Hunger strike as UK blocks Indigenous rights declaration

December 3, 2004

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Six Indigenous people have been on hunger strike at the UN in Geneva in protest at the UK and other governments' blocking of an historic UN declaration on Indigenous rights.

Negotiations are taking place at the UN this week over the Draft Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. This year marks the end of the UN Decade of Indigenous Peoples, during which the draft declaration has been completed following hundreds of consultations with Indigenous representatives. It would be the strongest international agreement on Indigenous peoples – but the UK, along with the USA and other governments, is blocking its progress. Many Indigenous delegates to the UN believe that the British position is motivated by its close relationship with the USA.

The UK and the USA refuse to recognise collective rights, which are essential for the survival of tribal and Indigenous peoples.

In a statement from Geneva, the hunger strikers said, 'We are in this great house but it is not our house. We are in a palace where documents are written for peoples but not for our Indigenous peoples. They open doors for us to enter but they close their ears and hearts… There is one thing we should never do – we should never, never give up our rights.'

Earlier, Grand Chief Ted Moses of the Grand Council of the Crees from Canada said, 'Current UK policies on Indigenous peoples' human rights are relics of colonial policies that have failed.'

The strike ended yesterday following talks with UN representatives, but the UK remains intransigent. The strike was supported by Indigenous organisations from Alaska, Amazonia, Argentina, Bolivia, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, French Guyana, Guatemala, Hawaii, Kenya, Mexico, the Moluccas (Indonesia), Morocco, New Zealand, Panama, Peru and the USA.

For more information contact Miriam Ross on (+44) (0)20 7687 8734 or [email protected]