In the Fall 2014, Catalunya and Scotland will vote to determine if their nation will become an independent state. Many other Fourth World nations will look to see how these decisions unfold. The nations of what was dubbed the Southern Sudan Autonomous Region of Sudan in 1972 suffered through civil wars with Sudan, established an autonomous government in 2005 and with yet another war forced their independence from Sudan in 2011. The nations of what is now the independent state of South Sudan were original signers of the International Covenant on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in 1994 that proclaimed the right to self-determination by Fourth World Nations. There are other Fourth World Nations who seek to form independent states (e.g., Palestine, Naga, Tibet, Chechniya, Biafra, Dagestan, Basque, Tamil, and Uygur, among them). Perhaps as many as 30 Fourth World Nations aspire to or directly seek to sever relations with a state formed on top of their territory to form their own independent state.
The trend toward independence for some Fourth World Nations causes fear in the international system of states–fear that some states will lose legitimacy and collapse while others will loose control over valuable natural resources and sources of energy. Accordingly, member UN states adopted a kind of “sense of the General Assembly” resolution proclaiming states cannot “self-dismember” with many states including the United States, Canada, Australia, South Africa and Russia repeating the resolution as a mantra as if it is settled international law–it is not.
The World Conference on Indigenous Peoples is about to consider an “outcome statement” at the end of its meeting on 23 September in New York that is in its drafting stages. Whether Fourth World nations will be called on to sit at a table in the UN System as respected members of the international community is on the table for consideration. Russia, China, South Africa and Indonesia oppose any language in the statement that grants political identity to “indigenous peoples.” South Africa goes so far as to demand that “indigenous peoples” have a full definition before consideration of an outcome statement for the World Conference.
As political leaders–Fourth World, Third World, Second World and First World alike, might want to notice that Fourth World nations are deciding on their own whether to stay part of certain existing states. Votes in the Fall when the World Conference is meeting in New York will demonstrate the direction of the political winds.