Date: Fri, 03 Dec 1999 16:36:03 +0800
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TITLE: Indigenous Peoples' Seattle Declaration
AUTHOR: Indigenous Peoples' Caucus at the WTO Third Ministerial 
Conference (Seattle, 30 December - 3 November 1999)
DATE: 1 December 1999
NOTE: If you support the proposals of the Indigenous Peoples' Caucus in 
Seattle, kindly email your name and address to [EMAIL PROTECTED] or 
[EMAIL PROTECTED] as soon as possible.

on the occasion of the
Third Ministerial Meeting of the World Trade Organization
30 November - 3 December 1999

We, the Indigenous Peoples from various regions of the world, have come to 
Seattle to express our great concern over how the World Trade Organization 
is destroying Mother Earth and the cultural and biological diversity of 
which we are a part.

Trade liberalization and export-oriented development, which are the 
overriding principles and policies pushed by the WTO, are creating the most 
adverse impacts on the lives of Indigenous Peoples.  Our inherent right to 
self-determination, our sovereignty as nations, and treaties and other 
constructive agreements which Indigenous nations and Peoples have negotiated 
with other nation-states, are undermined by most of the WTO Agreements.  The 
disproportionate impact of these Agreements on our communities, whether 
through environmental degradation or the militarization and violence that 
often accompanies development projects, is serious and therefore should be 
addressed immediately.

The WTO Agreement on Agriculture (AOA), which promotes export competition 
and import liberalization, has allowed the entry of cheap agricultural 
products into our communities.  It is causing the destruction of 
ecologically rational and sustainable agricultural practices of Indigenous 

Food security and the production of traditional food crops have been 
seriously compromised.  Incidents of diabetes, cancers, and hypertension 
have significantly increased among Indigenous Peoples because of the 
scarcity of traditional foods and the dumping of junk food into our 

Small-scale farm production is giving way to commercial cash-crop 
plantations further concentrating ancestral lands into the hands of few 
agri-corporations and landlords.  This has led to the dislocation of scores 
of people from our communities who then migrate to nearby cities and become 
the urban homeless and jobless.

The WTO Forests Products Agreement promotes free trade in forest products.  
By eliminating developed country tariffs on wood products by the year 2000, 
and developing country tariffs by 2003, the Agreement will result in the 
deforestation of many of the world’s ecosystems in which Indigenous Peoples 

Mining laws in many countries are being changed to allow free entry of 
foreign mining corporations, to enable them to buy and own mineral lands, 
and to freely displace Indigenous Peoples from their ancestral territories.  
These large-scale commercial mining and oil extraction activities continue 
to degrade our lands and fragile ecosystems, and pollute the soil, water, 
and air in our communities.

The appropriation of our lands and resources and the aggressive promotion of 
consumerist and individualistic Western culture continue to destroy 
traditional lifestyles and cultures.  The result is not only environmental 
degradation but also ill health, alienation, and high levels of stress 
manifested in high rates of alcoholism and suicides.

The theft and patenting of our biogenetic resources is facilitated by the 
TRIPs (Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights) of the WTO.  
Some plants which Indigenous Peoples have discovered, cultivated, and used 
for food, medicine, and for sacred rituals are already patented in the 
United States, Japan, and Europe.  A few examples of these are ayahuasca, 
quinoa, and sangre de drago in forests of South America; kava in the 
Pacific; turmeric and bitter melon in Asia.  Our access and control over our 
biological diversity and control over our traditional knowledge and 
intellectual heritage are threatened by the TRIPs Agreement.

Article 27.3b of the TRIPs Agreement allows the patenting of life-forms and 
makes an artificial distinction between plants, animals, and 
micro-organisms.  The distinction between “essentially biological” and 
“non-biological” and “microbiological” processes is also erroneous.  As far 
as we are concerned all these are life-forms and life-creating processes 
which are sacred and which should not become the subject of private property 

Finally, the liberalization of investments and the service sectors, which is 
pushed by the General Agreement of Services (GATS), reinforces the 
domination and monopoly control of foreign corporations over strategic parts 
of the economy.  The World Bank and the International Monetary Fund impose 
conditionalities of liberalization, deregulation and privatization on 
countries caught in the debt trap.  These conditionalities are reinforced 
further by the WTO.

In light of the adverse impacts and consequences of the WTO Agreements 
identified above, we, Indigenous Peoples present the following demands:

We urgently call for a social and environmental justice analysis which will 
look into the Agreements’ cumulative effects on Indigenous Peoples.  
Indigenous Peoples should be equal participants in establishing the criteria 
and indicators for these analyses so that they take into consideration 
spiritual as well as cultural aspects.

A review of the Agreements should be done to address all of the inequities 
and imbalances which adversely affect Indigenous Peoples. The proposals to 
address some of these are as follows;

(1)     For the Agreement on Agriculture

a.      It should not include in its coverage small-scale farmers who are mainly 
engaged in production for domestic use and sale in the local markets.

b.      It should ensure the recognition and protection of rights of Indigenous 
Peoples to their territories and their resources, as well as their rights to 
continue practicing their indigenous sustainable agriculture and resource 
management practices and traditional livelihoods.

c.      It should ensure the food security and the capacity of Indigenous Peoples 
to produce, consume and trade their traditional foods.
(2)     With regard to the liberalization of services and investments we 
recommend the following:

a.      It must stop unsustainable mining, commercial planting of monocrops, dam 
construction, oil exploration, land conversion to golf clubs, logging,  and 
other activities which destroy  Indigenous Peoples’ lands and violate the 
rights of indigenous peoples’ to their territories and resources. 

b.      The right of Indigenous Peoples to their traditional lifestyles, cultural 
norms and values should likewise be recognized and protected.

c.      The liberalization of services, especially in the areas of health, should 
not be allowed if it will prevent Indigenous Peoples from having access to 
free, culturally appropriate as well as quality health services.

d.      The liberalization of finance services which makes the world a global 
casino should be regulated. 

(3)     On the TRIPs Agreement, the proposals are as follows:

a.      Article 27.3b should be amended to categorically disallow the patenting 
of life-forms.  It should clearly prohibit the patenting of micro-organisms, 
plants, animals, including all their parts, whether they are genes, gene 
sequences, cells, cell lines,  proteins, or seeds.

b.      It should also prohibit the patenting of natural processes, whether these 
are biological or microbiological, involving the use of plants, animals and 
micro-organisms and their parts in producing variations of plants, animals 
and micro-organisms.

c.      It should ensure the exploration and development of alternative forms of 
protection outside of the dominant western intellectual property rights 
regime.  Such alternatives must protect the knowledge and innovations and 
practices in agriculture, health care, and conservation of biodiversity, and 
should build upon indigenous methods and customary laws protecting 
knowledge, heritage and biological resources.

d.      It should ensure that the protection offered to indigenous and 
traditional knowledge, innovation and practices is consistent with the 
Convention on Biological Diversity (i.e., Articles 8j, 10c, 17.2, and 18.4) 
and the International Undertaking on Plant Genetic Resources.

e.      It should allow for the right of Indigenous Peoples and farmers to 
continue their traditional practices of saving, sharing and exchanging 
seeds, and cultivating, harvesting and using medicinal plants.

f.      It should prohibit scientific researchers and corporations from 
appropriating and patenting indigenous seeds, medicinal plants, and related 
knowledge about these life-forms.  The principles of prior informed consent 
and right of veto by Indigenous Peoples should be respected.

If the earlier proposals cannot be ensured, we call for the removal of the 
Agreement on Agriculture, the Forest Products Agreements and the TRIPs 
Agreement from the WTO.

We call on the member-states of the WTO not to allow for another round 
whilst the review and rectification of the implementation of existing 
agreements has not been done. We reject the proposals for an investment 
treaty, competition, accelerated industrial tariffs,  government 
procurement, and the creation of a working group on biotechnology.  

We urge the WTO to reform itself to become democratic, transparent and 
accountable. If it fails to do this we call for the abolition of the WTO. 

We urge the member nation-states of the WTO to endorse the adoption by the 
UN General Assembly of the current text of the UN Declaration on the Rights 
of Indigenous Peoples and the ratification of ILO Convention l69.

We call on the peoples’ organizations and NGOs  to support this “Indigenous 
Peoples’ Seattle Declaration” and to promote it among their members.

We believe that the whole philosophy underpinning the WTO Agreements and the 
principles and policies it promotes contradict our core values, spirituality 
and worldviews, as well as our concepts and practices of development, trade 
and environmental protection.  Therefore, we challenge the WTO to redefine 
its principles and practices toward a “sustainable communities” paradigm, 
and to recognize and allow for the continuation of other worldviews and 
models of development.

Indigenous peoples, undoubtedly, are the ones most adversely affected by 
globalization and by the WTO Agreements. However, we believe that it is also 
us who can offer viable alternatives to the dominant economic growth, 
export-oriented development model. Our sustainable lifestyles and cultures, 
traditional knowledge, cosmologies, spirituality, values of collectivity, 
reciprocity, respect and reverence for Mother Earth, are crucial in the 
search for a transformed society where justice, equity, and sustainability 
will prevail. 

Statement by the Indigenous Peoples’ Caucus convened and sponsored by the 
Indigenous Environmental Network USA/CANADA, Seventh Generation Fund USA, 
International Indian Treaty Council, Indigenous Peoples Council on 
Biocolonialism, the Abya Yala Fund, and TEBTEBBA (Indigenous Peoples’ 
Network for Policy Research and Education), 1 December 1999, Seattle, 
Washington, USA.

Other indigenous peoples’ organizations, NGOs and individuals who wish to 
sign on to this statement, send email to [EMAIL PROTECTED] or [EMAIL PROTECTED]

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