Submission to the United Nations regarding the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

3 June 2007

H. E. Sheikha Haya Rashed Al Khafalifa
President, United Nations General Assembly
United Nations
405 E 42nd St
New York, New York 10017

Madame President,

Members of the World Archaeological Congress (WAC) have great concern about the proposal of the African Group to reopen negotiations on the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. We urge you to help African states understand that the Human Rights Council’s text contains nothing that threatens state sovereignty or opportunities for development. Rather than fuel conflict, the Human Rights Council text creates a framework for fair cooperation and respectful resolution of differences. The Declaration has taken decades of patient negotiation and compromise by Indigenous peoples and governments, resulting in a text acceptable to all, adopted by the Human Rights Council at its inaugural session last June.

The Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples levels the playing field so that small, often marginal, and in many cases economically disadvantaged Indigenous communities can engage as citizens with the state on their own terms without losing their identities or cultures. WAC’s particular concerns relate to the recognition of Indigenous rights to cultural heritage, but these elements are closely linked to other concerns for Indigenous peoples.

The World Archaeological Congress, with members in more than 90 countries, is the only fully international and representative organization of practicing archaeologists. WAC’s mission is to (1) promote professional training for disadvantaged nations and communities; (2) broaden public education, involving national and international communities in archaeological research; (3) develop archaeological practice so that it empowers Indigenous and minority; (4) contribute to the conservation of archaeological sites threatened by looting, urban growth, tourism, development or war; and (5) re-dress global inequities among archaeologists.

Thank you for your consideration.

Claire Smith, President