Priest attacks "Anzus" pact on UN Indigenous declaration

An Australian Passionist priest, Fr Kevin Dance, has called for an end to efforts by Australian, New Zealand and US diplomats to block the adoption of the Declaration on Indigenous Rights at the 61st UN General Assembly.

Online Catholics reports that Fr Dance, an advocate for the Passionists at the UN headquarter in New York, has appealed to Australian Catholics to contact Government Ministers and urge them to join "the community of justice and decency" at the UN.

This appeal follows Australia's opposition - along with that of New Zealand and the US - to the adoption of the Declaration on Indigenous Rights at the 5th session of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues.

Fr Dance's appeal coincides with the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Sunday on 2 July and NAIDOC week.

According to Online Catholics, the Forum sees the adoption of this draft declaration as the most pressing task and a major achievement for the Second International Decade of the World's Indigenous Peoples, which was launched on 15 May.

Forum Chairperson Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, of the Philippines, added in her closing remarks that its adoption was "crucial", because that would be the framework for a real partnership to be forged between Governments and indigenous peoples.

Writing from his base in New York, Fr Dance explains that the two joint statements crafted by Australia, New Zealand and the US, suggest that a vote in favour of the document "would create confusion, ambiguity and set a dangerous precedent: 'It risks giving a minority power of veto over the laws of a democratic legislature.'"

Fr Dance said that Professor Mick Dodson, permanent Forum Member and its rapporteur, responded to the joint statement, saying that there were "only three states advocating the non-adoption of the Declaration."

"Prof Dodson ended by saying he would favour an extended period of reflection [requested by the three states] if there was overwhelming support for the joint position just put forward. His statement was greeted with extended applause," Fr Dance wrote.

Fr Dance says that the major theme of reshaping the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) called for a "rights-based approach" to the MDGs and much greater participation and involvement of Indigenous people.

The values and cosmo-vision of Indigenous peoples, he says, must be taken into account if the MDGs were to assist them out of poverty rather than make their position more threatened.

Fr Dance, who has been at the UN since 2001 and was a former parish priest at St Brigid's Church in Sydney suburban Marrickville, says that community pressure is needed if the declaration is to go through.

"It seems to me that it is vital that there is strong and consistent approach to the governments of Australia, New Zealand and the US, to press them to stop blocking the adoption of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples," he said.

Towards a community of decency (Online Catholics 29/6/06 - subscription required)
Statement on the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (Australian Mission to the UN 17/5/06)
Additional Comments (Australian Mission to the UN 22/5/06)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Compassion: The Mystery of the Cross and the work of the United Nations (Fr Kevin Dance, Compassion, No 75, Winter 2003-04)
Fr Kevin Dance CP, New York - Trip to Israel (Passionist website New Zealand)
United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII)

Catholic bodies hail new UN Human Rights Council (CathNews 22/6/06)

29 Jun 2006