Assyrian Universal Alliance Participates at U.N. Meeting
11 August, 2000 ASSYRIAN UNIVERSAL ALLIANCE Participation in the Sub Commission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection Of Minorities Working Group on Indigenous Populations Eighteenth session 24-28 July 2000 ANNOUNCEMENT
The Assyrian Universal Alliance (“AUA”) has been participating for years in the United Nations meetings. This participation has become more effective since AUA joined the International organisation known as the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organisation (UNPO).
Since 1996 AUA Australian Chapter has made many representations at the meetings of the Working Group on Minorities. This year AUA participated for the first time in the Working Group on Indigenous Populations. The Working Group on Indigenous populations was set up in 1982, and is a working group of the Sub-Commission on Prevention and Protection of Minorities. It is composed of five experts of the Sub-Commission, who represent the five regions of the world.
This year more than 1000 participants took part in the session. The indigenous issues are varied yet they all share in the one common struggle, that of removal from their land. The relationship to land and the natural environment is very significant and unique to the indigenous peoples. This relationship is the basis for the survival of indigenous peoples. There is an increasing momentum in the struggle for justice and in addressing the historical issues impacting on Indigenous Peoples.
On August 9-10, 1999, some 300 Indigenous people from different parts of the world gathered at the United Nations headquarters in New York to commemorate the International Day of the World's Indigenous Peoples. The 1999 theme, "Indigenous Peoples and their Relationship to Land" was very timely, for the Indigenous Peoples' movement the basic issue is the gross violation of their right to own and control their territories and resources. Another theme that emerged from the practice of (alternative) indigenous education is the demand of Indigenous Peoples for the right to speak their own language, for "language is the soul of the Indigenous Peoples. It is linked to our cultural environment where the world of meanings is stored". Indigenous Peoples want to ensure that their children are not alienated from their cultural identity. Consequently the struggle to speak the mother tongue becomes at once political. It cannot be divorced from the struggle for self-determination and ancestral land and domain. For if the material bases of culture (ie. land, people and resources) are gone, how else will language and all its artistic expressions flourish?
AUA’s representatives at the meeting of the Working Group on Indigenous Populations, which took place between 24-28th July 2000, were, Senator John Nimrod (Secretary General of AUA from USA), Miss Suzy David (the International legal adviser to the Secretary General) and Mr.Hermiz Shahen (AUA Secretary - Australian chapter). Suzy David and Hermiz Shahen also attended the preparatory meeting of the Indigenous Populations held on 22 and 23 July 2000 at the premises of the World Council of Churches, Geneva. The United Nations meeting of the Working Group commenced on 24 July and ended on 28 July 2000. The Agenda items in respect of which the Assyrian Universal Alliance presented interventions were:-
· Review of developments pertaining to the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous people:
Principle theme:" Indigenous children and youth" (agenda item 4);
· General statements, including land issues, education and health (agenda item 5);
· Standard-setting activities including a review of indigenous peoples, relationship with natural resource, energy and mining companies;
· World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance, including the second preparatory meeting in May 2001;
Miss Suzy David, an experienced and successful lawyer delivered four interventions during the year 2000 session all of which were overwhelmingly well received by the participants. There were a number of representatives from various countries as well as non-government organisations and academics who asked for copies of the submissions presented. Lengthy discussions were entered into with some of these persons and officials in an attempt to commence and implement projects that would serve various Assyrian causes. The week was also very successful in the networking that was achieved with various other indigenous groups and government and non-government officials. In response to this the Iraqi representative denied the allegations against Iraq. Iraq accused the Assyrians and Kurdish of being militia groups fighting each other, and denied that they are the indigenous peoples of Iraq.
It is crucial for the Assyrians to be heard at these meetings. Indeed, it is the intention of the AUA to continue its active involvement at such international forums in the future. Only in this way, can we draw the world's attention to the significant needs of our people.
Hermiz Shahen Secretary Assyrian Universal Alliance - Australia P.O. Box 34
Fairfield, NSW. 1860. Australia e-mail :
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