Navajo lawmakers urge United Nations to allow tribal nations to participate as governments

UNITED NATIONS-On Sept. 22, Navajo Nation Council Delegate Jonathan Hale (Oaksprings, St. Michaels) called on the United Nations to allow tribal nations to participate on a permanent basis within the U.N. system without going through a nongovernmental organization (NGO).

"For more than 20 years the Navajo Nation had to either register under the auspices of a NGO in order to participate in the U.N. activities or simply not participate," Hale said. "While NGO's and civil societies enjoy the privilege of participating in U.N. activities, indigenous nations with elected officials that are responsible to their people are limited in full participation in U.N activities. The U.N. must amend their current system in order for Indigenous Nations to have a seat at the table."

Council Delegates Dwight Whitherspoon (Hard Rock, Forest Lake, Pinon, Black Mesa, Whippoorwill), Alton Joe Shepherd (Jeddito, Cornfields, Ganado, Kinlichee, Steamboat) and Navajo Nation Human Rights Commission executive director Leondard Gorman rounded out the Navajo Nation delegation to the first and historic World Conference on Indigenous Peoples.

Prior to Hale's remarks, the outcome document of the World Conference was adopted by consensus as a U.N. General Assembly resolution, supported by 193 member states of the U.N.

The outcome document included four of the proposed action items supported by the Navajo Nation including: initiating a process to create a permanent body in the U.N. system that will monitor and encourage implementation of the Declaration; considering options for a General Assembly decision to make it possible for Indian tribal governments and other indigenous governments to participate in U.N. meetings on a permanent basis; giving particular attention to the epidemic of violence against indigenous women, including Indian and Alaska Native women in the United States; and measures to respect and protect places sacred to Indian and other indigenous nations and peoples.

The outcome document calls for a system-wide action plan to be developed for the U.N. system to bring greater coherence and effectiveness to the U.N.'s work relating to indigenous peoples.

"I am proud that the General Assembly adopted the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples," U.N Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon ssaid. "We are joining forces with indigenous peoples to reach our common goals."

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