Update: 05.10.2007

Declaration on Rights of Indigenous Peoples finally adopted

Symbolic victory for the Indigenous Peoples: the General Assembly adopted on 13 September 2007 a landmark declaration outlining the rights of the world’s estimated 370 million indigenous peoples and outlawing discrimination against them – a move that followed more than two decades of debate. It 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. Indigenous peoples expressed their satisfaction. 

Declaration adjourned last December

In 2006 the situation looked rather bleak. The General Assembly unexpectedly did not adopt the Declaration. “This betrayal and injustice severely impacts 370 million indigenous peoples in all regions of the world, who are among the most marginalized and vulnerable” declare official indigenous representatives at the UN General Assembly on November 28, 2006. “The Indigenous Caucus is shocked and outraged by the actions of the United Nations, who today failed to adopt the most important international instrument for the promotion and protection of human rights for Indigenous Peoples. The Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which represents more than 20 years of work within the UN, constitutes the minimum standards for their survival, dignity and well-being.” Indeed, after more than 20 years of harsh negociations, the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples had been adopted by the Human Right Council in June 2006 and recommended to the General Assembly for final adoption. It was defeated at the Third Committee (social, humanitarian and cultural) of the UN General Assembly on November 28, 2006: Backed by African states, but also New-Zealand, Canada and Australia, the Namibia resolution asking the UN General Assembly to defer any decision on the Declaration was voted first and the results were 82 votes in favour, 67 against (including Finland representing the EU) it and 25 abstentions (including USA). As this resolution got a majority of votes, the Peruvian resolution asking the GA for the adoption of the Declaration became useless. At this point, it becomes uncertain whether the United Nations will ever formally adopt the UN Declaration.
Swiss support organisations to indigenous issues have also expressed their deception and concern.

Further information

© humanrights.ch / MERS - Hallerstr. 23 - CH-3012 Bern - Tel. +41 31 302 01 61