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Posted on on April 21st, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (

The 7th Session of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII) started today its meetings at the UN in New York.


The keynote speaker at the opening of the session was the President of Bolivia, H.E. Evo Morales Ayma. Other speakers included the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, the President of ECOSOC, Mr. Leo Merores from Haiti, the Assistant Secretary-General for Economic Development (UN), Mr. Jomo Sundaram, the Deputy Secretary for Indigenous Affairs of Australia, and the Executive Director of UN IFAD., Ms. Gunilla Olsson.

President Morales had later a Press Conference and surprisingly this turned out a very lively exchange. Also, let us remember that today there is a promise of one more state of Latin America, Paraguay, switching from plain capitalist leadership to a more people-oriented leadership – so Morales speaking at the UN got an extra echo.

Some of what was said by President Morales at the two events follows: The topic is Indigenous and the land. The indigenous people have the claim to keep on to Mother Earth. We were told that it is “capitalism or death” and that is not the case. What capitalism did to us is that man will have now to find a budget to paint the mountain-tops white in order to keep the tourists.

for 23 years, at this UN, the indigenous had to fight to have the Declaration for the Rights of the Indigenous People. In Bolivia we make now laws to implement this and we would like to have this done in all Nations.

Speaking about Bolivia he noted further that in Colonial times and in Neo-Liberal times, we kept up the fight for our rights – we do not want to lose the privileges of the indigenous people.

Morales did not make any reference to the UN Declaration on Human Rights. That declaration applies also to the Indigenous People as human beings, but did nothing for them to help them with their call for rights of their cultures. Clearly, he did not mention the fight of the Tibetans these days to be allowed to cling to their own culture.

Without the rights given to them by the Declaration of Rights to their Indigenous Culture, the Indigenous People were just a ghost in their own world. They were thus taken advantage off and their goods and ideas considered fair findings for others to appropriate to themselves.

Morales did nevertheless say that what we are looking at now in Latin America are liberating democracies and this is something that will apply probably soon also to Paraguay.

In the Constitution of Bolivia, he said, “we call now for indigenous autonomy – it existed before but was disregarded.” We will see how it is implemented on the basis of the Declaration and the Constitution.

To a question about the use of the coca-leaf in Bolivia and Peru he said that this was an unjust way of penalizing the culture. “We hope that our culture will be recognized by the UN. This is part of the Declaration of the Indigenous people. One must study what the people say – not what the empires say.”

Mathew Lee from Inner Press Asked about FIFA (the Federation of International Football Associations) the highest body for the European Football – or soccer as it is called in the US. They did forbid playing international games at the altitude of Bolivia. Morales answered that sooner or later they will recognize their mistake and will allow games at our altitude. “If FIFA dictates that we cannot play football they are stronger then the UN – this because the UN will say that it is discrimination because of altitude.” He is rather for FIFA defending the universality of football. This was just a mistake like the issue of chewing coca leaf was an uninformed mistake.

And on CLIMATE CHANGE: I am sure that in many countries there is a way to live together. I always wanted to see land that is just of the community. Our cattle is on the common land.

We lived in comity with Mother Earth. We must understand that Planet Earth is not a commodity, a business. Some people think only about money – not the future. It is important to think about life and humanity and equality and justice – not to concentration of land in the hand of a few. We will not get away if the environment gets so bad. Let us use the money for saving the land.


And then on BIOFUELS: “A very serious Impact.” At the conference of MarcoSul I lstened to what some were saying. So What do they mean by “BIOFUELS?” THEY TOLD ME IT IS AGRO-FUELS.

For who? These are agricultural products – if mother earth is to feed engines? Cars come ahead of people? The machines are more important then life-form?

For us it is clear – life is first. But these policies already have negative imputs. The price of wheat, internationally has caused inflation in our country. This is extremely serious These policies are very harmful to poor people – even in the US.



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