Statement by Ronald D. Godard, Ambassador and Senior Area Advisor for Western Hemisphere Affairs, at the General Assembly Third Committee Debate on Agenda Item 65: Indigenous Issues

Ronald D. Godard, Ambassador and Senior Area Advisor for Western Hemisphere Affairs
New York, NY
October 18, 2010


Thank you, Mr. Chair.

The United States would like to take this opportunity to welcome the Secretary General’s midterm assessment of the progress thus far made by Member States and the UN System for the Second International Decade of the World’s Indigenous People. My delegation is encouraged by the progress made thus far, although much remains to be done, and my government looks forward to being a part of future activities to strengthen the UN’s response to indigenous concerns through the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, as well as through supporting the work of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous people.

As my government raised at the Human Rights Council in September, the discussion on indigenous peoples’ participation in decision-making is particularly timely. We believe that tribal leaders must be part of solutions and that their voices must be heard at the policy-making table. The Secretary General in his report raises a particular challenge to the participation of indigenous peoples in decision-making: the fact that many indigenous peoples lack official recognition and the ability to directly participate in political processes.

The United States has a unique legal and political relationship with federally recognized Indian tribes, established through and confirmed by the Constitution of the United States, treaties, statutes, executive orders, and judicial decisions. We sustain political relationships on a government-to-government basis with 565 tribes.

As the Secretary General points out, many indigenous peoples are denied the ability to engage on even an informal basis with their governments. Self-advocacy by indigenous peoples has indeed been key to additional recognition, but my government appeals to other Member States to consider that open dialogue with all of your communities, including indigenous peoples, strengthens policy development and results in the best outcomes for all. Indeed, this is borne out in the efforts the United States pursues both domestically and internationally. My government has spoken at length before about its domestic commitment to building a better development and human rights situation through partnership with tribal governments.

In the case of international development policies, indigenous organizations have been invited to openly compete with other organizations for small development grants offered by the United States Agency for International Development. This opportunity seeks to push funding to those who know of their development challenges, and also enhances local capacity to address those challenges. USAID has also supported indigenous efforts to title lands, to strengthen environmental protections for traditional lands, and is now seeking to address challenges posed by the urban environment to indigenous peoples. USAID has recognized that some conservation efforts and development goals conflict with the interests of indigenous communities and is looking for solutions to these very complex issues. To that end, my government looks forward to the forthcoming work by Special Rapporteur Anaya on indigenous peoples and urbanization.

Thank you, Mr. Chair.


PRN: 2010/228