Thursday, September 13, 2007

Human Rights Update 9-13-07: UN Adopts Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

Where Indigenous People Live, UN

Indigenous peoples around the world are today celebrating the UN General Assembly’s approval of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The declaration was approved by an overwhelming majority in an historic vote in New York today.
The vote is the climax of 22 years of intensive debate and negotiation. Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the United States voted against the declaration, whilst 143 nations voted in favour and eleven abstained. ... Survival’s director Stephen Corry said today, ‘The declaration on indigenous peoples, with its recognition of collective rights, will raise international standards in the same way as the universal declaration on human rights did nearly 60 years ago. It sets a benchmark by which the treatment of tribal and indigenous peoples can be judged, and we hope it will usher in an era in which abuse of their rights is no longer tolerated.’
Survival International, 9-13-07

Human Rights Update 9-13-07: UN Adopts Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

By Richard Power

The United Nations General Assembly has adopted a Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. This vote is one of both historic and transhistoric importance.

Will many governments that did not vote for this declaration (e.g., USA, Canada and Australia) seek to undermine it? Of course. Will many goverments that voted for it only pretend to live up to its edicts? Of course. Will many governments that not only voted for it, but also embrace the spirit as well as the letter, be confronted with complex issues and painful compromises? Of course. Nonetheless, this declaration is a victory in the struggle for a deeper, richer, fuller experience of our collective humanness.

Human rights is one of the central Words of Power issues.

In particular, this site focuses on human rights issues related to women, children and indigenous people, i.e., the beauty, innocence and wisdom of the human race.

As I wrote in Hard Rain Journal 12-4-06: Human Rights Update -- Unless You Protect Women, Children and Indigenous Peoples, You Cannot Achieve Real Security: When you allow the snuffing out of childhood you warp your future; when you allow the violation of women you mutilate what is best in your own soul; when you allow the crushing of indigenous peoples you poison the well of life itself.

Today, the human race has taken an important step in the long journey to secure that well of life, and keep it safe in sacred trust for future generations.

Remember to drink from it, here and now, in your own way, in your own living.

Here are the first thirteen of the 46 articles contained in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, with a links to the full text in English, Spanish and French:

Article 1: Indigenous peoples have the right to the full enjoyment, as a collective or as individuals, of all human rights and fundamental freedoms as recognized in the Charter of the United Nations, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights3 and international human rights law.

Article 2: Indigenous peoples and individuals are free and equal to all other peoples and individuals and have the right to be free from any kind of discrimination, in the exercise of their rights, in particular that based on their indigenous origin or identity.

Article 3: Indigenous peoples have the right to self-determination. By virtue of that right they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development.

Article 4: Indigenous peoples, in exercising their right to self-determination, have the right to autonomy or self-government in matters relating to their internal and local affairs, as well as ways and means for financing their autonomous functions.

Article 5: Indigenous peoples have the right to maintain and strengthen their distinct political, legal, economic, social and cultural institutions, while retaining their right to participate fully, if they so choose, in the political, economic, social and cultural life of the State.

Article 6: Every indigenous individual has the right to a nationality.

Article 7: 1. Indigenous individuals have the rights to life, physical and mental integrity, liberty and security of person. 2. Indigenous peoples have the collective right to live in freedom, peace and security as distinct peoples and shall not be subjected to any act of genocide or any other act of violence, including forcibly removing children of the group to another group.

Article 8: 1. Indigenous peoples and individuals have the right not to be subjected to forced assimilation or destruction of their culture. 2. States shall provide effective mechanisms for prevention of, and redress for:
(a) Any action which has the aim or effect of depriving them of their integrity as distinct peoples, or of their cultural values or ethnic identities;
(b) Any action which has the aim or effect of dispossessing them of their lands, territories or resources;
(c) Any form of forced population transfer which has the aim or effect of violating or undermining any of their rights;
(d) Any form of forced assimilation or integration;
(e) Any form of propaganda designed to promote or incite racial or ethnic discrimination directed against them.

Article 9: Indigenous peoples and individuals have the right to belong to an indigenous community or nation, in accordance with the traditions and customs of the community or nation concerned. No discrimination of any kind may arise from the exercise of such a right.

Article 10: Indigenous peoples shall not be forcibly removed from their lands or territories. No relocation shall take place without the free, prior and informed consent of the indigenous peoples concerned and after agreement on just and fair compensation and, where possible, with the option of return.

Article 11: 1. Indigenous peoples have the right to practise and revitalize their cultural traditions and customs. This includes the right to maintain, protect and develop the past, present and future manifestations of their cultures, such as archaeological and historical sites, artefacts, designs, ceremonies, technologies and visual and performing arts and literature.
2. States shall provide redress through effective mechanisms, which may include restitution, developed in conjunction with indigenous peoples, with respect to their cultural, intellectual, religious and spiritual property taken without their free, prior and informed consent or in violation of heir laws, traditions and customs.

Article 12: 1. Indigenous peoples have the right to manifest, practice, develop and teach their spiritual and religious traditions, customs and ceremonies; the right to maintain, protect, and have access in privacy to their religious and cultural sites; the right to the use and control of their ceremonial objects; and the right to the repatriation of their human remains. 2. States shall seek to enable the access and/or repatriation of ceremonial objects and human remains in their possession through fair, transparent and effective mechanisms developed in conjunction with indigenous peoples concerned.

Article 13: 1. Indigenous peoples have the right to revitalize, use, develop and transmit to future generations their histories, languages, oral traditions, philosophies, writing systems and literatures, and to designate and retain their own names for communities, places and persons. 2. States shall take effective measures to ensure that this right is protected and also to ensure that indigenous peoples can understand and be understood in political, legal and administrative proceedings, where necessary through the provision of interpretation or by other appropriate means.

For the full text of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, click here. For spanish text, click here. For French text, click here.

For a directory of Words of Power Human Rights Updates, click here.

To follow indigenous rights issues more closely, and learn what you can do, visit --


International Working Group for Indigenous Affairs

Dialogue Between Nations

Indigenous Peoples Caucus

UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII)

Cultural Survival

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