A Ph.D. thesis presented on the dedication of indigenous peoples to external relations

June 22, 2010

A UNO working group, a UNO declaration of their rights... indigenous paradiplomacy over the past decades has borne fruit. Mr Joseba Arregi has studied this movement, which distances itself from the usual discourse on international relations.

Mr Arregi's PhD thesis is entitled Laugarren mundua: herri indigenen erbeste ekintza, onespen eta aldaketa eragile nazioarteko harremanetan 1992-2007 (The fourth world: external affairs action by indigenous peoples as instrument of change and international recognition 1992-2007). The fourth world is a concept created by indigenous peoples themselves with the goal of having international influence. This movement proclaims self-determination within the state to which each identity or people belongs and, unlike nations without a state, it has obtained international recognition. Nevertheless, it is much less known than the Basque Country, Catalonia or Quebec, and which has driven Mr Arregi to write his thesis. His aim has been to inform about the work undertaken by the fourth world over the last decades to encourage a channel of communication between the movements of indigenous populations and stateless nations. He has carried out a social historical analysis in which priority is given to the perspective of indigenous peoples.

According to Mr Arregi, the relevance given to human rights in the 70s and the ecological movements in the 80s and 90s opened the way for the fourth world. Indigenous peoples were, in fact, movers of and players in these movements. The thesis has 1992 as being the turning point when the United Nations Organisation held its Earth Summit -a summit on the environment- in Río de Janeiro and it was here that the term sustainable development was born. In the plan of action agreed at this summit, for the first time ever, a chapter was given over to indigenous peoples, stressing their importance in tasks involving conservation of biodiversity.

Representation at the UNO

Mr Arregi has publicised the greatest international achievements of indigenous peoples since 1992. For example, numerous organisations for supporting indigenous peoples have been formed in the United States and Europe (Survival International; the International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs (Iwgia) in Denmark, etc.). Also, as regards ecology, indigenous peoples have been able to publicly demonstrate that the biodiversity in the regions they live in is due to their own uninterrupted management of these lands. This is why they have been portrayed in the role of strategic allies in many international documents. Moreover, they have managed to leave their mark at the UNO, having achieved setting up a Working Group on Indigenous Peoples and their own Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues. Moreover, the same UNO approved the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in 2007.

As the thesis explains, indigenous peoples have achieved all this on the basis of resistance and on working at an international level. They have promoted a positive and modern image of themselves, as persons who are preserving nature and human rights at the same time. Likewise, according to Dr Arregi, it has been these indigenous peoples who have opened the door to topics about ecology and human rights, and it has been governments and institutions which have followed their example, not vice versa.

Alternative self-determination

One of the principal objectives of the fourth world is to be able to control their own destiny and free themselves, once and for all, from the shackles of colonialism. It is a movement that demands self-determination but, as Dr Arregi reminds us, a self-determination within a state and not through creating a new one - the so-called third way. According to this thesis, indigenous peoples have achieved international recognition, precisely because they do not demand the creation of a new state. The researcher believes that the work carried out by the fourth world represents a special and interesting paradiplomacy. This is why, amongst other reasons, he sees the need for communication between indigenous peoples and the so-called people-nations. He has particularly pointed to the Basque Country, Euskadi, as having a psychological bond with indigenous peoples. As a result, he suggests that there should be an exchanging of experiences, mainly with respect to the management of autonomous government and the tasks of recovering the Basque language and Basque culture.
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About the author

Joseba Iñaki Arregi Orue (Eibar, 1963) is a graduate in Journalism and Communications, and has a master's degree in International Studies from the University of Iowa. He drew up his thesis under the direction of Mr José Luis de Castro and Mr Joseba Agirreazkuenaga; Director of the Department of International Relations of the Faculty of Social and Communication Sciences at the UPV/EHU, and the Professor of Contemporary History at the same faculty, respectively. Mr Arregi is currently a teacher at the Lautada Ikastola (school) in Agurain-Salvatierra, in the Basque province of Araba. In order to undertake his PhD, he collaborated with the Padre Arrupe Institute at the University of Deusto (Bilbao) and has made visits to the University of Iowa and the UNO to consult their libraries. He has also met the UNO Working Group on Indigenous Populations in Geneva.

Elhuyar Fundazioa

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