14 May 2012
Press Conference

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Press Conference by Senior Guatemalan Officials on New Era in Mayan Culture,


Run-Up to 2014 World Conference on Indigenous Peoples

 


The world would commence a new era on 21 December 2012, according to the Mayan calendar, which coincided with an important date in the United Nations calendar, when preparations would begin for the 2014 World Conference on Indigenous Peoples, top Guatemalan officials said today.


“2012 is a significant year for our nation and the whole world,” Carlos Batzín, Guatemalan Minister of Culture, said at a Headquarters press conference, as he announced the launch of B’aktun — the beginning of a new era in the Mayan culture.


He explained that the sun would have accomplished its 26,000-year voyage around the Milky Way and Mother Nature would be regenerated, according to the Mayan calendar.  According to the accounting of time in the Mayan culture, 400 years times 13 for a total of 5,200 years constituted an era, and this year marked the end of the fifth era, or a cumulative 26,000 years.  On 21 December, the sun would be at the centre of Milky Way, with the equator coinciding with that of the Milky Way, he added.


This auspicious year, he said, would be an opportunity for mankind to revisit its origin and consider complementing science and technology with traditional knowledge.


Pedro Duchez, Director of the Guatemalan Tourist Commission, said his country was the heart of Mayan civilization, and he invited people around the world to join the celebration of B’aktun.  A series of events would take place on the twenty-first day of each month, and the celebration would culminate in December, he said, stressing the country’s preparedness, including accommodation and other infrastructure, for welcoming tourists.


Today’s press conference was moderated by Gert Rosenthal, Permanent Representative of Guatemala to the United Nations, who was also joined by Rene Mauricio Valdés, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Resident Representative in Guatemala, and Alvaro Pop, member of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues.


Mr. Valdés said the high-level global meeting in 2014 would follow up the progress and remaining challenges arising from the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which was adopted in 2007 after 20 years of negotiations.  The declaration was aimed at protecting and promoting the rights of nearly 370 million people throughout the world who indentified themselves as indigenous people.


Mr. Pop joined other speakers in expressing hopes for a successful preparatory process in Guatemala, which he said was a process of developing ideas, organizing events and reflecting on the reality of indigenous people.  “I’m pleased to have this opportunity to begin this path in Guatemala, especially when significant changes will be taking place in our calendar,” he said.


Responding to a question about violence in Guatemala, Mr. Batzín said President Otto Perez was dedicated to the issue of security and a national strategy had been in place with the President at the helm.  Stressing that less than 1 per cent of 2 million tourists encountered problems, he said that the nation made significant headway in security, a view shared by other speakers.


Asked about the treatment of indigenous peoples in Guatemala, and whether there had been any progress made in that regard, specifically in terms of mining law and evictions of the Nueva Esperanza community, Mr. Batzín acknowledged that the “crisis situation” and the difficulties in the area of indigenous rights had been “very present” at the time the new Government took over.


Acknowledging past violations, not only of the human rights of the Guatemalan population overall, but of the indigenous peoples, he reaffirmed the country’s commitment to the protection of the rights of its indigenous peoples and said the Government had already reached no fewer than three pacts to correct that situation — in the areas of finance, justice and transparency.


Above and beyond past human rights breaches, he said, poverty was almost endemic, there was a great deal of insecurity, and no “culture of contribution”.  However, his Government was striving to do better.  Guatemala was fully committed to human rights, including those of indigenous peoples, and had a legal framework in place based on international standards.  There was also domestic legislation in force.  In terms of indigenous peoples, the country was committed to strengthening support for them as they struggled with development.


In terms of the Conference in 2014, he felt the issues would be considered according to indigenous peoples’ rights and actions for a better life.  He was hopeful that the world would respond positively to Guatemala’s efforts to improve the indigenous peoples’ situation; the Government particularly wished to promote the message that it was a “Government of change”.


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For information media • not an official record