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Evo Morales Inaugurates First UN World Conference of Indigenous Peoples

The Bolivian president said "capitalist system" is the greatest threat to indigenous movements.

President Evo Morales provided the opening remarks at the first United Nations World Conference of Indigenous People this Monday. The event is considered a special meeting as part of the ongoing U.N. General Assembly.

In his opening remarks, President Morales warned that capitalism is the greatest threat to indigenous movements around the world.

“The fundamental principles of the indigenous movement are life, mother earth, and peace, and these principles of the worldwide indigenous movement are permanently threatened by a system and model, the capitalist system, a model which extinguishes human life and the mother earth,” he stated.

President Morales, himself one of the first indigenous persons to be elected president of a country in the Americas, proceeded to list a number of advances made in Bolivia under his leadership that he says have directly benefited indigenous peoples. Benito Juarez a Zaptecan from Oaxaca, Mexico, was the first indigenous president of Latin America in Mexico from 1858 until 1872.

Most notable, said Morales, has been Bolivia’s efforts in reducing extreme poverty. A recent U.N. Development Program report found that Bolivia experienced the greatest relative drop in extreme poverty in Latin America between 2000 and 2012.

In his speech, President Morales also mentioned that Bolivia is the first and only country to have fully incorporated the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples into its constitution. Bolivia’s new constitution was approved by popular referendum in 2009.

Part of the aim of the conference is to search for strategies to ensure the implementation of the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The Bolivian president said the conference must be the start of something bigger.

“This conference must be a starting point in determining the collective actions that must be taken in the defense of life in order to initiate a process of transformation and change through the sovereignty and science of our indigenous peoples,” he said.

Up to 2,200 indigenous representatives from roughly 100 countries around the world are said to be attending the U.N. World Conference on Indigenous Peoples   Following the inauguration, President Morales met with U.N. General Secretary Ban Ki Moon for talks, who praised the President as a “symbol of the developing world.”
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