UN Second Symposium on Global Indigenous Issues very relevant today

Palais de Nations, Geneva, 2007
UN Global Indigenous Elders gather to pass on the legacy of knowledge to the younger generations, Ghillar Michael Anderson is 2nd from left, Palais de Nations, Geneva, 2007
Media Release

22 January 2024

The Second Symposium
UN Global indigenous Forum
Professor Ghillar, Michael Anderson, Convenor of the Sovereign Union, last surviving member of the founding four of the Aboriginal Embassy and Head of State of the Euahlayi Peoples Republic provides an insight into the current relevance of “The Second Symposium” on global Indigenous issues.

On the week of 19 June 2015, the UN brought together the first Indigenous delegates in Geneva to attend what the UN called “The Second Symposium”. This symposium consisted of the delegates who attended the 1977 and 1981 UN conferences on global Indigenous issues. (I was the first delegate to present at the 1981 UN global conference) From this Second Symposium a statement was issued by the delegates who were deemed to be the Elders.

The following is the statement that was released by the Elders on this occasion:

The leaders of Deskaheh and spiritual leader Ratani, the Indigenous delegations of 1977 and 1981 came to the international arena with serious concerns of ongoing violations: treaty violations, lack of recognition, militarization, dispossession of lands, disappearances, exile of Indigenous Peoples under dictatorship and disrespect of First Nation States. In an era of cold war and east-west conflict, Indigenous Peoples were caught in crossfire resulting in ongoing torture, dispossession and killings, forcing some to go into exile. Collectively we came here seeking justice.

The peoples of Australia agreed to come to the United Nations seeking justice. Our primary focus was to overturn the consequences of colonialism. We wanted land rights, the recognition of pre-existing and continuing sovereignty. Our struggles in the 1970s and 80s were to fight off the multinational interest in our natural resources and an establishment of American military industrial complexes on our lands and waters in the northern part of Australia.

In Africa dispossession of lands and historical injustices, as well as continued violations of basic human rights of pastoralists and hunter-gatherer communities, prompted their leaders to come and engage at the UN from early 1994, 1997 and consecutive years.

In Latin America, thousands of Indigenous Peoples were massacred, disappeared and exiled under the military dictatorships.

After the historic armed liberation of Wounded Knee in South Dakota in 1973, the American Indian Movement realized that there was no justice for Indians in the United States. Elders of North America urged them to go to the world community and the United Nations.

We are prominent elders who came to the UN for the first time in 1977 and 1981 to represent our peoples. We are reunited at the Second Symposium on the First Indigenous Delegates to the UN, organised by the Indigenous Organising Committee. From the Palais de Nations, we come from North, Central and South America, Australia, Artic, Asia and Africa, and send fraternal greetings to each and all of our Indigenous brothers and sisters, as well as all human beings who inhabit this planet. In addition, UN mechanisms such as the Expert Mechanisms on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (EMRIP) and the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII), as well as a Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, have been established. However, the recommendations arising from these working groups are rarely taken into account. Therefore, even after having elaborated and approved all of these agreements, we are still today, very concerned and want to express the following sentiments: Indigenous Peoples have permanent sovereignty over natural resources. All that was created is made up from the natural world. As Indigenous Peoples, we are all connected through our families. Family is made up of all that was created in Mother Earth.

Nothing on Mother Earth is a single entity. In nature, bad acts impact negatively in a way that humans fail to understand. If we do not anticipate the consequences of actions against Mother Nature, then we will be just as guilty as the non-indigenous perpetrators. If Mother Nature is destroyed, then we have failed our obligations to protect our families.

The Symposium expresses its profound condemnation of the practices implemented by resource extraction corporations, which desecrate the earth, destroy ecosystems, and generate persecution, death, hunger, displacements, repression, criminalization of the resistance against mining, and misery for the 400 million Indigenous Peoples and for peoples of this world.

The Symposium recognises that children are the future and we must commit ourselves to leaving them an appropriate legacy for the future. They have the right to benefit from the natural resources in their countries.

UN Global Indigenous Elders gather to pass on the legacy of knowledge to the younger generations,

Research-based evidence by UN Special Rapporteurs Erica-Irene Daes, Miguel Alfonso Martinez and James Anaya, as well as by the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples has affirmed Indigenous Peoples’ permanent sovereignty over natural resources. Furthermore, the Human Rights Council (formerly Human Rights Commission) has adopted these reports, which include Indigenous Peoples’ contributions, and were incorporated in the outcome document of the High level plenary meeting of September 2014, called the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples. The Second Symposium assembled in Geneva (June 16-19, 2015) reiterates the conclusions, recommendations and advices.

The Symposium recalls that it was stated in the 1977 conference that the earth is a sacred place, essential for the physical, spiritual and cultural life of Indigenous Peoples.

The Symposium states that Indigenous Peoples live in, from, with, by, and for their lands and territories.

We request that governments meet key international agreements, so as to ensure proper implementation of the right to consultation, in order to gain free prior and informed consent to any project on indigenous territories. Indigenous Peoples must be allowed to have continued consultation and must be accorded the authority to object and veto negative impacts on their own lands without improper dominance by governing entities.

The Symposium takes note of the fact that the United Nations Declaration on Decolonization has the task of promptly ending ‘all forms of colonisations’ and that the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples includes reference to permanent discrimination of Indigenous Peoples, exercised by states and transnational companies. Furthermore, this includes their right to self-determination.

The colonialists must engage with Indigenous Peoples as sovereign peoples, and not as individuals. Eradication of discrimination must also be achieved through policy development. Countries must cease their threats and bully tactics.

The Symposium reaffirms that the Indigenous Peoples have the right to be promptly compensated at current values and redressed for the theft of their natural resources.

The Symposium is deeply saddened that almost all UN States continue to violate the ancestral rights of Indigenous Peoples. Even those that have ratified international instruments such as the ILO Convention 169 and adopted and endorsed the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) systematically violate them.

The Symposium calls upon member states in the framework of the WIPO intergovernmental Committee on Intellectual Property and Genetic Resources, Traditional Knowledge and Folklore to recognize the rights included in the UNDRIP. The Symposium emphasizes that all the specialised agencies, bodies and programs of the UN system are compelled to implement the instruments adopted by the UN General Assembly, and as such, the UNDRIP should be taken into account in the area of intellectual property rights.

The Symposium strongly condemns that under the wave of economic globalization states implement extractive policies and hydroelectric schemes in an irresponsible manner, regardless of the harmonious development of Mother Earth and all the living elements.

The Symposium condemns the continued violation of human rights and fundamental freedoms of Indigenous Peoples’ human rights defenders whereby indigenous leaders are suppressed and murdered for defending ancestral rights and for trying to avoid the devastation of our Mother Earth. Indigenous leaders have been assassinated in Peru for fighting against mining. Thousands of leaders alike have been imprisoned in Chile. In Argentina, a Mapuche woman was arbitrarily accused of attempted murder after throwing stones at bailiffs. The police had come to evict them from their ancestral lands, in order to establish multinational oil companies. The federal government of Canada continues to refuse all cause to establish a public enquiry into the missing and murdered indigenous girls and women. In the USA, in 2012 the Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, James Anaya, stated in a report to the Human Rights Council that consideration should be given to clemency for Leonard Peltier. He visited him in 2014. In Panama, the murder of leaders from the Ngobe-Bugle community is still in impunity.

The Symposium demands that the United Nations recognizes Indigenous People as a consulting and participating entity in regards to issues that affect Indigenous Peoples’ lives.

The Symposium is working closely with the younger generations of Indigenous Peoples to pass on the experiences and knowledge acquired through years of struggle.

This Second Symposium statement remains relevant to the matters which we continue to confront today. It is imperative that we here in Australia must conduct state and territory symposiums over the next 12 months in order to develop a national framework, which will allow us to liberate ourselves from the oppression forced upon us by the illegal occupants of our lands.

We must make every effort to ensure that what we decide is underpinned by our customary and ancient Celestial Laws.

It is time for us to commence dialogue with the occupying state. This dialogue must include more than truth-telling. It must begin with us and the Crown, that is the sovereignty under which this country is claimed in the name of King Charles III. The current treaty processes in Australia are nothing but snow jobs or, as the adage goes – we are being treated to smoke and mirror. The truth is – in any treaty negotiations we must ensure that all the cards are on the table from the start and that includes First Nations’ assertions of sovereignty and the King’s claim to sovereignty of the entire continent, which is maintained for him by military garrisons through superior force.

It is not recommended that we seek to merge our Law into the occupiers’ law for we must first understand that we do have Laws that underpin all that we do as First Nations Peoples. There is no time for some to pretend that they know our ancient Law, if it has been erased from recent memory. But that’s not to say that the ancient Celestial Laws that govern the moieties of Kangaroo and Emu is lost. They are all alive and functioning, not in memory, but in practice. It is from this position that we must demand that we are equal in all future negotiations, for without that we will be subservient to the colonising forces.

Kangaroo Law and Emu Law belong to us and as our late brother and Elder Kevin Buzzacott, Arabunna, said and did by action that we must take back the Kangaroo and Emu. The colonialists have usurped our sacred icons without our free prior and informed consent.

‘Changing the Date’ of 26 January is but a minute detail considering the fight that is still before us.

- by Professor Ghillar Michael Anderson

Ghillar, Michael AndersonContact: Ghillar Michael Anderson
Convenor of the Sovereign Union,
Head of State of the Euahlayi Peoples Republic
Contact Details here