Landmark pact indicates global support for indigenous peoples, says UN expert

19 October 2009
Special Rapporteur James Anaya

The international community showed its support for the world’s nearly 400 million indigenous people by adopting the landmark 2007 declaration outlining their rights, a United Nations independent human rights said today.

The adoption of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People came after more than two decades of debate.

“The adoption of the Declaration signals the strong commitment of the international community to remedy the historical and ongoing denial of the rights of indigenous peoples,” James Anaya, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights and fundamental freedom of indigenous people, told reporters in New York.

The text is based on the principles of equality, self-determination and respect for diversity, which form the “basic tenets of the modern human rights system,” he said.

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.

In his briefing to the General Assembly today, Mr. Anaya, an unpaid independent expert who reports to the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council, said that he described the scope of his mandate and the activities he has undertaken since assuming his position last May.

His work, he said, falls within four interrelated areas: promoting good practices; thematic studies; country reports; and responding to cases of alleged gross violations.

In the past year, the expert has wrapped up reports on Brazil and Nepal after visiting the countries, as well as a follow-up trip to Chile. He has also conducted missions to assess indigenous persons’ conditions in Australia, Botswana, Russia and Colombia.


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