Guyana’s Foreign Minister champions indigenous rights
Summit of the Americas…
By Tusika Martin
Guyana’s Foreign Affairs Minister, Carolyn Rodrigues-Birkett, outshone her foreign affairs colleagues at the lead up meeting to the Fifth Summit of the Americas on Friday last, when she agreed with indigenous leaders that development must not proceed at the expense of the indigenous peoples.
Rodrigues-Brikett was among Foreign Affairs Ministers in the hemisphere to deliberate on recommendations made by the private sector, the indigenous peoples and youths.
The youths, the private sector and the civil society in the hemisphere met two days before the summit and were engaged in separate discussions.
Speaking to the participants of the Indigenous Leaders forum, the Guyanese Foreign Minister who was also a former Minister of Amerindian Affairs said, “I think that it would not be development if you proceed with projects or programmes that would affect the lives of indigenous peoples.”
She added that she is of the strong belief that dialogue is very important at the level of the hemisphere, while noting that there is much more need for dialogue.
“Many times when we are engaged in conversation at home our objectives are not very different on how we achieve them. We might have different strategies and I take your point that development must not proceed at the expense of the indigenous people. I think that it would not be development if you proceed with projects or programmes that would affect the lives of indigenous peoples.
She told the gathering that just three years ago, legislation was passed in Guyana enabling indigenous peoples to have access to land.
This legislation also included clauses on governance and mining for indigenous people.
In the declaration submitted to the Foreign Ministers, the leaders for the indigenous peoples stated that their rights must be recognized, respected, promoted and implemented by Indigenous Peoples, the Organisation of American States and its members, and other regional, national and international agencies and institutions.
These include self-determination, rights to the lands, territories and natural resources, civil and political rights, economic, social and cultural rights.
According to the plan of action that was also submitted to the Foreign Affairs Ministers for their Heads of Government consideration, the indigenous people noted that administrations should take effective measures to reduce the extreme impoverishment and social and economic marginalization of the Indigenous Peoples of the Americas.
They also called for Heads of Government to take effective measures to ensure protection against human rights violations related to child labour, forced conscription into armed conflict and trafficking, migration, forced displacement and forced relocation of Indigenous Peoples.
The facilitation, support and promotion of the appropriate use and development of information were also negotiated by the leaders.
They said that effective measures should be taken to ensure the rights of Indigenous children and youth to a clean, healthy, sustainable and prosperous future and to an adequate standard of life, to be able to maintain their cultures and traditions.