IMPACT Justice Project to discuss formation of regional indigenous body

DPI, Guyana, Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Indigenous peoples of the Caribbean Region are meeting in Guyana to discuss the possible formation of a CARICOM association of Indigenous Persons.

According to Director of the Impact Justice Project, Professor Velma Newton, the meeting is a follow-up to one held in Belize in 2016, where several persons indicated their desire to have such an organisation established.

Professor Velma Newton, Director of the Impact Justice Project.

She noted that an organisation was formed in 1990, however, it is no longer functional.

Newton said her agency is prepared to offer support should a consensus be reached on the formation of a Caricom association of Indigenous persons. However, what forms the support will take is yet unknown, as the newly established organisation will be capable of raising its own funds and ensuring its sustainability.

“It is our belief that if the indigenous were as one, there would be a unified body that can interface with international organizations the UN and also when they go to speak to their governments about their rights they will know that they have a body of opinions from other countries to support them,” Newton explained.

Minister within the Ministry of Indigenous People’s Affairs Valarie Garrido-Lowe noted her satisfaction that such a meeting is being held in Guyana. One area of concern that the minister highlighted is the training of paralegals to represent Indigenous persons in Guyana. She disclosed during an interaction with inmates of the Camp Street Prison it was revealed that most of them (indigenous persons) are incarcerated because of poor legal representation.

Meanwhile, Dr. Sharon Le Gall, Deputy Dean of the Faculty of Law at the University of the West Indies who focused on Intellectual Property Rights, disclosed that indigenous groups are advocating for the right to their cultural property.

She said “there have been discussions at the world intellectual organisations since 1999 to the present and they have formed two draft treaties one looking the protection of traditional knowledge and one looking at the protection of traditional cultural expressions.

Dr. Le Gall noted that it is important that persons are aware of these international developments and through their governments, participate in all the negotiations and discussions.

The three-day activity will also cover The Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.


By: Natasha Smith.


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