Statement of the Delegation of the United States of America
Fourth session of the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
Delivered by John Mariz
U.S. Mission to the United Nations
July 12, 2011 – Geneva, Switzerland
Agenda Item 4:
Study on indigenous peoples and the right to participate in decision-making
The United States would like to congratulate you on your election, welcome the the new and returning Experts, and wish you all every success as you carry out the valuable work of the Mechanism throughout the week.
The United States welcomes the extensive and detailed work of the experts reflected in the draft “Final study on indigenous peoples and the right to participate in decision-making.” We appreciate in particular the focus on good practices of indigenous peoples’ participation in different levels of decision-making. The examples highlighted in the report give us much to think about as we work to improve the participation of Native Americans in decisions that affect both them and the overall well-being of the United States.
Mr. Chairperson, the timing of EMRIP’s work on the participation of indigenous peoples in decision-making has been particularly opportune for the United States because President Obama has made consultations between the U.S. government and tribal governments a priority of his Administration, as have many tribal leaders. In his first year in office (2009), President Obama signed a Presidential Memorandum directing all U.S. federal agencies to develop detailed plans to implement the U.S. Executive Order on “Consultation and Coordination with Indian Tribal Governments.” That Executive Order requires federal agencies to consult with tribal officials on certain “policies that have tribal implications,” a term that is broadly defined in the order. As explained in the document that accompanied President Obama’s announcement of U.S. support for the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, the United States understands its provisions on free, prior and informed consent to call for a process of meaningful consultation with tribal leaders, but not necessarily the agreement of those leaders, before the actions addressed in those consultations are taken.
The United States is pleased to note that President Obama’s directive on tribal consultations has had its intended effect. Not only have consultations risen to an unprecedented level throughout the U.S. government, the consultations are also making an impact. For example, in response to concerns expressed by tribal leaders, the Department of Agriculture opened eligibility to the Renewable Energy for America Program to tribal business entities, thus improving access to renewable energy program funding. Similarly, the Department of the Interior has taken 105,000 acres of land into trust for tribes in the past two years as a part of our effort to restore tribal homelands. The Department of the Interior is also working to respond to requests to streamline the process by which tribes are federally recognized.
However, the United States recognizes that much remains to be done to improve the participation of tribal governments and all Native Americans in decision-making on matters that affect them. EMRIP’s work will contribute to that effort.
Mr. Chairperson, we have appreciated this opportunity to listen and engage on the Expert Mechanism’s study on this very important topic. We welcome your continued efforts to assist the Human Rights Council in the implementation of its mandate in a manner that meaningfully contributes to and enhances cooperation with, while avoiding duplication in, the work being undertaken on indigenous issues by other bodies in the United Nations system. We look forward to your continued work and valuable contribution in this regard.