A voice for the unrepresented

Issue 

A new international organisation was formed at a February meeting in the Netherlands of representatives of peoples and nations not represented at the United Nations because their countries are occupied, colonised or forcibly integrated in bigger states. It calls itself the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organisation (UNPO). PETER BOYLE spoke to HELEN CORBETT, who attended the meeting on behalf of the National Committee to Defend Black Rights (NCDBR).

Who initiated the formation of UNPO?

Early preparatory work was done by several unrepresented nations which have been working to have a voice at the United Nations for some years now. These include the East Timorese and the Tibetans. But the founding assembly was much broader.

The February 8-11 meeting was attended by representatives from the Cordillera (in the Philippines), East Turkistan, Estonia, Georgia, the Greek minority in Albania, Kurdistan, Latvia, Taiwan, Tibet, West Papua, Armenia, Lithuania, the International Indian Treaty Council and of course the Aboriginal people of Australia. These groups account for a total population of about 35,320,000.

There were others who wanted to come as either representatives or observers but couldn't due to passport and visa problems and emergency local priorities. These included East Timor, Belau and the Amazon Indians.

What were the reasons for the formation of the UNPO?

The organisation is open to all nations and peoples not represented as such at the UN. Many are calling it the alternative to the UN. The UN represents only 159 of an estimated 5000 nations and peoples in the world.

The UNPO aims to promote the needs of its member nations and peoples through non-violent means and to reduce conflict. It is a step towards the new world order in which the unrepresented and oppressed will also have a voice.

The charter will stress the commitment to environmental protection as well as the right to self-determination and human rights of peoples. Among the services the UNPO will provide its members are diplomacy training; conflict resolution and negotiation skills; expert advice in the establishment of democratic institutions and environmental protection plans; and assistance in advocacy in the UN and other international organisations.

While the UNPO be relating to the UN or any of its committees?

Yes. The steering committee (elected at the assembly) will discuss at its first meeting whether or not to apply for consultative or observer status at the UN.

Unofficially and off the record, some key figures in the UN have a.

How representative will the Aboriginal participation in the UNPO be?

As a result of the NCDBR's successful international campaign to highlight the abuse of human rights issues in Australia and the connections we have made over the years, a direct approach was made to us to attend the UNPO founding assembly.

NCDBR circulated the information to other national Aboriginal bodies. The National Coalition of Aboriginal Organisations secretariat in Sydney was approached several weeks before I left for the meeting and asked to send out documentation to all its members. So far no official responses have come back. I am sending material from the founding assembly to the other national Aboriginal organisations.

The Aboriginal delegates to the World Council of Indigenous People sighted the draft documents and agreed in principle with the aims and objectives of the UNPO. One of these delegates is John Christopherson, who is currently a vice-president of the WCIP. Another is Geoff Clarke, president of the National Federation of Land Councils. I am the third delegate to WCIP.

NCDBR agreed to join the UNPO and seek a position on the steering committee. As the NCDBR delegate, I was elected to the UNPO steering committee by the founding assembly.

The NCDBR represents its members, and we don't claim to represent all Aboriginal people. But we decided to take this initiative to give our people a voice in the UNPO.

Other national Aboriginal organisations may apply to join the UNPO, or they can agree to be represented through the NCDBR. This need not be the final form of Aboriginal representation at the UNPO. One of the services that the UNPO provides is assistance in organising democratic representation for member nations or peoples. We hope to take advantage of this service.