Earlier this month, the VIII Summit of the Americas was held in Lima. This is an event that brings together heads of state every three years to define a joint agenda for the American continent. However, the official program of the Summit starts prior to the meeting of the leaders, with meetings of indigenous peoples, civil society, entrepreneurs, and youth activists.
The official agenda started Tuesday, April 10th, with the Indigenous Peoples Forum, which was attended by around 300 indigenous leaders from across the hemisphere.
This meeting revolved around three topics:
- The Systems of Government and Participatory Democracy, which addressed indigenous institutions and their inclusion in governments, indigenous justice, self-determination and autonomy;
- Land and Territory focused on the right Free, Prior, and Informed (and culturally appropriate) Consent, mega-projects, and the criminalization of earth rights defenders;
- Indigenous Economic Solidarity and Wellbeing discussed plans of indigenous life and indigenous food sovereignty.
Although it was an official event of the Summit, the indigenous leaders felt free to criticize the exclusions made by the American governments. They highlighted the political power imbalances between the governments and the indigenous peoples. They vehemently rejected the extractive economic model that violates their rights and destroys Mother Earth, the lack of recognition as autonomous and sovereign peoples, and the institutionalization of corrupt practices and policies that benefit transnational corporations and violate their rights. Interestingly, the theme of the summit was “Democratic Governance Against Corruption”.
Therefore, the main demands to the heads of state of the Americas, are to ensure the right to ownership of ancestral territory and the recognition of collective ownership, the repeal of national standards which are contrary to international obligations and standards relating to indigenous peoples, in particular on prior consultation and consent, respect for self-determination, autonomy and self-government, the current participation of indigenous peoples within the structure of the governments, and the cessation of criminalization and stigmatization of leaders and other members of indigenous communities for protecting their territories.
The outcome of the Forum was a statement by indigenous peoples to the VIII Summit of the Americas, which was presented at the meeting of the Presidents. The heads of state, in turn, also wrote about the indigenous peoples in their commitments:
“Recognizing the positive contributions of indigenous peoples and their traditional values and principles, and the contributions of Afro-descendent communities, in improving the efficiency, effectiveness, and transparency of public administration and raising awareness in favor of the fight against corruption”.
This is not only insufficient to resolve the crisis of democratic governance across many countries of the Americas, but also exposes the lack of a real and effective commitment to the inclusion of indigenous peoples ‘ voices and demands. As these spaces continue to marginalize essential voices such as those of indigenous leaders, the road to the construction of truly multicultural societies, that respect rights and freedoms of all who live on this continent, will remain doubtful.
We applaud the continued inclusion of indigenous peoples in the official program of the Summit of the Americas, but we are still waiting for a summit where heads of State not only take note of the demands of indigenous peoples but a summit where native peoples are the protagonists and indigenous leaders are treated as equals with the state governments and presidents, a summit for indigenous peoples.