Friday, July 7, 2006

Historic United Nations vote on indigenous rights

On June 29, 2006, in an historic vote, the new United Nations' Human Rights Council overwhelmingly approved the United Nations' Draft Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The vote was thirty in favor, two opposed, and 12 abstaining. The only two countries voting against the Declaration were Russia and Canada. The Declaration approved was a combination of provisions agreed upon by indigenous peoples worldwide and states, and a compromise text of those provisions upon which consensus had not been reached. This compromise text was developed by the Chair of the Working Group on the Draft Declaration. Thus, while the Declaration as approved was not a consensus document, it was endorsed by most indigenous peoples worldwide as a major step forward in a process that has been going on since the 1970s.

The Declaration recognizes that indigenous peoples have important collective rights in a multitude of areas, including self-determination, spirituality, lands, territories, and natural resources. Indigenous peoples and most states consider these rights to be human rights just as the individual human rights recognized by western notions of human rights. The positive vote by the Human Rights Council means that the Declaration will be forwarded to the General Assembly of the United Nations for vote later this year.

NARF has participated in the process of the draft declaration for several years on behalf of its client, the National Congress of American Indians.

Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples - (United Nations). Adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on Sept. 13, 2007.

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