Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

Posted by kahea at Aug 06, 2008 04:42 PM |

From Evan:

The passage of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (“Declaration”) late last year by the UN General Assembly was a historic and monumental step by the global community in recognizing the claims of all indigenous people. Native Hawaiians, the original and continuous inhabitants of the islands of Hawai`i, derive specific rights from the force of this international Declaration. Here are a few excerpts from the Declaration that our readers may find pertinent.

Article 1 of the Declaration mandates:
Indigenous people 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 Rights and international human rights law.

Article 26 of the Declaration mandates:
1. Indigenous peoples have the right to the lands, territories, and resources which they have traditionally owned, occupied or otherwise used or acquired.

2. Indigenous peoples have the right to own, use, develop, and control the lands, territories and resources that they possess by reason of traditional ownership or other traditional occupation or use, as well as those which they have otherwise acquired.

3. States shall give legal recognition and protection to these lands, territories and resources. Such recognition shall be conducted with due respect to the customs, traditions, and land tenure systems of the indigenous peoples concerned.

According to the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, “the Declaration outlaws discrimination against indigenous peoples, promotes their full and effective participation in all matters that effect them, as well as their right to remain distinct and to pursue their own visions of economic and social development.” International Human Rights scholar and Native Hawaiian attorney Mililani Trask explained, “although it is not a binding treaty, it is a statement of intent and understanding intended to support and expand upon the body of international human rights law as it affects indigenous people.”

Although the Declaration passed the United Nations General Assembly by an overwhelming majority of 143 nations in favor, four against, and eleven abstentions, the United States along with Australia, Canada, and New Zealand, comprised the only four votes in opposition. Nonetheless, the United States is party to many international treaties that recognize the ability of groups to sustain their cultural identities including: the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (“ICCPR”), which the United States and 144 other nations have ratified, the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (“ICEARD”), ratified by 155 nations including the United States, and the Charter of the Organization of American States (“OAS”), ratified by the United States and 34 other nations. Article VI, clause 2 of the U.S. Constitution mandates that treaties ratified by the United States are part of the supreme law of the land and thus, binding.

To learn more about the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the International Working Group on Indigenous Affairs visit

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