CONSOLIDATED TEXT OF THE
PREPARED BY THE
CHAIR OF THE WORKING GROUP
Permanent Council of the
Organization of American States Committee
Juridical and Political Affairs
Working Group to Prepare the
Proposed American Declaration on the
of Indigenous Peoples
This consolidated text has been prepared by the Chair of the
Working Group to Prepare the Proposed American Declaration on the Rights
of Indigenous Peoples, based on the original proposal by the
Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) and taking into account
the contributions, comments, and proposals presented by the States and the
indigenous peoples since the process of preparing the Draft American
The consolidated text has not been subject to consultations or
negotiation. The Chair hopes that this document will be broadly
disseminated and that the Member States of the Organization of American
States (OAS) can use it for the domestic consultations with the respective
The Chair proposes that the beginning of the final stage of negotiations
of the Draft American Declaration will be carried out starting from this
consolidated text, and considering the draft Declaration submitted by the
IACHR, as well as the proposals of the States, the representatives of the
indigenous peoples, specialized agencies, and other entities. With that
purpose in mind, to date the following documents are available: the
original proposal by the IACHR, the written proposals from the States and
indigenous peoples up to 2001 and the previous proposal by the Chair that
appear in the three-column document (GT/DADIN/doc.53/02), as well as the
proposals by the States and the indigenous peoples from 2002 (document
GT/DADIN/doc.71/02), and those corresponding to 2003 document
GT/DADIN/doc.122/03 rev. 1). Washington, D.C., May 30, 2003
The Member States of the Organization of American States (hereinafter “the
RECOGNIZING that the rights of indigenous peoples constitute a fundamental
and historically significance issue for the present and future of the
RECOGNIZING, moreover, the importance for humankind of preserving the
indigenous cultures of the Americas;
Indigenous Peoples and National Strengthening
Recognizing that indigenous peoples are foundational societies that form
an integral part of the Americas and that their values and cultures are
inextricably linked to the identity both of the countries they live in and
of the region as a whole.
Aware that the indigenous peoples of the Americas play a special role in
strengthening the institutions of the State and in achieving national
unity based on democratic principles.
Recalling that some of the democratic institutions and concepts embodied
in the constitutions of the American States have their origins in
institutions of the indigenous peoples, and that many of their present
participatory systems for decision-making and for authority contribute to
the improvement of the democracies in the Americas.
Mindful of the cultural wealth and diversity of the indigenous peoples of
the Americas, the variety of national situations, and the varying degrees
of indigenous presence in the States.
Recalling the need to develop and strengthen national legal frameworks and
policies to respect the cultural diversity of our societies.
2. The Eradication of Poverty
Recognizing that eradicating poverty is a common and shared responsibility
of the States, and concerned about the severe impoverishment and
vulnerability of the indigenous peoples in various regions of the
Reiterating that the Charter of the Organization of American States
establishes as one of its essential purposes eradicating extreme poverty,
indicating that constitutes an obstacle to the full democratic development
of the peoples of the Hemisphere.
Mindful of the importance the Inter-American Democratic Charter accords to
the relationship among democracy, integral development, and fighting
Recalling the commitments assumed by the Heads of State and Government at
the Third Summit of the Americas with respect to the indigenous peoples
regarding the need to adopt special measures so that said peoples can
attain their full potential, and the importance of their inclusion to
strengthen our democracies and economies.
Reaffirming the right of indigenous peoples to develop in accordance with
their own traditions, needs, and interests.
3. Indigenous Culture and Ecology
Recognizing the respect the indigenous peoples of the Americas have for
the environment and ecology.
Recognizing, moreover, the value of the cultures, knowledge, and practices
of the indigenous peoples for maintaining sustainable development and for
living in harmony with nature.
4. Lands, Territories, and Resources
Recognizing the special relationship that the indigenous peoples maintain
with their lands, territories, and resources.
Recognizing, that for the indigenous peoples their traditional collective
forms of ownership and use of lands, territories, resources, waters, and
coastal zones are a necessary conditions for their survival, social
organization, development, spirituality, and individual and collective
5. Harmonious Relations, Respect, and Non-Discrimination
Considering the importance of eliminating the various forms of de facto
and de jure discrimination that still affect indigenous peoples.
Mindful of the responsibility of the States to combat racial and ethnic
discrimination, xenophobia, and other related forms of intolerance.
6. Human Rights Instruments and Other Legal Advances
Reiterating the universality, indivisibility, and interdependence of the
human rights and fundamental freedoms recognized by the international
Noting the progress made at international level in recognizing the rights
of indigenous peoples, and, in particular, the Convention concerning
Indigenous and Tribal Peoples in Independent Countries (Convention No.
169) of the International Labor Organization.
Recalling the importance that the Inter-American Democratic Charter
assigns to the promotion and protection of the human rights of indigenous
peoples, and to respect for ethnic and cultural diversity in the Americas.
Considering the national constitutional, legislative, and jurisprudential
progress made in the Americas to guarantee, promote, and protect the
rights and institutions of indigenous peoples, as well as the political
will of the States to continue moving forward in recognizing the rights of
indigenous peoples in the Americas.
Section One: Scope of Application
1. This Declaration applies to the indigenous peoples of the Americas and
their members, who within the national States descend from a native
culture that predates European colonization and who conserve their
fundamental distinctive features, such as their language, normative
systems, usages and customs, artistic expressions, beliefs, and social,
economic, cultural, and political institutions.
2. Self-identification as indigenous peoples will be a fundamental
criterion for determining to whom this Declaration applies. The States
shall ensure respect for self-identification as indigenous, individually
and collectively, in keeping with the institutions of each indigenous
The States recognize the multiethnic and multicultural character of their
Within the States, the right to self-determination of the indigenous
peoples is recognized, pursuant to which they can define their forms of
organization and promote their economic, social, and cultural development.
Nothing in this Declaration shall be construed so as to authorize or
foster any action aimed at breaking up or diminishing, fully or in part,
the territorial integrity, sovereignty, and political independence of the
States, or other principles contained in the Charter of the Organization
of American States.
Section Two: Human Rights
Full Effect and Observance of Human Rights
Indigenous peoples and persons have the right to the full and effective
enjoyment of the human rights and fundamental freedoms recognized in the
Charter of the OAS, the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of
Man, and, where applicable, the American Convention on Human Rights, and
other international human rights instruments. Nothing in this Declaration
may be interpreted so as to limit, restrict, or deny in any way those
rights, or so as to authorize any action that is not in keeping with the
principles of international law, including international human rights law.
Article VI. Collective Rights
1. Indigenous peoples have collective rights that are indispensable for
their continued existence, well-being, and development as peoples, and for
the enjoyment of the individual rights of their members.
2. In this regard, the States recognize, inter alia, the right of the
indigenous peoples to their collective action; to their social, political,
and economic organization; to their own cultures; to profess and practice
their spiritual beliefs, and to use their languages.
Article VII. Gender Equality
All the rights and freedoms recognized in the present Declaration are
guaranteed equally to indigenous women and men. The States condemn
violence based on gender or age, which impedes and diminishes the exercise
of those rights.
Article VIII. Right to Belong to an Indigenous People
Indigenous persons and communities have the right to belong to a given
indigenous people, in accordance with the traditions and customs of that
Article IX. Juridical Personality
Indigenous peoples and communities have the right to recognition of their
juridical personality by the States. The States shall adopt the necessary
measures to ensure that said juridical personality respects the indigenous
forms of organization and allows for the full exercise of the rights
recognized in this Declaration.
Article X. Rejection of Assimilation
1. Indigenous peoples have the right to maintain, express, and freely
develop their cultural identity in all respects, free from any external
attempt at assimilation.
2. The States shall not adopt any policy to assimilate the indigenous
peoples or to destroy their cultures.
3. Indigenous peoples have the right to not be subjected to any form of
genocide or attempts to exterminate them.
Article XI. Special Guarantees Against Racism, Racial Discrimination,
Xenophobia, and Related Forms of Intolerance
1. Indigenous peoples have the right to protection from racism, racial
discrimination, xenophobia, and related forms of intolerance. In this
regard, the States shall adopt special measures, when necessary, for the
full enjoyment of internationally and nationally recognized human rights,
and shall adopt all necessary measures so that indigenous women, men, and
children can enjoy their civil, political, economic, social, cultural, and
2. Indigenous peoples have the right to participate in the determination
of those special guarantees.
Section Three: Cultural Identity
Article XII. Right to Cultural Identity
1. Indigenous peoples have the right to their cultural integrity and to
their historical and ancestral heritage, which are important for their
collective continuity, and for their identity and that of their members
and their States.
2. Indigenous peoples have the right to restitution of the property that
is part of that heritage of which they have been dispossessed, or, when
restitution is not possible, to fair and equitable compensation.
3. The States shall guarantee respect for and non-discrimination against
the indigenous ways of life, world views, usages and customs, traditions,
forms of social organization, institutions, practices, beliefs, values,
dress, and languages.
Article XIII. Logical Conceptions and Language
1. Indigenous peoples have the right to use, develop, revitalize, and
transmit to future generations their own histories, languages, oral
traditions, philosophies, systems of writing, and literature; and to
designate and retain their own names for their communities, members, and
places. The States shall adopt adequate measures to protect the exercise
of this right, in consultation with the peoples concerned.
2. The States shall take measures to promote the broadcast of radio and
television programming by the mass media in indigenous languages in
regions with a large indigenous presence. The States shall also support
the creation of indigenous radio stations and other means of
3. The States shall take effective measures so that the members of the
indigenous peoples can understand administrative, judicial, and political
rules and procedures, and be understood in such proceedings. The States
shall make the necessary efforts for the indigenous languages to be
established as official languages in the areas where indigenous languages
Article XIV. Education
1. The States shall include in their national educational systems content
that reflects the intercultural, multiethnic, and multilingual nature of
their societies. The indigenous peoples have the right to bilingual
intercultural education that incorporates their own world view, history,
knowledge, values, spiritual practices, and ways of life.
2. Indigenous peoples have the right to:
a) define and implement their own educational programs, institutions, and
facilities; b) prepare and apply their own plans, programs, curricula, and
teaching materials; and, c) educate, train, and accredit their teachers
The States shall take the necessary measures to ensure that the indigenous
education systems guarantee equal educational opportunity and teachers for
the general population and complementarity with the national educational
3. The States shall guarantee that the indigenous educational systems have
the same level of quality, efficiency, accessibility, and in every other
respect as those provided for the general population. In addition, the
States shall facilitate access for indigenous children who live outside of
their communities to learning in their own languages and cultures.
4. The States shall take measures to guarantee for the members of the
indigenous peoples education of equal quality as for the general
population at all levels. The States shall adopt effective measures to
provide adequate resources for these purposes.
Article XV. Indigenous Spirituality and Freedom of Conscience
1. Indigenous peoples and their members have the right to freedom of
expression, conscience, spirituality, and religion or belief, and to
express them both in public and in private, individually or collectively.
2. The States shall take the necessary measures to prohibit efforts to
convert or impose beliefs on the indigenous peoples or their members
without their free and informed consent.
3. The States shall adopt the necessary measures, in consultation with the
indigenous peoples, to preserve, respect, and protect their sacred sites
and objects, including their burial grounds, human remains, and relics.
4. The States and their institutions shall guarantee that society as a
whole respect the integrity of indigenous symbols, practices, sacred
ceremonies, expressions, and spiritual protocols.
Article XVI. Family Relations and Ties
1. The indigenous family shall be respected and protected by society and
the State. The State shall recognize the various indigenous forms of
family, particularly the extended family, matrimonial union, filiation,
family name, and all other rights of the indigenous family. These
indigenous forms of family organization shall be respected by public and
private persons, including cooperation and development agencies. In all
cases, the criteria of gender and generational equity shall be recognized
2. In determining the best interest of the child in matters related to the
adoption of indigenous children, severance of the ties, and other similar
circumstances, the courts and other relevant institutions shall take into
account the customary law and shall consider the points of view, rights,
and interests of the respective people, including the positions of
individuals, the family, and the community. The indigenous institutions
shall have primary jurisdiction for determining the custody of indigenous
Article XVII. Health
1. Indigenous peoples have the right to the exercise and legal recognition
of their traditional indigenous medicine, pharmacopoeia, health practices
and promotion, including those aimed at prevention and rehabilitation, as
well as the right to use, maintain, develop, and administer their own
health services; all in accordance with internationally recognized
2. Indigenous peoples have the right to the use and protection of the
plants, animals, and minerals for medicinal use in their ancestral lands
and territories, as necessary for the practice of indigenous medicine.
3. The States shall take measures to prevent indigenous peoples from being
subject to programs of biological or medical experimentation without their
free and informed consent.
4. Indigenous peoples have the right to use, without any discrimination
whatsoever, all the health and medical care institutions and services
accessible to the general population. The States shall promote an
intercultural approach in the medical and health services provided to
indigenous persons, including the formation of indigenous technical and
professional health care personnel.
5. The States shall provide the necessary means for the indigenous peoples
to improve the health conditions in their communities insofar as they fall
short of the standards accepted for the general population.
Article XVIII. Right to Environmental Protection
1. Indigenous peoples have the right to live in harmony with nature and to
a healthy and safe environment, which are essential conditions for
enjoyment of the right to life, to their spirituality, and to collective
2. Indigenous peoples have the right to conserve, restore, make use of,
and protect their environment, and to the sustainable management of their
lands, territories, and resources.
3. Indigenous peoples have the right to be informed and consulted with
respect to measures that may affect their environment, as well as to
participate in actions and decisions that may affect it.
4. Indigenous peoples have the right to participate fully in the
formulation, planning, organization, and implementation of government
programs and policies to conserve and exploit their lands, territories,
5. Indigenous peoples have the right to assistance from their States for
the purpose of protecting the environment, and from international
organizations, in keeping with the procedures established in the national
legislations, and without discrimination.
6. The States shall prohibit, punish, and prevent, in conjunction with the
indigenous authorities, the introduction, abandonment, or deposit of
radioactive materials or waste, or toxic substances or waste, in violation
of legal provisions in force; as well as the production, introduction,
transit, possession, or use of chemical, biological, or nuclear weapons on
indigenous lands and territories.
7. When the State declares an indigenous territory to be a protected area
or subject to wildlife reserve conditions and in the case of lands and
territories claimed by indigenous peoples, the conservation areas shall
not be subject to any natural resources development without the informed
participation of the peoples concerned.
Section IV: Organizational and Political Rights
Article XIX: Rights of
Association, Assembly, and Freedom of Expression and Thought
1. Indigenous peoples and their members have rights of association,
assembly, organization, and expression, without interference and in
accordance with their values, usages, customs, ancestral traditions,
beliefs, and spirituality. 2. Indigenous peoples have the right to
assembly and to make use of their sacred and ceremonial areas.
3. Indigenous peoples have the right to maintain full contact, bonds, and
common activities with their members who inhabit the territory of
4. The States shall adopt measures aimed at facilitating the exercise of
the rights recognized in this article, mindful of the rights of third
Article XX. Right to Self Government
1. Indigenous peoples, in the exercise of the right to self-determination
within the States, have the right to autonomy or self-government with
respect to, inter alia, culture, language, spirituality, education,
information, means of communication, health, housing, employment, social
well-being, maintenance of community security, family relations, economic
activities, administration of land and resources, environment and entry of
non-members; and to determine the ways and means of financing these
2. Indigenous peoples have the right to participate without discrimination
in decision-making at all levels, in relation to matters that may directly
affect their rights, lives, and destiny. They may do so either directly or
through their representatives elected by them in accordance with their own
procedures. They also have the right to maintain and develop their own
indigenous decision-making institutions; and to equal opportunity for
gaining access to and participating in all national institutions and fora.
Article XXI. Indigenous Law and Jurisdiction
1. Indigenous law shall be recognized as part of the legal system and of
the States’ framework for social and economic development.
2. Indigenous peoples have the right to maintain and strengthen their
legal systems for addressing internal matters in their communities, and to
apply them in accordance with their own rules and procedures, including
matters related to the resolution of conflicts within and between
indigenous peoples, and to the preservation of peace and harmony.
3. The matters referring to indigenous persons or to their interests in
the jurisdiction of each State shall be conducted so as to provide for the
right of the indigenous to full representation with dignity and equality
before the law, and, if necessary, the use of interpreters.
4. The States shall take measures to reinforce the judicial capacity of
the indigenous peoples, to establish their jurisdiction, and to coordinate
it with all other national jurisdictions, as appropriate. In addition, the
States shall take measures to ensure that the judiciary is knowledgeable
of and applies indigenous law and custom, and to ensure that it is taught
in the law schools.
Article XXII. Contributions of the Indigenous Legal and Organizational
1. The States shall facilitate the inclusion, within their national
organizational structures, as appropriate, of the traditional institutions
and practices of the indigenous peoples, in consultation with and with the
consent of said peoples.
2. The relevant institutions of each State that serve the indigenous
peoples, as well as their respective public policies, shall be designed in
consultation with and with the participation of the peoples concerned to
reinforce and promote the identity, culture, traditions, organization, and
values of those peoples.
Article XXIII. Treaties, Agreements, and Constructive Arrangements
Indigenous peoples have the right to the recognition, observance, and
application of the treaties, conventions, and other arrangements that the
States or their successors may have concluded, in keeping with their
spirit and intent, and to have the same be respected and observed by the
Section Five: Social, Economic, and Property Rights
Traditional Forms of Property and Cultural Survival. Right to Land,
Territory, and Resources
1. Indigenous peoples have the right to the recognition of their property
rights and ownership rights with respect to the lands and territories that
they historically occupy, as well as the use of the lands to which they
have traditionally had access for carrying out their traditional
activities and for sustenance, respecting the principles of the legal
system of each State. These rights also include the waters, coastal seas,
flora, fauna, and all other resources of that habitat, as well as their
environment, preserving these for themselves and future generations.
2. Indigenous peoples have the right to legal recognition of the various
and particular modalities and forms of property, possession, and ownership
of their lands and territories, in accordance with the principles of the
legal system of each State. The States shall establish the special regimes
appropriate for such recognition, and for their effective demarcation or
3. The rights of the indigenous peoples to their lands and territories
they occupy or use historically are permanent, exclusive, inalienable,
imprescriptible, and indefeasible.
4. The titles may only be modified by mutual agreement between the State
and the respective indigenous peoples, with full knowledge and
understanding by their members with respect to the nature and attributes
of that property and of the proposed modification. The agreement by the
indigenous people concerned shall be given following its practices, usages
5. Indigenous peoples have the right to attribute ownership within the
community in accordance with the values, usages, and customs of each
6. The States shall take adequate measures to avert, prevent, and punish
any intrusion or use of such lands, territories, or resources by persons
from outside to claim for themselves the property, possession, or right to
use the same.
7. In case the property rights over the minerals or resources of the
subsoil belong to the State, or it has rights over other resources
existing in the lands and territories of the indigenous peoples, the
States shall establish or maintain procedures for the participation of the
peoples concerned for determining whether the interests of those peoples
would be prejudiced and to what extent, before undertaking or authorizing
any program involving prospecting, planning, or exploitation of the
resources existing on their lands and territories. The peoples concerned
shall participate in the benefits of such activities, and receive fair
compensation for any harm they might suffer as a result of such
8. The States shall provide, within their legal systems, a legal framework
and effective legal remedies to protect the rights of the indigenous
peoples referred to in this article.
Article XXV. On Transfers and Relocations
1. The States may not transfer or relocate indigenous peoples without
their free, genuine, public, and informed consent, unless there are causes
involving a national emergency or other exceptional circumstance of public
interest that makes it necessary; and, in all cases, with the immediate
replacement by adequate lands of equal or better quality and legal status,
guaranteeing the right to return if the causes that gave rise to the
displacement cease to exist.
2. Compensation shall be paid to the indigenous peoples and to their
members who are transferred or relocated for any loss or harm they may
have suffered as a result of their displacement.
Article XXVI. Indigenous Peoples in Voluntary Isolation
1. Indigenous peoples in voluntary isolation have the right to remain in
that condition and to live freely and in accordance with their ancestral
2. The States shall adopt adequate measures to protect the territories,
environment, and cultures of the indigenous peoples in voluntary
isolation, as well as the personal integrity of their members. These
measures shall include those necessary to prevent intrusion into their
Article XXVII. Labor Rights
1. Indigenous peoples and persons enjoy the rights and guarantees
recognized in labor legislation and have the right to special measures to
correct, repair, and prevent the discrimination to which they are
The States shall adopt immediate and effective measures to guarantee that
indigenous children are protected from all forms of labor exploitation.
2. In case they are not protected effectively by the legislation
applicable to workers in general, the States shall take the special and
immediate measures that may be necessary in order to:
a) protect workers and employees who are members of indigenous peoples in
relation to contracting, and to obtain fair and equal conditions of
employment, in both formal and informal labor arrangements;
b) establish and improve the labor inspection service and the enforcement
of rules in the regions, companies, or salaried labor activities in which
indigenous workers or employees participate;
c) guarantee that indigenous workers:
i. enjoy equal opportunities and treatment in all employment conditions,
in promotions and raises; and other conditions stipulated in international
ii. enjoy the right to association, the right to engage freely in trade
union activities, and the right to enter into collective bargaining
agreements with employers or workers’ organizations, directly or through
their traditional authorities;
iii. are not submitted to racial, sexual, or any other type of harassment;
iv. are not subject to coercive hiring systems, including debt servitude
or any other type of servitude, whether they arise from law, custom, or an
individual or collective arrangement, which in each case shall be deemed
absolutely null and void;
v. are not subject to work that endangers their health and personal
vi. receive special protection when they provide their services as
seasonal, occasional, or migrant workers, as well as when they are
contracted by labor contractors such that they receive the benefits of the
national legislation and practices, which shall be in accordance with the
international human rights standards established for this category of
vii. ensure that the employers of indigenous workers are fully aware of
the rights of indigenous workers according to the national legislation and
international standards, and of the remedies and actions available to them
to protect those rights.
Article XXVIII. Protection of Cultural Patrimony and Intellectual Property
1. Indigenous peoples have the right to the recognition of the property,
control, development, and protection of their cultural patrimony through
special regimes that recognizes the communal nature of said property. Such
regimes shall be established with their informed consent and
2. Indigenous peoples also have the right to the legal protection of that
property through patents, commercial trademarks, copyright, and other
general procedures of intellectual property.
3. The patrimony of indigenous peoples includes, inter alia, the
knowledge, ancestral designs and procedures, artistic, spiritual,
technological, scientific, and biogenetic expressions, as well as the
knowledge and developments of their own related to the utility and
qualities of medicinal plants.
Article XXIX. Right to Development
1. Indigenous peoples have the right to determine and implement
autonomously the values, options, objectives, priorities, and strategies
for their development. This right includes participation in determining
and developing health and housing programs, and other economic and social
programs that affect them, and, when possible, in administering these
programs through their own institutions. The indigenous peoples have the
right, without any discrimination whatsoever, to obtain adequate means for
their own development, including those from international cooperation, and
to contribute in their own ways to national development.
2. The States shall take the necessary measures to ensure that the
decisions referring to any plan, program, or project subject to directly
affecting the rights or living conditions of the indigenous peoples are
made in consultation with those peoples so that their preferences may be
recognized, and so that no provision whatsoever is included that impact
them directly. Such consultations shall be carried out in good faith and
in a manner appropriate to the circumstances, for the purpose of reaching
an agreement or securing consent to the measures proposed.
3. Indigenous peoples have the right to fair and equitable compensation
for any damage caused to them by the implementation of such plans,
programs, or projects, despite the precautions established in this
article; and for measures to be adopted to mitigate adverse ecological,
economic, social, cultural, or spiritual impacts.
Article XXX. Protection in the Event of Armed Conflicts
In the event of armed conflicts, the States shall take special measures,
with the agreement of the indigenous peoples concerned, to protect the
human rights, institutions, lands, territories, and resources of the
Section Six: General Provisions
The States shall guarantee the full enjoyment of the fundamental civil,
political, economic, social, and cultural rights and spirituality of the
indigenous peoples, and shall adopt the legislative and other necessary
measures to enforce the rights recognized in this Declaration.
The nature and scope of the measures that shall be taken to implement this
Declaration shall be determined with flexibility, taking into account the
particular conditions of each country, and in genuine and informed
consultation with the indigenous peoples concerned.
Any interpretation and application of the present Declaration shall
respect the fundamental human rights, the democracy, and the
constitutional principles of each State.
Nothing in this Declaration may be interpreted as to diminish or eliminate
rights in force or that may be recognized in the future.
The rights recognized in this Declaration constitute the minimum standard
for the survival, dignity, and well-being of the indigenous peoples of the