Bolivia's president asks UN to convene World Conference on Indigenous Peoples

26 September 2007 –

The President of Bolivia today called for the United Nations to convene a world conference on indigenous peoples to foster a new approach to economic relations based on an appreciation of natural resources and not their exploitation.

Addressing the General Assembly's annual high-level debate, Evo Morales welcomed the recent approval of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, thanking all countries, except the four which voted against it.

“Our culture is a culture of life,” said the President, the first indigenous leader of Bolivia.

He called on the UN to convene a world indigenous forum to “understand different ways of life.”

Questioning whether it was necessary to exploit and plunder in order to live well, he suggested instead that living well is living within a community – not having an excess of material wealth.

To indigenous communities, he said, the Earth is sacred, as demonstrated by their practices. “Let us gather these experiences to defend life and to save humankind,” he said.

President Morales said natural resources should be used to benefit nations, he said, adding that while companies have a right to profit, they do not have a right to plunder.

Natural resources should be accessible to all, he argued. “Water is a human right. Energy is a human right,” he said, stressing that these should not be considered commodities to be exploited by private businesses.

He said talk of biofuels was confusing. “I don't understand how we can produce food for cars. Soil should be for life! Because there is a lack of gas we are going to divert food for automobiles?” He called for giving up luxury. “We cannot continue to accumulate garbage,” he said.

President Morales spoke out against “economic policies that have caused genocide” and denounced the arms race. “War is the industry of death,” he declared.

He decried the economic imbalance of the world, where wealth is concentrated in the hands of a few. “Collective globalization that does not respect plurality or differences is the source of the problem,” he said.

The President also spoke of his own difficulties traveling to the UN Assembly. “I don't know how all of you managed to come here to the United States but at least my delegation had a great deal of visa problems,” he said, proposing that “perhaps we should change the site of the United Nations.”

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