Statement of the Continental Meeting of Native Leaders and Authorities

For Our Right to Exist as Peoples

Native leaders, authorities and organizations of the continent have gathered in Quito for a Continental Meeting of Native Leaders and Authorities at the invitation of the Confederation of Native Organizations of Ecuador (CONAIE). This gathering was convened in order to exchange experiences and insights on the participation of native peoples in democratic institutions, especially as we seek to assist our brethren sitting in the Ecuadorean legislature and local government. At the close of this event, the participants put forward the following conclusions and proposals:

I. Native Rights
1. Encourage and consolidate, both nationally and internationally, the recognition of fundamental native rights in respect of land claims, natural resources, autonomy, self-rule, and traditional systems of justice.

2. Exchange experiences and foster initiatives within our respective organizations with a view to renewing and revaluating native knowledge in order to further our sense of self-worth and lay the groundwork for a new native ideology.

3. As part of events marking the International Decade of the World’s Indigenous People, appeal to UN member states to demonstrate a clear political will to ratify and implement all international accords in respect of native rights. In addition, request the UN to implement its own resolutions in respect of a Permanent Forum on Indigenous Rights, push forward adoption of the Draft United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and grant consultative status to native organizations.

4. Advance constitutional and legislative reform recognizing the multi-nation, multi-ethnic and multicultural nature of our respective countries.

5. Restore and uphold our traditional systems of justice and encourage their autonomous use within native jurisdictions.

6. Enhance awareness of our rights and support the exercise of these rights.

7. Work within our own organizations to formulate legislative proposals in defense of our rights. In so doing, seek the broadest possible organizational growth with a view to strengthening both our political efficacy and democratic institutions.

8. Promote ratification of International Labor Organization Resolution 169 by all countries, and demand its implementation.

II. Democracy and Neoliberalism
1. Neoliberal democracy is restrictive and selective. It stands in striking contrast with the grassroots democracy practiced by our community organizations, which seek and encourage participation, accountability, solidarity, redistribution, and government for and by the community.

2. The democracy imposed by the state breaks down community life and promotes paternalism, patronage, and political manipulation. Yet, native peoples are participating in this democracy and have taken their place in municipal government, Parliament, grassroots organizations, and even in the Vice-Presidency, as was the case in Bolivia. By taking up these roles, we seek to reform, improve and enhance the democratic system from the perspective of our community experience, despite the obstacles and hindrances we normally encounter.

3. We reassert the imperative need to move toward a new, more civilized type of democracy. This new system of democracy should respect diversity, promote the participation of all in major national issues, reaffirm native culture, champion equality between majority and minority groups, and effectively eradicate authoritarianism, corruption, bureaucracy, and racism.

4. The nature of the neoliberal undertaking is perverse. While it succeeds in effecting some macroeconomic improvements, it entrenches the deprivation of the majority. The neoliberal doctrine of unbridled individualism, pragmatism and competition is breaking down our values, our organizations, and even our families.

In response to this, we reaffirm the relevance of putting forward a community-based political alternative of our own. We must strive to democratize society from the ground up; to nurture democracy among our own, and to strengthen civil society. We must rethink current policymaking methods so that society at large can take on a new role in the formulation of public policy.

5. The political alternative propounded by the native peoples is profoundly humanizing. It fosters multiculturalism, builds bridges to non-native communities, reinforces individual identities, assigns equal value to the contributions of all, takes stock of the advancement of science and technology, draws upon the spiritual strength of our ancestors, and reaffirms the worth of community ethics, all in order to propose a thorough, radical change in our respective societies.

6. We urge one and all to reclaim the ideas of change being misappropriated by the proponents of neoliberalism. We urge one and all to start living and practicing democracy within the family, within our own organizations, and in our inter-ethnic and gender relationships. We call upon all concerned to give new force to democracy within our spheres of competence, including local government, Parliament, and grassroots organizations. We call upon all concerned to create a new form of power which helps reorganize our peoples; to encourage the rise of strong, effective social players; to move toward a multicultural and multi-national society; to revise our priorities, and to build national and international networks in order to help each other in our work.

III. The Relationship Between Native Peoples and the State
1. As a result of the native struggle, and to the extent that a conflict of power is involved, the relationship between native peoples and the state has become a political relationship.

2. The nature of this new relationship requires that it be dealt with within democratic rules even if democracy, such as we know it, fails to guarantee the full rights of native peoples. Yet, whatever local and other power we have achieved should and must be used to help build a new type of democracy in which pluralism does exist.

3. This requires:

4. A new relationship between native peoples and the state will only be possible if and when: IV. Local, Regional and National Government
1. The systematic exchange of political and administrative experiences in local, regional and national government is essential.

2. Elected and prospective representatives should be able to benefit from training programs designed to improve their qualifications for the positions held or sought.

3. Newsletters, radio broadcasts, and field visits should be used extensively to facilitate the flow of information among the various organizations and structures of the movement, and to do away with isolation and misinformation.

4. The Parliamentary caucus should put forward new legislative proposals entrenching the principles of direct hiring and community involvement in local and national development projects.

5. In so doing, respect and observe the three principles: Thou shalt not lie, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not be idle: Ama Quilla, Ama Llulla, Ama Shua.

Quito, Ecuador
7-9 August, 1996