The Treaties - 43 - International Treaty between Non-Governmental Organizations and Indigenous Peoples


1. Considering the Declarations and Documents prepared in numerous Indigenous Peoples' meetings such as the Paris Declaration (1991) and the Earth Charter of the Indigenous Peoples (Kari-Oca, 1992) where it is stated: "We, the Indigenous Peoples of the world since the times of our ancestors, have constructed a culture, a civilization, a history and a vision of the world that has allowed us to coexist in a harmonious way with nature".

2. This process was interrupted by the invasion of Indigenous territories in various parts of the world, which has caused genocide, negation and destruction of our cultures, violations of human rights and racial discrimination. At the present time, Indigenous Peoples are being affected by the imposition of economic development models by the West. In this context, some NGOs have imposed their models through different projects, contributing to the destruction of the environment and the cultures of Indigenous Peoples.

Basic Principles

3. Territory. Indigenous Peoples were placed on our Mother Earth to be with the creator: belonging to the Earth, we cannot be separated from our lands and territories. For this reason, Indigenous Peoples have inalienable rights to their territories and the resources and biodiversity that they contain.

4. Self-determination. Self-determination for Indigenous Peoples is one of the essential bases for liberty, justice and peace, in each country as well as internationally. Without recognition of this right, democracy cannot be claimed. On the international level, the right of Indigenous Peoples to self-determination must be recognized and respect given to their traditional systems of self-government.

5. Economy and Environment. For centuries Indigenous Peoples have had an intimate relationship with nature, based upon respect, interdependence and equilibrium. For this reason, these peoples have developed economic, social and cultural models that respect nature without destroying it. These models provide for management and collective appropriation of natural resources based on community participation and solidarity.

6. Education, Culture and Spirituality.

  1. Education is an exchange of wisdom and cultural values in continuous harmony between nature and humankind, respect for traditional languages and Indigenous customs.
  2. Culture is a whole in which all aspects necessary for a dignified existence are joined, just as a plant needs soil, water, air and sunlight for its integral development.
  3. Spirituality is based on the interrelationship of the cycles of life. Respect is the principle that regulates the relations between human beings and their relationship with nature. Relations between Indigenous and non-indigenous cultures should be established according to these principles.


7. Considering all the principles enunciated above, Indigenous Peoples and NGOs agree to the following statements and action:

8. NGOs commit themselves to support the demarcation of indigenous territories, believing that this provides a real guarantee of biodiversity.

9. Indigenous Peoples assume responsibility for guaranteeing the continuity of the values and systems that permit a harmonious relationship between humankind and nature, resulting in the effective protection of the environment. They also commit themselves to continue the system of collective property in Indigenous territories.

10. Since Indigenous Peoples demand the recognition of self-determination, NGOs should promote this recognition on the local, national and international levels, including rights to autonomy and self-government. In this way, NGOs will support Indigenous institutions and organizations of Indigenous Peoples, promoting in their respective countries the equitable participation of Indigenous Peoples in governmental institutions, to ensure that States will be multi-cultural, multi-ethnic and multi-linguistic.

11. Indigenous Peoples commit themselves to support the struggles of other peoples.

12. NGOs commit themselves to respect, value and promote the economic and development systems of Indigenous Peoples, including their traditional technologies, ensuring the recognition of intellectual property rights of Indigenous Peoples and their knowledge, traditional technologies for maintaining biodiversity and the other elements and patrimonies of their cultures. They also commit themselves to avoid imposing Western economic systems and values based on the market economy through their projects.

13. Indigenous Peoples will promote the diffusion of their economic systems and models of development to effect necessary social changes. They will teach other social sectors their traditional technologies which harmonize the relationships between humankind and nature, as a way of fighting poverty and improving the quality of life.

14. NGOs commit themselves not to carry action plans that imply the imposition of the dominant culture on the education, culture and religion of Indigenous Peoples. They will promote and stimulate the cultural values of Indigenous Peoples through multilingual education, intercultural dialogue and respect for Indigenous spirituality.

15. As a sign of cooperation, NGO donors will financially support Indigenous programs and projects, giving priority to those programs that promote communities and their representative organizations.

16. Priority should be given to programs that finance demarcation of Indigenous territories, strengthening of traditional political systems, plans for education, health and development carried out by Indigenous Peoples, promotion of Indigenous women and children, as well as a commercial system among Indigenous Peoples and other social sectors.

17. Indigenous Peoples guarantee that resources intended for cooperation will be directed to Indigenous communities for their development and to provide solutions to their concrete problems.

18. In conclusion, we agree and affirm that we should move in a new direction that will contribute to genuinely sustainable development. Both Indigenous Peoples and NGOs will fundamentally change our relationships, creating relationships of equality, in order to correct the errors of the past 500 years.

© 2001 by Ulrich Schmitthenner • Bildschirm-Version