UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) is an international instrument adopted by the United Nations on September 13, 2007, to enshrine (according to Article 43) the rights that “constitute the minimum standards for the survival, dignity and well-being of the indigenous peoples of the world.” The UNDRIP protects collective rights that may not be addressed in other human rights charters that emphasize individual rights, and it also safeguards the individual rights of Indigenous people. The Declaration is the product of almost 25 years of deliberation by U.N. member states and Indigenous groups.
The first of the UNDRIP’s 46 articles declares that “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 Rights(4) and international human rights law.” The Declaration goes on to guarantee the rights of Indigenous peoples to enjoy and practice their cultures and customs, their religions, and their languages, and to develop and strengthen their economies and their social and political institutions. Indigenous peoples have the right to be free from discrimination, and the right to a nationality.
Significantly, in Article 3 the UNDRIP recognizes Indigenous peoples’ right to self-determination, which includes the right “to freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development.” Article 4 affirms Indigenous peoples’ right “to autonomy or self-government in matters relating to their internal and local affairs,” and Article 5 protects their right “to maintain and strengthen their distinct political, legal, economic, social and cultural institutions.” Article 26 states that “Indigenous peoples have the right to the lands, territories and resources which they have traditionally owned, occupied or otherwise used or acquired,” and it directs states to give legal recognition to these territories. The Declaration does not override the rights of Indigenous peoples contained in their treaties and agreements with individual states, and it commands these states to observe and enforce the agreements.
The UNDRIP was adopted by 144 countries, with 11 abstentions and 4 countries voting against it. These four countries were Canada, the USA, New Zealand, and Australia. Since 2009 Canada, Australia and New Zealand have reversed their positions and now support the Declaration, while the United States has announced that they will revise their positions.
Read the UNDRIP here.