The government has created a new council that should formally include indigenous communities in the formation of policies that will affect them directly.
The ‘Consultative and Participatory Council for Indigenous Peoples in Argentina’ was established by presidential decree and published in yesterday’s Official Gazette.
According to the decree, the council has been created out of the “need to generate inter-cultural dialogue to design public policies for indigenous peoples, to promote diverse programmes and propel others.”
It continues: “Given the critical situation described by diverse indigenous peoples and communities across the nation, it has become institutionally necessary to implement adequate policies to resolve distinct problems they face.”
The right to self-determination – that is, direct influence in policy decisions that affect indigenous people – has long been demanded by representatives of distinctive communities in Argentina.
In February, a Working Table for Indigenous Peoples was formed, bringing together representatives of 21 different indigenous communities to debate new policies with the national government. In March, the group led a protest camp at the ex-ESMA site after stating that the government “was not showing the political will” to meet their demands.
The camp was ended nine days later after the government signed a commitment to create the consultative and participatory council that was confirmed yesterday.
The new council will purportedly open a dialogue between the state and indigenous communities, so that policies directly affecting them “will have their prior intervention, being included in decision making… with the goal of reaching an agreement or consent over proposed measures.”
According to the decree, the primary functions it will have include: updating the 1985 law governing indigenous policies, strengthen socio-cultural identity and self-governance; propel the mapping and ordering of territories to be formally ‘owned’ by indigenous communities; push the national government to actively promote measures for education, health, gender issues, child protection, and disability care; and introduce measures to protect and develop natural resources in indigenous territories.
The council will operate under the orbit of the Justice and Human Rights Ministry and will incorporate representatives chosen by indigenous communities, respecting traditional forms of organisation, as well as those selected by the Working Table since February.
The national ombudsman and other legislators or specialists in indigenous affairs are also called to be a part of the council.