Since September 2007 the debate on International Law of indigenous peoples occupies more space in international politics and in academia.
This is due to the adoption of the Declaration of Rights of Indigenous Peoples, held this season, which represents the outcome of two decades of negotiations and inaugurates a new era in International Law.
The International Law of Indigenous Peoples was born as a branch of Human Rights, a fact that has led to an ideological dilemma between two distinct international law schools.
One is based on human rights and the other is concerned to refunds and damages suffered during the “civilizing” processes.
The fact is that indigenous peoples have specific international rights as far as they embody and live a specific cultural identity.
The trend of indigenous peoples living less and less like their ancestors used to is a difficult reality to be faced.
The image of these peoples outside the forest, and not as they traditionally appear in our imagination will become increasingly present. Indigenous now organize themselves and fight for rights and improvements.
There are even indigenous leaders who have achievements in politics, becoming social actors and activists in the negotiation process with the States, to which they belong.
As an example, we can point out the increased participation of Aboriginal leaders (mostly in Canada) in politics, and the creation and consolidation of international connections between them.
On the other side, most indigenous administrations of governments are still in the hands of non-indigenous staff, what is not exclusive of Brazil. In Canada and Australia, for example, we also find the same asymmetry.
The three countries have indigenous peoples who constitute a small minority compared to the total population. Perhaps for this reason they have been victims of the acculturation and assimilation processes by the ruling majority, which, however, still perceive them as “others” and not as part of the whole.
Indigenous association’s mobilization have been the main factor that led nation states to change their indigenous policies through constitutional reforms that gave voice to these peoples by recognizing them as important social actors.
These changes characterize an international trend in indigenous policy.
It is noteworthy that indigenous peoples have no perspective of becoming nations apart from the state they belong. There is, thus, no risk to national sovereignty. In Brazil, they contribute to society with their ancestral practices that encourage the conservation of the nature.
They also develop alternative medical practices, and establish different meanings in the relationship with nature.
They have a clear desire to be heard and respected as social groups, with rights to autonomy or self-government in matters relating to their internal and local affairs and possessing the means for financing their autonomous functions.
Suyá Paladino is a student of the fourth period of the undergraduate course in International Relations, IH-UCAM and part of the “PIC” – Undergraduate Research Program. Humanity Institute in Center of Studies of Americas, a member of the WG III – Prevention and resolution of armed conflicts, of the Group of Analysis of International Conflict Prevention, under the coordination of prof. Clovis Brigagão