UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The world council of indigenous peoples : an analysis of political protest Massey, Rise M.


In response to an almost universal perception on the part of aboriginal peoples of the injustice done to them by the intrusion and take-over of their territories by immigrant-dominated societies, a number of indigenous peoples' groups have arisen on the international scene. One such transnational non-governmental organization is the World Council of Indigenous Peoples. The objects of this thesis are to recount the conditions that precipitated the need for a transnational indigenous peoples support group, to chronicle the formation and work of the WCIP, and to evaluate the organization in terms of why it has (or has not) been a success and in terms of the extent of its success. Success is herein measured in relation to the responses to WCIP activities of its three primary target groups -individual national governments, international bodies (particularly the United Nations), and its own support base, the indigenous peoples of the world. Four questions are posed with respect to these groups: Have there been policy shifts or concessions granted by national governments that are directly attributable to WCIP activities? Have bodies such as the United Nations adjusted their programmes and polices to coincide with WCIP demands? Has the WCIP succeeded in encouraging the mobilization of indigenous support for indigenous causes; has it affected the emergence and consolidation of indigenous political activity? To what extent has the WCIP succeeded in effecting changes in the political, economic, and social conditions of the peoples it seeks to benefit? The 'elements of success1 employed in this study to analyze the WCIP's potential for effectively eliciting responses from its target groups have been adapted from various case studies of national, transnational, and international pressure groups and were chosen because of their relevance to the World Council's experience: they accurately indicate the reasons for the WCIP's successes and failures. The elements are: the purposes and goals of the organization, the structure and internal dynamics of the organization, the consolidation of a support base, the organization's legitimacy, the degree of factionalism within the organization, the amount and source of the organization's funding, the use of self-appraisal, the nature of the targets of the organization, and the selected tactics of the organization. Examination of the WCIP's work suggests that its chief success has been in mobilizing its own support base. While the World Council has influenced its other targets to a limited extent in specific situations, has brought about increased awareness of social and political injustice towards native peoples, and has gained support for its activities from influential quarters, so far there have been few if any fundamental, widespread, substantive changes in the attitudes and policies of national elites and of officials of international governmental organizations towards social, economic, and political relations with indigenous peoples that are obviously the result of WCIP activities. This is primarily due to the radical nature of certain WCIP goals, which demand a fundamental shift in the attitudes of state governments and international society in general; to recognize indigenous peoples as nations with rights to self-determination might mean an altered international order. Such a challenge to established authority is not likely to meet with immediate success. Still, the World Council's work constitutes a necessary first step; in ensuring the existence of an ongoing support base with a shared purpose, it has created a platform from which the challenge to governments to alter their stance towards indigenous peoples may someday succeed, for reasons of expediency if not morality.

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