Thursday, March 6, 2014

Mililani B. Trask: Message to Mr. John Ashe, President of the UN General Assembly

Na Koa Ikaika o Ka Lahui Hawaii
Affiliate of Indigenous World Association

Mililani B. Trask, Convener

P.O.Box 6377 v  Hilo, HI 96720

To: Mr. John W. Ash
President UN General Assembly
United Nations, New York

Aloha Mr. Ash,

I am sending you this email letter to urge you to reconsider your decision regarding the manner & method of conducting consultations with Indigenous Peoples & States in the WCIP.  I am an indigenous expert and served as the Pacific Indigenous Expert to the UN permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, inaugural session. I am also one of the authors of the UN Report entitled The State of the Worlds Indigenous Peoples ST/ESA/328, UN, NY 2009.

Understanding the difficult position you are in regarding the WCIP, I applaud your effort to find a process that can facilitate the WCIP moving forward. However, the process you propose does not comport with the standards set forth in the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) Articles 18 & 41 for the meaningful & effective participation of indigenous peoples. Article 41 of the UNDRIP establishes a specific duty for UN organs, including the General Assembly, to contribute to the full realization of the provisions of the Declaration … “through the establishment of ways and means of ensuring full and effective participation of Indigenous Peoples on issues affecting them.” The proposed process is reminiscent of the “separate but equal” policy of South Africa under the apartheid regimes. It does not create an environment for a meaningful dialogue between Indigenous Peoples and Member States, or a framework for consensus.

I am also concerned that your proposed process does not conform to the terms & provisions of the modalities resolution. The Aide Memoire communicated your decision regarding the start of the consultations called for in operative paragraph 12 of resolution A/RES/66/296 (modalities resolution). OP 12 requests that you undertake consultations with Member States and Indigenous Peoples, in order to finalize outstanding organizational arrangements for the WCIP. OP 9 of the modalities resolution contains the General Assembly’s decision on the consultation process for the outcome document of the World Conference, it does not create two processes but clearly anticipates one process involving Indigenous Peoples & States working collectively.  Therefore, your proposal (separate consultations for Member States and Indigenous Peoples respectively) is not in compliance with OP 9 which assumes that joint consultations be held, and directs you to convene informal consultations to enable sufficient consideration by Member States and agreement by the General Assembly before its formal action at the high-level meeting.

In addition, your decision to commence inter-governmental consultations during the week of 3 March 2014, without Indigenous Peoples being officially informed or allowed to participate, does not correspond with the General Assembly’s call for an “inclusive process for the discussions on the outcome document”, as set forth in the modalities resolution.

In addition, as a Forum Expert, I must point out that the suggested role you propose for the United Nations Permanent Forum is not within the mandate of the Forum.  I urge you to consult w/the Forum Experts to obtain their advice on the proposed process as I do not believe the  Forum can facilitate your effort without abridging the human rights standards set forth in the UNDRIP and exceeding their own mandate.

Following passage of the UNDRIP, all parties in the UN system were urged to take a ‘Human Rights based approach’ in their undertakings and pursuits. This directive applies not only to the UN System Agencies & Specialized Bodies, but also to the General Assembly itself, and its President as well. This is an opportunity to demonstrate that the United Nations itself will honor & implement the provisions of the UNDRIP.


Mililani B. Trask,


NaKoa Ikaika KaLahui Hawaii,

Pacific Expert to the Inaugural UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues