Self-determination and politics

Excerpt from programmme recorded May 2003 with Dr. Ayitegan Kouevi
Africa Expert, UN Indigenous Forum & Mililani Trask, Pacific Expert, UN Indigenous Forum:

VERAN: Well I think it would help our viewers if perhaps they could explain
what are some of the commonalities. Obviously, just our experts here represent opposite sidesof the globe and yet there are commonalities that make this internationally representative forum strong and cohesive. Could you explain some of those things?

KOUEVI: Yes. As Mililani has pointed out, since 1982 the United Nations has settled down a working group on indigenous population. And one of the mandates of this group is to draft a declaration on the indigenous people’s rights. And in 1994 this draft declaration was adopted by the sub-commission of human rights. Right now the question of the adoption of the declaration has been submitted for the human rights commission, but the declaration has not
yet been adopted. Why? Because states don’t want to deal with the right of self-determination because they think that the right to self-determination is a very important issue. When you deal with self-determination to indigenous people, maybe indigenous people can use these rights to cessation. That is why the most important things to do now is to come up with the adoption of the declaration.

VERAN: Can you explain, does self-determination require independence of a
nation state or kind of co-exist?

KOUEVI: The sense of self-determination is very very important for indigenous
people. Self-determination for most indigenous people means to have the rights to be recognized as such, as people within the framework of the nation. To have the rights, to have cultural rights, to have economical rights, to have the right to develop themselves as indigenous people. But States think that self-determination is the right given to people to constitute another state. This is one of the issue, very important issue that we deal …

TRASK: You know, there isn’t any doubt that one expression of the right of
self-determination would be complete independence. And the United Nations itself recognizes it in that it has a division since its inception that deals with the Non-Selfgoverning Territories. And international law provides this that those who are the inhabitants of the non-self-governing territories have a right to achieve a full measure of self-determination, which may be expressed
in the form of independence. But you are also right to say that there are other expressions and when you look at the draft declaration on the right of indigenous people, this is also provided for in the form of autonomous regions. When you look at the reality in the world today, you can see that there is great diversity in the expression of the right of self-determination..."

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