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Diplomacy in Action

Dialogue with Nongovernmental Organizations concerning the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

Reta Jo Lewis
Special Representative for Global Intergovernmental Affairs 
National Museum of the American Indian
Washington, DC
July 8, 2010


Thank you Kevin. Good morning everyone. It is a pleasure to be here at the National Museum of the American Indian following yesterday’s insightful Tribal Consultation at the Department of State. The consultation held yesterday is only the second in a series to consult with tribal leaders and stakeholders on the review of the United States’ position on the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

As a Representative of the United States and on behalf of the U.S. Department of State, I would like to thank the representatives of NGOs and other stakeholders for joining us here today. We are enthusiastic for your involvement in this review process, and we hope today’s forum can supplement the views we have heard thus far.

I would like to recognize the tribal leaders and representatives from across the Continent for making the journey to Washington, D.C. for yesterday and today’s meetings. I know that we have among us today chiefs, leaders, presidents, and CEOs from various tribes, and I would like to take a moment to recognize you for the insightful and impactful input you have provided so far and will continue to bring to this ongoing discussion.

I would additionally like to thank the representatives present from various U.S. Government agencies. Only with our collective effort can we adequately fulfill the mission of this review process. I would especially like to thank U.S. Department of State Undersecretary for Democracy and Global Affairs Maria Otero, (U.S. Department of State Senior Legal Advisor Harold Koh), and White House Associate Director of Intergovernmental Affairs Jodi Gillette for leading our discourse today.

I must also give a special thank you to the Executive Director of the National Museum of the American Indian, Mr. Kevin Gover. Your dedication and hospitality are very much appreciated by all of those involved in the review process.

Today is an excellent platform, for exchange, learning, and strategic debate from all the involved parties in this review process. At the Tribal Leader’s conference, during the Universal Periodic Review sessions, in our Tribal Consultations, and in many letters and e-mails, tribal leaders have conveyed that they want the U.S. to take a look at the Declaration -- and we are hoping to continue to move that process forward today. Today is yet another crucial opportunity to provide a framework for addressing indigenous issues through the Declaration and we are eager to determine whether the United States is now in a position to lend its support.

This Administration is committed to a consultation process in which the views of NGOs and key stakeholders are heard alongside and in concert with the concerns and comments of tribal representatives. As you know, Secretary Clinton, as the leading U.S. diplomat, has made engagement concerning the U.S. review of the Declaration a priority in our work at the Department of State. Therefore, we ask all of you for heartfelt constructive input so that we may be best equipped so make such important decisions.

We value the input we received two weeks ago at the NCAI Conference in Rapid City, South Dakota, we were very pleased to hear from more than 100 Tribal and U.S. Government Representatives at yesterday’s consultation, and we eagerly look forward to the contribution from NGOs and other stakeholders today.

Because it is so early in the review process, the U.S. Government does not yet hold a position. However, in order for the process to be as strong, comprehensive, and meaningful as possible, we need you to inform us and our agencies of your specific concerns, especially legal ramifications that could occur on the tribal, state, or local level. Our objective is that we should have any U.S. decision in support of the U.N. Declaration be fully informed by your feedback.

I would now like to extend a special thank you and introduction to U.S. Department of State Undersecretary for Democracy and Global Affairs, Maria Otero.

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