Current Cases & Projects  |  U.N. Declaration On The Rights of Indigenous Peoples

U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
Attorney: Kim Gottschalk

Case Update

In September 2007, the United Nations General Assembly overwhelmingly adopted the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (U.N. DRIP). The vote was 143 in favor, 4 opposed, and 11 abstaining. The votes in opposition were Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and the United States. This historic vote came after 30 years of worldwide indigenous efforts. NARF has represented the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) in this matter since 1999. The U.N. DRIP recognizes that indigenous peoples have important collective human rights in a multitude of areas, including self-determination, spirituality, and lands, territories and natural resources. The U.N. DRIP sets out minimum standards for the treatment of indigenous peoples and can serve as the basis for the development of customary international law.

In 2009 Australia and New Zealand reversed their positions and now support the U.N. DRIP. Canada endorsed the U.N. DRIP in November 2010 and on December 16, 2010, President Obama made the historic announcement that the U.S. was reversing its negative vote and now endorses the U.N. DRIP.

In January 2011 NARF participated in a brainstorming session with tribal leaders, Indian law practitioners and scholars on implementation of the U.N. DRIP hosted by the Yocha Dehe Wintun Tribe in California. In June 2011 the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs held a hearing on U.N. DRIP's implementation at which NARF and its client NCAI submitted written testimony. NARF moderated a panel on implementation of the Declaration at NCAI's Annual Convention in Portland, Oregon in November, 2011. In March 2012 NARF participated in a presentation to California Indian leaders on implementation of the Declaration at Yocha Dehe Wintun. In September, 2012, NARF spoke on implementation of the Declaration at a Conference at the University of California at Berkeley.

In February and March, 2013, NARF, on behalf of NCAI, participated in a meeting of the North American Indigenous People caucus to prepare for the High Level Plenary / World Conference on Indigenous People (WCIP) to be held in New York City in September 2014 and for the Indigenous preparatory meeting in Alta, Norway in June 2013.

In May 2013, NARF, along with its client NCAI and 72 tribes and other NGOs signed onto a statement read at the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues which highlighted those issues deemed most important to be dealt with at the WCIP:

  1. Establishment of a body at the UN to monitor implementation of The Declaration within the UN and by States
  2. creation of a permanent, dignified and appropriate status for Indigenous Peoples at the UN
  3. Address violence against women.

This document can be found at

From June 8-13 NARF participated in the Indigenous preparatory meeting in Alta, Norway. This meeting produced an outcome document which will be used by indigenous peoples to lobby states in advance of the WCIP. A copy of the Alta document can be found at:

NARF has also presented 2 webinars and made a presentation on the WCIP at the NCAI meeting in Tulsa, on October 15, 2013 to help educate tribal leaders about the WCIP and their need to participate.

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