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VICTORY: UN Adopts Declaration after 23 years of negotiations

13 Sep 2007   
United Nations adopts Declaration on Rights of Indigenous Peoples

13 September 2007 - The General Assembly today adopted a landmark
declaration outlining the rights of the world’s estimated 370 million
indigenous people and outlawing discrimination against them – a move that
followed more than two decades of debate.

The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples has been
approved after 143 Member States voted in favour, four voted against
Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United States – and there were 11 abstentions -Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, BurundiKenya, Nigeria, Samoa, Russian Federation, Ukraine.

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.

General Assembly President Sheikha Haya Rashed Al Khalifa, Secretary-General
Ban Ki-moon and High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour have all
welcomed today’s adoption.

Sheikha Haya said “the importance of this document for indigenous peoples
and, more broadly, for the human rights agenda, cannot be underestimated. By
adopting the Declaration, we are also taking another major step forward
towards the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental
freedoms for all.”

But she warned that “even with this progress, indigenous peoples still face
marginalization, extreme poverty and other human rights violations. They are
often dragged into conflicts and land disputes that threaten their way of
life and very survival; and, suffer from a lack of access to health care and

In a statement released by his spokesperson, Mr. Ban described the
Declaration’s adoption as “a historic moment when UN Member States and
indigenous peoples have reconciled with their painful histories and are
resolved to move forward together on the path of human rights, justice and
development for all.”

He called on governments and civil society to ensure that the Declaration’s
vision becomes a reality by working to integrate indigenous rights into
their policies and programmes.

Ms. Arbour noted that the Declaration has been “a long time coming. But the
hard work and perseverance of indigenous peoples and their friends and
supporters in the international community has finally borne fruit in the
most comprehensive statement to date of indigenous peoples’ rights.”

The UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues estimates there are more than
370 million indigenous people in some 70 countries worldwide.

Members of the Forum said earlier this year that the Declaration creates no
new rights and does not place indigenous peoples in a special category.




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