16 July 2004

Over 1000 representatives of indigenous peoples and communities from around the world will join Government delegates, non-governmental organisations and United Nations agencies in Geneva from 19 to 23 July for the largest international meeting on indigenous peoples’ rights.

The gathering, the annual session of the United Nations Working Group on Indigenous Populations (WGIP), gives indigenous communities an opportunity to increase international awareness of the state of their human rights and allows participants to discuss solutions to existing problems, including the setting of standards on specific issues like land or cultural rights.

The theme of this year’s session, “Indigenous peoples and conflict resolutions”, is of fundamental importance given its relevance to current political, economic and social issues, including the plight of indigenous peoples in the face of major development projects. Participants will be looking at, among other things, root sources of conflict between indigenous peoples, on the one hand, and States, and non-indigenous entities and individuals, on the other, including their differing views on who possesses valid title to land and resources located in territories traditionally occupied by indigenous groups. Another issue to be examined is the lack of respect for treaties, agreements and other arrangements between Indigenous peoples and States, to the detriment of the indigenous Party, which leads to conflict over identity, land title and resources.

Participants will also discuss the importance of ensuring that indigenous peoples exercise free, prior and informed consent in relation to matters affecting them. This is essential for the protection of indigenous peoples’ human rights since, among other things, it involves ensuring mutually acceptable independent mechanisms for resolving disputes between the parties involved.

This twenty-second session of the WGIP will be particularly rich in activities, including conferences, exhibitions, festivities, and side events. Plenary meetings will be held in the Assembly Hall of the Palais des Nations in Geneva. For more information, please visit the website of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights,