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CELAC Declaration of Buenos Aires: Glaring omissions regarding Indigenous Peoples

26 January, 2023 | Ricardo Changala

The heads of State and Government of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) approved the Buenos Aires Declaration on January 24, 2023.

In its 111 issues, a wide variety of topics of great relevance to the peoples and governments of the region are collected, reflecting a renewed spirit of CELAC both for the change of orientation of several of the member countries and, in particular, for the reincorporation of Brazil into its operation.

In paragraph 4, the Declaration affirms CELAC’s commitment “… to advance with determination in the integration process, promoting unity and the political, economic, social and cultural diversity of our peoples.”

However, this recognition of the cultural diversity of the peoples of the region does not have an adequate correlation in all the paragraphs of the Declaration. Of course, no document of this type can cover the totality of regional issues, but in relation to Indigenous Peoples, the absence of essential aspects is powerfully striking.

It is difficult to explain that, in a region with about 826 Indigenous Peoples who, on average, represent about 10% of the total population, but in some countries far exceeds this percentage (cases Bolivia EP, Guatemala or Mexico), there is no specific section on them, on their rights and their relevance as social and political subjects.

In addition, let us remember that, last July, the Latin American countries that make up CELAC approved a first evaluation of the Ibero-American Action Plan for the implementation of the rights of Indigenous Peoples (2018-2028), assuming a series of commitments to promote the issue, without the point even being mentioned in this Declaration.

On the other hand, if there is a specific section on the Afro-descendant population (number 62), which ratifies the commitment to promote, respect, guarantee and protect the rights of people of African descent, as well as the processes of eradication of all forms of racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, in search of societies with higher levels of equity and racial justice.

The Declaration incorporates the section entitled “Indigenous Languages”, something that in itself should be highlighted positively, although insufficient. There are three numerals through which the launch of the International Decade of Indigenous Languages (2022-2032) is highlighted, the creation of the Ibero-American Institute of Indigenous Languages is welcomed, inviting the States of Latin America and the Caribbean to be part of its creation and strengthening and, finally, previous agreements on the right to revitalize oral, philosophical languages and traditions, their writing systems and their literature are recognized, recognizing the importance of establishing alliances to coordinate joint actions in this regard

It is difficult to understand the reason why, both in this section on indigenous languages and in other numerals of the Declaration such as those referring, for example, to the care of Mother Earth (30) or on the importance of camelids (9), or the protection of water and water resources (36), the key political subject to carry out these objectives is omitted: Indigenous Peoples.

The literal reading of this Declaration seems to promote the revitalization of languages, the care of Mother Earth and other objectives, without an essential, leading and essential role of the Indigenous Peoples who are never mentioned.

The same happens when the Declaration invokes social dialogue, on various aspects such as innovation and technology, ignoring Indigenous Peoples and their ancestral knowledge, as if they were not part of the broad cultural baggage of humanity.

In a regional context in which the demands, proposals and realities of Indigenous Peoples are increasingly present in national legislations and debates, when newly installed governments such as Brazil’s have carried out significant changes towards the recognition of Indigenous Peoples as central actors of development, this Declaration seems to be far behind the concrete reality on which it intends to influence.

The full text of the Statement is available at the following link CELAC-DECLARACION-DE-BUENOS-AIRES-Version-Final