The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly during its 61st session at UN Headquarters in New York City on 13 September 2007.
While as a General Assembly Declaration it is not a legally binding instrument under international law, according to a UN press release, it does "represent the dynamic development of international legal norms and it reflects the commitment of the UN's member states to move in certain directions"; the UN describes it as setting "an important standard for the treatment of indigenous peoples that will undoubtedly be a significant tool towards eliminating human rights violations against the planet's 370 million indigenous people and assisting them in combating discrimination and marginalisation."
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. It also "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 "prohibits discrimination against indigenous peoples", and it "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". The goal of the Declaration is to encourage countries to work alongside indigenous peoples to solve global issues, like development, multicultural democracy and decentralization. According to Article 31, there is a major emphasis that the indigenous peoples will be able to protect their cultural heritage and other aspects of their culture and tradition, which is extremely important in preserving their heritage. The elaboration of this Declaration had already been recommended by the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action
The Declaration is structured as a United Nations resolution, with 23 preambular clauses and 46 articles. Articles 1–40 concern particular individual and collective rights of indigenous peoples; many of them include state obligations to protect or fulfill those rights. Articles 41 and 42 concern the role of the United Nations. Articles 43–45 indicate that the rights in the declaration apply without distinction to indigenous men and women, and that the rights in the Declaration are "the minimum standards for the survival, dignity and well-being of the indigenous peoples of the world," and do not in any way limit greater rights. Article 46 discusses the Declaration's consistency with other internationally agreed goals, and the framework for interpreting the rights declared within it.
Negotiation and adoption
The Declaration was over 25 years in the making. The idea originated in 1982 when the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) set up its Working Group on Indigenous Populations (WGIP), established as a result of a study by Special Rapporteur José Ricardo Martínez Cobo on the problem of discrimination faced by indigenous peoples. Tasked with developing human rights standards that would protect indigenous peoples, in 1985 the Working Group began working on drafting the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The draft was finished in 1993 and was submitted to the Sub-Commission on the Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities, which gave its approval the following year. During this the International Labour Organisation adopted the Indigenous and Tribal Peoples Convention, 1989.
The Draft Declaration was then referred to the Commission on Human Rights, which established another Working Group to examine its terms. Over the following years this Working Group met on 11 occasions to examine and fine-tune the Draft Declaration and its provisions. Progress was slow because of certain states' concerns regarding some key provisions of the Declaration, such as indigenous peoples' right to self-determination and the control over natural resources existing on indigenous peoples' traditional lands. The final version of the Declaration was adopted on 29 June 2006 by the 47-member Human Rights Council (the successor body to the Commission on Human Rights), with 30 member states in favour, 2 against, 12 abstentions, and 3 absentees.
The Declaration (document A/61/L.67) was then referred to the General Assembly, which voted on the adoption of the proposal on 13 September 2007 during its 61st regular session.
The vote was, in favour 144 countries: Afghanistan, Albania, Algeria, Andorra, Angola, Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Armenia, Austria, Bahamas, Bahrain, Barbados, Belarus, Belgium, Belize, Benin, Bolivia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Botswana, Brazil, Brunei Darussalam, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Cambodia, Cameroon, Cape Verde, Central African Republic, Chile, China, Comoros, Congo, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cuba, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Denmark, Djibouti, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, El Salvador, Estonia, Finland, France, Gabon, Germany, Ghana, Greece, Guatemala, Guinea, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Hungary, Iceland, India, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Ireland, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Latvia, Lebanon, Lesotho, Liberia, Libya, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Madagascar, Malawi, Malaysia, Maldives, Mali, Malta, Mauritius, Mexico, Micronesia (Federated States of), Moldova, Monaco, Mongolia, Mozambique, Myanmar, Namibia, Nepal, Netherlands, Nicaragua, Niger, Norway, Oman, Pakistan, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Qatar, Republic of Korea, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, San Marino, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Serbia, Sierra Leone, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Suriname, Swaziland, Sweden, Switzerland, Syria, Thailand, the Republic of Macedonia, Timor-Leste, Trinidad and Tobago, Tunisia, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, United Republic of Tanzania, Uruguay, Venezuela, Viet Nam, Yemen, Zambia, Zimbabwe.
Against: Australia, Canada, New Zealand, United States. All four member states that voted against have their origins as colonies of the United Kingdom have large non-indigenous immigrant majorities and small remnant indigenous populations. Since then, all four countries have moved to endorse the declaration.
Abstaining, 11 countries: Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Burundi, Colombia, Georgia, Kenya, Nigeria, Russian Federation, Samoa and Ukraine. Colombia and Samoa have since endorsed the document.
Absent: Chad, Côte d'Ivoire, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Fiji, Gambia, Grenada, Guinea-Bissau, Israel, Kiribati, Kyrgyzstan, Marshall Islands, Mauritania, Montenegro, Morocco, Nauru, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Romania, Rwanda, Saint Kitts and Nevis, São Tomé and Príncipe, Seychelles, Solomon Islands, Somalia, Tajikistan, Togo, Tonga, Turkmenistan, Tuvalu, Uganda, Uzbekistan, Vanuatu.Visit the Sacred Tree Fellowship Web Site: