DOCUMENTS FOR THE
PROPOSED AMERICAN DECLARATION ON THE RIGHTS OF
by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights on February 26,
Indigenous institutions and the strengthening of nations
The member states of the OAS (hereafter the states),
Recalling that the indigenous peoples of the Americas constitute an
organized, distinctive and integral segment of their population and are
entitled to be part of the national identities of the countries of the
Americas, and have a special role to play in strengthening the
institutions of the state and in establishing national unity based on
democratic principles; and,
Further recalling that some of the democratic institutions and
concepts embodied in the constitutions of American states originate from
institutions of the indigenous peoples, and that in many instances their
present participatory systems for decision-making and for authority
contribute to improving democracies in the Americas.
Recalling the need to develop their national juridical systems to
consolidate the pluricultural nature of our societies.
Eradication of poverty and the right to development
Concerned about the frequent deprivation afflicting indigenous
peoples of their human rights and fundamental freedoms; within and outside
their communities, as well as the dispossession of their lands,
territories and resources, thus preventing them from exercising, in
particular, their right to development in accordance with their own
traditions, needs and interests.
Recognizing the severe impoverishment afflicting indigenous peoples
in several regions of the Hemisphere and that their living conditions are
And recalling that in the Declaration of Principles issued by the
Summit of the Americas in December 1994, the heads of state and
governments declared that in observance of the International Decade of the
World's Indigenous People, they will focus their energies on improving the
exercise of democratic rights and the access to social services by
indigenous peoples and their communities.
Indigenous culture and ecology
Recognizing the respect for the environment accorded by the
cultures of indigenous peoples of the Americas, and considering the
special relationship between the indigenous peoples and the environment,
lands, resources and territories on which they live and their natural
Harmonious relations, respect and the absence of discrimination
Reaffirming the responsibility of all states and peoples of the
Americas to end racism and racial discrimination, with a view to
establishing harmonious relations and respect among all peoples.
Territories and indigenous survival
Recognizing that in many indigenous cultures, traditional
collective systems for control and use of land, territory and resources,
including bodies of water and coastal areas, are a necessary condition for
their survival, social organization, development and their individual and
collective well-being; and that the form of such control and ownership is
varied and distinctive and does not necessarily coincide with the systems
protected by the domestic laws of the states in which they live.
Security and indigenous areas
Reaffirming that the armed forces in indigenous areas shall
restrict themselves to the performance of their functions and shall not be
the cause of abuses or violations of the rights of indigenous peoples.
Human rights instruments and other advances in international law
Recognizing the paramouncy and applicability to the states and
peoples of the Americas of the American Declaration of the Rights and
Duties of Man, the American Convention on Human Rights and other human
rights instruments of inter-American and international law; and
Recognizing that indigenous peoples are a subject of international
law, and mindful of the progress achieved by the states and indigenous
organizations, especially in the sphere of the United Nations and the
International Labor Organization, in several international instruments,
particularly in the ILO Convention 169.
Affirming the principle of the universality and indivisibility of
human rights, and the application of international human rights to all
Enjoyment of Collective Rights
Recalling the international recognition of rights that can only be
enjoyed when exercised collectively.
Advances in the provisions of national instruments
Noting the constitutional, legislative and jurisprudential advances
achieved in the Americas in guaranteeing the rights and
institutions of indigenous peoples,
SECTION ONE. INDIGENOUS
Scope and definitions
This Declaration applies to indigenous peoples as well as peoples
whose social, cultural and economic conditions distinguish them from other
sections of the national community, and whose status is regulated wholly
or partially by their own customs or traditions or by special laws or
Self identification as indigenous shall be regarded as a
fundamental criterion for determining the peoples to which the provisions
of this Declaration apply.
The use of the term "peoples" in this Instrument shall
not be construed as having any implication with respect to any other
rights that might be attached to that term in international law.
TWO. HUMAN RIGHTS
II. Full observance of human
Indigenous peoples have the right to the full and effective
enjoyment of the human rights and fundamental freedoms recognized in the
Charter of the OAS, the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of
Man, the American Convention on Human Rights, and other international
human rights law; and nothing in this Declaration shall be construed as in
any way limiting or denying those rights or authorizing any action not in
accordance with the instruments of international law including human
Indigenous peoples have the collective rights that are
indispensable to the enjoyment of the individual human rights of
their members. Accordingly
the states recognize inter alia the right of the indigenous peoples
to collective action, to their cultures, to profess and practice their
spiritual beliefs, and to use their languages.
The states shall ensure for indigenous peoples the full exercise of
all rights, and shall adopt in accordance with their constitutional
processes such legislative or other measures as may
be necessary to give effect to the rights recognized in this
III. Right to belong to
Indigenous peoples and communities have the right to belong to
indigenous peoples, in accordance with the traditions and customs of the
peoples or nation concerned.
IV. Legal status of
Indigenous peoples have the right to have their legal personality
fully recognized by the states within their systems.
V. No forced assimilation
Indigenous peoples have the right to freely preserve, express and
develop their cultural identity in all its aspects, free of any attempt at
The states shall not undertake, support or favour any policy of
artificial or enforced assimilation of indigenous peoples, destruction of
a culture or the possibility of the extermination of any indigenous
VI. Special guarantees
Indigenous peoples have the right to special guarantees against
discrimination that may have to be instituted to fully enjoy
internationally and nationally-recognized human rights; as well as
measures necessary to enable indigenous women, men and children to
exercise, without any discrimination, civil, political, economic, social,
cultural and spiritual rights. The
states recognize that violence exerted against persons because of their
gender and age prevents and nullifies the exercise of those rights.
Indigenous peoples have the right to fully participate in the
prescription of such guarantees.
THREE. CULTURAL DEVELOPMENT
VII. Right to Cultural
Indigenous peoples have the right to their cultural integrity, and
their historical and archeological heritage, which are important both for
their survival as well as for the identity of their members.
Indigenous peoples are entitled to restitution in respect of the
property of which they have been dispossessed, and where that is not
possible, compensation on a basis not less favorable than the standard of
The states shall recognize and respect indigenous ways of life,
customs, traditions, forms of social, economic and political organization,
institutions, practices, beliefs and values, use of dress, and languages.
outlook and language
Indigenous peoples have the right to indigenous languages,
philosophy and outlook as a component of national and universal culture,
and as such, shall respect them and facilitate their dissemination.
The states shall take measures and ensure that broadcast radio and
television programs are broadcast in the indigenous languages in the
regions where there is a strong indigenous presence, and to support the
creation of indigenous radio stations and other media.
The states shall take effective measures to enable indigenous
peoples to understand administrative, legal and political rules and
procedures, and to be understood in relation to these matters. In areas
where indigenous languages are predominant, states shall endeavor to
establish the pertinent languages as official languages and to give them
the same status that is given to non-indigenous official languages.
Indigenous peoples have the right to use their indigenous names,
and to have the states recognize them as such.
Indigenous peoples shall be entitled: a) to establish and set in
motion their own educational programs, institutions and facilities; b) to
prepare and implement their own educational plans, programs, curricula and
materials; c) to train, educate and accredit their teachers and
administrators. The states
shall endeavor to ensure that such systems guarantee equal educational and
teaching opportunities for the entire population and complementarity with
national educational systems.
When indigenous peoples so decide, educational systems shall be
conducted in the indigenous languages and incorporate indigenous content,
and they shall also be provided with the necessary training and means for
complete mastery of the official language or languages.
The states shall ensure that those educational systems are equal in
quality, efficiency, accessibility and in all other ways to that provided
to the general population.
The states shall take measures to guarantee to the members of
indigenous peoples the possibility to obtain education at all levels, at
least of equal quality with the general population.
The states shall include in their general educational systems,
content reflecting the pluricultural nature of their societies.
The states shall provide financial and any other type of assistance
needed for the implementation of the provisions of this article.
X. Spiritual and religious
Indigenous peoples have the right to freedom of conscience, freedom
of religion and spiritual practice, and to exercise them both publicly and
The states shall take necessary measures to prohibit attempts
to forcibly convert indigenous peoples or to impose on them beliefs
against their will.
In collaboration with the indigenous peoples concerned, the states
shall adopt effective measures to ensure that their sacred sites,
including burial sites, are preserved, respected and protected.
When sacred graves and relics have been appropriated by state
institutions, they shall be returned.
The states shall encourage respect by all people for the integrity
of indigenous spiritual symbols, practices, sacred ceremonies, expressions
XI. Family relations and
The family is the natural and basic unit of societies and must be
respected and protected by the state.
Consequently the state shall recognize and respect the various
forms of indigenous family, marriage, family name and filiation.
In determining the child's best interest in matters relating to the
protection and adoption of children of members of indigenous peoples, and
in matters of breaking of ties and other similar circumstances,
consideration shall be given by courts and other relevant institutions to
the views of the peoples, including individual, family and community
XII. Health and well-being
Indigenous peoples have the right to legal recognition and practice
of their traditional medicine, treatment, pharmacology, health practices
and promotion, including preventive and rehabilitative practices.
Indigenous peoples have the right to the protection of vital
medicinal plants, animal and mineral in their traditional territories.
Indigenous peoples shall be entitled to use, maintain, develop and
manage their own health services, and they shall also have access, on an
equal basis, to all health institutions and services and medical care
accessible to the general population.
The states shall provide the necessary means to enable the
indigenous peoples to eliminate such health conditions in their
communities which fall below international accepted standards for the
XIII. Right to environmental
Indigenous peoples have the right to a safe and healthy
environment, which is an essential condition for the enjoyment of the
right to life and collective well-being.
Indigenous peoples have the right to be informed of measures which
will affect their environment, including information that ensures their
effective participation in actions and policies that might affect it.
Indigenous peoples shall have the right to conserve, restore and
protect their environment, and the productive capacity of their lands,
territories and resources.
Indigenous peoples have the right to participate fully in
formulating, planning, managing and applying governmental programmes of
conservation of their lands, territories and resources.
Indigenous peoples have the right to assistance from their states
for purposes of environmental protection, and may receive assistance from
The states shall prohibit and punish, and shall impede jointly with
the indigenous peoples, the introduction, abandonment, or deposit of
radioactive materials or residues, toxic substances and garbage in
contravention of legal provisions; as well as the production,
introduction, transportation, possession or use of chemical, biological
and nuclear weapons in indigenous areas.
When a state declares an indigenous territory as protected area,
any lands, territories and resources under potential or actual claim by
indigenous peoples, conservation areas shall not be subject to any
natural resource development without the informed consent and
participation of the peoples concerned.
FOUR. ORGANIZATIONAL AND
XIV. Rights of association,
assembly, freedom of expression and