U.N. General Assembly adopts Declaration on Rights of Indigenous Peoples

http://www.un.org/News/Press/docs/2007/sgsm11156.doc.htm

Secretary-General says indigenous rights declaration ‘Triumph’for indigenous peoples around the world

The following statement was issued today by the Spokesperson for UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon:

The Secretary-General warmly welcomes the adoption of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as a triumph for indigenous peoples around the world. He notes that this marks a historic moment when United Nations Member States and indigenous peoples have reconciled with their painful histories and are resolved to move forward together on the path of human rights, justice and development for all.

The Secretary-General calls on Governments and civil society to urgently advance the work of integrating the rights of indigenous peoples into international human rights and development agendas, as well as policies and programmes at all levels, so as to ensure that the vision behind the Declaration becomes a reality.

Amended text at http://www.humanrights.gov.au/social_justice/declaration/

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ABC

Australia opposes UN rights declaration

The UN General Assembly adopted a non-binding declaration protecting the human, land and resources rights of the world’s 370 million Indigenous people, despite opposition from Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United States.

The vote in the assembly was 143 in favour and four against. Eleven countries, including Russia and Colombia, abstained.

full story http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2007/09/14/2032491.htm

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From the UN

http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=23794&Cr=indigenous&Cr1=

United Nations adopts Declaration on Rights of Indigenous Peoples

13 September 2007 – The General Assembly today adopted a landmark declaration outlining the rights of the world’s estimated 370 million indigenous people and outlawing discrimination against them – a move that followed more than two decades of debate.

The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples has been approved after 143 Member States voted in favour, 11 abstained and four – Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United States – voted against the text.

A non-binding text, the Declaration sets out the individual and collective rights of indigenous peoples, as well as their rights to culture, identity, language, employment, health, education and other issues.

The Declaration emphasizes the rights of indigenous peoples to maintain and strengthen their own institutions, cultures and traditions and to pursue their development in keeping with their own needs and aspirations.

It also prohibits discrimination against indigenous peoples and promotes their full and effective participation in all matters that concern them, and their right to remain distinct and to pursue their own visions of economic and social development.

General Assembly President Sheikha Haya Rashed Al Khalifa, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour have all welcomed today’s adoption.

Sheikha Haya said “the importance of this document for indigenous peoples and, more broadly, for the human rights agenda, cannot be underestimated. By adopting the Declaration, we are also taking another major step forward towards the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms for all.”

But she warned that “even with this progress, indigenous peoples still face marginalization, extreme poverty and other human rights violations. They are often dragged into conflicts and land disputes that threaten their way of life and very survival; and, suffer from a lack of access to health care and education.”

In a statement released by his spokesperson, Mr. Ban described the Declaration’s adoption as “a historic moment when UN Member States and indigenous peoples have reconciled with their painful histories and are resolved to move forward together on the path of human rights, justice and development for all.”

He called on governments and civil society to ensure that the Declaration’s vision becomes a reality by working to integrate indigenous rights into their policies and programmes.

Ms. Arbour noted that the Declaration has been “a long time coming. But the hard work and perseverance of indigenous peoples and their friends and supporters in the international community has finally borne fruit in the most comprehensive statement to date of indigenous peoples’ rights.”

The UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues estimates there are more than 370 million indigenous people in some 70 countries worldwide.

Members of the Forum said earlier this year that the Declaration creates no new rights and does not place indigenous peoples in a special category.

Ambassador John McNee of Canada said his country was disappointed to have to vote against the Declaration, but it had “significant concerns” about the language in the document.

The provisions on lands, territories and resources “are overly broad, unclear and capable of a wide variety of interpretations” and could put into question matters that have been settled by treaty, he said.

Mr. McNee said the provisions on the need for States to obtain free, prior and informed consent before it can act on matters affecting indigenous peoples were unduly restrictive, and he also expressed concern that the Declaration negotiation process over the past year had not been “open, inclusive or transparent.”

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See also

http://www.un.org/esa/socdev/unpfii/en/declaration.html which has links to the UN resolution and to the amended version of the Declaration (with amendments highlighted).

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UN Declaration a milestone for Indigenous Peoples
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Friday, 14 September 2007

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner Tom Calma today welcomed the decision of the United Nations General Assembly to adopt the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

“Today’s decision is a milestone for the world’s indigenous peoples and for the United Nations,” Commissioner Calma said.

“It is the culmination of over two decades of negotiations at the United Nations and fierce advocacy by Indigenous peoples from all over the world since the 1970s.

“The Declaration reaffirms that indigenous individuals are entitled to all human rights recognised in international law without discrimination. But it also acknowledges that without recognising the collective rights of Indigenous peoples and ensuring protection of our cultures, indigenous people can never truly be free and equal.”

Its adoption follows the decision by the United Nations General Assembly last November to delay consideration of the Declaration for up to 12 months, which allowed governments more time to consider the text.

“Negotiations over recent months with the African nation states have resulted in changes to the Declaration’s text as adopted by the Human Rights Council in June 2006, but the end result enjoys broad support among the Global Indigenous Caucus, which represents indigenous peoples from around the world,” Mr Calma said.

“That a Declaration of such controversy has achieved near universal support at the General Assembly is testament to its importance and appropriateness. We should remember that such enduring human rights documents as the Universal Declaration on Human Rights did not receive this level of support at the time that they were adopted by the General Assembly.

“However, it is a matter of great regret that Australia and three other nations have opposed the Declaration, particularly given that Australia had indicated its support for the vast majority of the Declaration’s provisions during the negotiations of the text.

“As I detail in my Social Justice Report 2006, the Australian Government’s reasoning for opposing the Declaration has no sound base and does not interpret the Declaration consistently with international law. In fact, their arguments had been roundly condemned by both Indigenous peoples and other governments in the negotiations of the Declaration in recent years,” he said.

“I am confident, that as the Declaration is implemented, these concerns will prove to have been unfounded.”

Mr Calma said the Declaration was among the first international human rights instruments to explicitly provide for the adoption of measures to ensure that indigenous women and children enjoyed protection and guarantees against all forms of violence.

“The Declaration also sets a benchmark for the participation of Indigenous peoples in decision making that relates to indigenous peoples’ needs and interests, including through policy development and service delivery,” Mr Calma said.

The Declaration has been adopted during the second International Decade for the World’s Indigenous People which is based on the theme of partnership with Indigenous peoples.

“The challenge laid out by the Declaration is for indigenous people to develop partnerships based on the principles set forth in the Declaration and on the basis of mutual respect.”

For further information on the Declaration, including fact sheets, see: http://www.humanrights.gov.au/social_justice/declaration/

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