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As the special adviser to the president of the United Nations (UN) General Assembly, Crispin Gregoire has had some tough assignments. None, however, has been as difficult as his most recent mission.

"Quite frankly it's the hardest thing I had to do."

Gregoire, Dominica's former permanent representative to the UN, was the focal point for the first ever World Conference on Indigenous Peoples, a high level meeting of the UN General Assembly. This means, as the overall conference organizer, Gregoire was responsible for facilitating the interactions between UN member states and indigenous peoples.

"I had to deal with the powerful states like Russia (and) America."

In addition, he was charged with negotiating the outcome document, coordinating the efforts and contributions of the UN Secretariat, the Inter Agency Support Group on Indigenous Peoples, and private foundations, and arranging the conference programme and logistics.

"I had to use all the skills I learned throughout life," the former community activist from Grand Bay told The Sun. "At the beginning there were some states that didn't want to sit at the same table with the indigenous peoples."

A press release from the office of the president states that Gregoire's role brought "much credibility" to Dominica, which was among the leading states advocating for the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples - passed by the General Assembly in 2007 – while Gregoire was the country's permanent representative. His successful handling of the global conference means "small States like Dominica can provide resource persons who can effectively facilitate global agendas," Gregoire said.

Dominica's Kalinago population should study the final document closely because it contains some "important elements" that are useful to them, the Dominican diplomat said. For example, the call for national action plans is important to the post-2015 development agenda, Gregoire told The Sun. In addition, he said, the document addresses important matters such as indigenous youth, women, children, and preservation of their indigenous knowledge.

"The call for a UN system wide action plan means that the UN Funds and Programmes should, in the future, work in a coordinated way with the Kalinago community," he added. "Additionally, with the focus on indigenous peoples, there is going to be increased donor attention which the Kalinagos can benefit from."

The final document which Gregoire steered, stresses support for indigenous peoples' occupations, traditional subsistence activities, economies, livelihoods, food security and nutrition. It also calls on governments to consult and inform indigenous people before exploiting their lands, and for indigenous people to benefit from the resources.

The document also addresses issues specific to indigenous women, particularly violence against these women, both domestic and outside the home.

"It's fairly ambitious in some ways," Gregoire told The Sun in an interview from his office in New York.

The one major disappointed is the fact that Dominica Kalinago community wasn't represented at the conference, which brought together over 1000 indigenous people from around the world. Although Gregoire had encouraged governments to include indigenous people as part of their official delegations, Dominica's sole representative was Vince Henderson, the island's permanent representative to the UN.

However, with one of Dominica's leading diplomats overseeing the project, there was an outcome of which the local indigenous community can be proud. It's now up to the government and Kalinago leaders to translate the words on paper into tangible results. "It comes down to how each member state translate this document into action," Gregoire told The Sun.

And this might be the hardest task of them all.


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