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The UN, Bigotry and Violence against Indigenous Peoples

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According to Reuters during 19 May and 6 June United Nations Human Rights Special Rapporteur Doudou Diène of Senegal will travel to the United States of America to investigate apparently growing evidence of racism. What seems to be stimulating this unusual action by the Commission on Human Rights is the democratic primaries for US President prominently involving Senator Barak Obama (D-Il) and Senator Hillary Clinton (D-NY). In the United States of America, as in Canada, Mexico and the other American states bigotry and violence against indigenous peoples is at an all-time high. Despite this fact, the UN Commission is focusing on visits with lawmakers, local and federal officials and judical authorities in eight major cities: New York, Washington, D.C., Chicago, Omaha, Los Angeles, New Oreleans, Miami, and San Juan, Puerto Rico.Urban populations do not generally contain substantial numbers of indigenous peoples. Indeed, the intollerance, violence and bigotry committed against native peoples takes place in the rural areas--out of view of official investigations. Thousands of native peoples have been killed with impunity by state-support militias even as discrimination, bigotry and violence in other forms have been imposed on the living. In Mexico and the United States, native peoples are violently treated at the border, discriminated against over political rights, economic rights and social rights. In Chile, native peoples are denied access to their own lands by the government to support and protect mining companies extracting copper from underneath villages.

Will these and other incidents of racism, intolerance, bigotry and physical violence be the subject of Mr. Diène's investigations? It is unlikely. While Mr. Diène may have good intentions, he is missing the mark and he is inadvertently aiding those who would protect states' governments and corporations as well as individuals from special exposure. It would appear that native peoples must take their own initiatives to protect themselves since it is clear the Commission on Human Rights cannot or will not.

(c) 2008 Center for World Indigenous Studies

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One Comment

  1. As you observe, the UN Human Rights Council is a state-oriented body housed in a state-oriented institution. And even though the Human Rights Council’s own reports acknowledge the complicity of states and corporations in perpetrating the worst human rights abuses in the world today, depending on state-oriented governance structures to challenge First World abusers is illogical. Self-reliance is indeed a much more reliable approach for Fourth World nations.

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