims of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance: recognition, justice and development

Indigenous World Association
Presented by: Kenneth Deer

M. Chairperson, 

Indigenous Peoples have come a long way since 2001 in the fight against racism. Even the Durban Declaration discriminated against us when paragraph 24 states:

“We declare that the use of the term “indigenous peoples” in the Declaration… cannot be construed as having any implications as to rights under international law”.

No other Peoples had to suffer this indignity. We were not recognized as Peoples in 2001.

That is how deep the discrimination we faced then and continue to face today. This racism is rooted in the concept of racial superiority of European and other Peoples over the First Peoples in the lands we occupy. 

Concepts such as the Doctrine of Discovery, Divine Right and Manifest Destiny had reduced us to lesser Peoples. Some say that it was God’s will that this should happen.

This racism has benefited many of the nation states in this room. Your territory and boundaries are at the expense of the Indigenous Peoples who were there first.

Centuries of racism continues today. It is practiced by more than just individuals and groups who openly discriminate against Indigenous Peoples, it is also ingrained in your policies, legislation and constitutions.  It is so common, that many people do not realize the racism they inflict upon Indigenous Peoples every day.

But there is hope. There is hope because the single most important document to combat racism since 1965, has to be the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples passed by this organization in 2007.

It states, “that Indigenous Peoples are equal to all other Peoples”. That is the most profound sentence in the entire document. The rest of the Declaration is built on this premise. Anything less than that equality is racism. It took the UN 62 years to say that. And we have a whole world to educate about that equality.

The Durban plan of action can help us do this. But more needs to be done.

Some still do not want to recognize our equality. Some say the Declaration is not legally binding, others say it is only aspirational. I challenge that. I challenge states, institutions, organizations and individuals that as human beings you are morally and legally bound to end racism under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. That is what makes the rights inside the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples binding.

As Indigenous Peoples, we look forward to being considered equal as we always should have been.   

Thank you, M. Chairman
Kenneth Deer


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