Indigenous Peoples' Rights
Despite few progresses over the last decade, Indigenous Peoples around the world continue to live in hardship and danger due to the failure of states to recognize and implement their Human Rights properly. Across the world they experience the consequences of historical colonization and invasion of their territories and face discrimination because of their distinct cultures, identities, and ways of life. The rights of Indigenous Peoples are in theory promoted by international and regional Human Rights mechanisms and also by ‘especial’ institutions and bodies.
Short review on the situation of Indigenous Peoples and Human Rights:
- Universal Declaration of Human Rights (adopted by the GA, 1948)
- International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (adopted by the GA, 1966)
- International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (adopted by the GA 1966)
Special treaties and initiatives concerning the rights of Indigenous Peoples:
ILO Convention No. 169
The International Labour Organisation’s (ILO) Convention No. 169 remains the only international norm guaranteeing the Indigenous Peoples legally-binding protection and entitlement to a variety of basic rights. In 44 articles, the convention for “peoples in independent countries who are regarded as indigenous” and “tribal peoples in independent countries” guarantees the fundamental rights of the Indigenous Peoples. The convention was agreed in 1989 and came into force on 5 September 1991. Today, it has been ratified by 20 countries.
UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
The UN Declaration was adopted by a majority of 143 states in favor, 4 votes against (Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United States) and 11 abstentions (Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Burundi, Colombia, Georgia, Kenya, Nigeria, Russian Federation, Samoa and Ukraine).
The Declaration establishes a universal framework of minimum standards for the survival, dignity, well-being, and rights of the world's Indigenous Peoples. It addresses both individual and collective rights; cultural rights and identity; rights to education, health, employment, language, and others. It outlaws discrimination against Indigenous Peoples and promotes their full and effective participation in all matters which concern them. It also ensures their right to remain distinct and to pursue their own priorities in economic, social, and cultural development. The Declaration explicitly encourages harmonious and cooperative relations between States and indigenous peoples.
The United Nations has created different platforms for Indigenous Peoples in order to advise and take their concerns to governments and economic decision-makers on their situation:
Permanent Forum: Is an advisory body to the Economic and Social Council with a mandate to discuss indigenous issues related to economic and social development, culture, the environment, education, health, and human rights.
Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples: On December 2007, the Human Rights Council adopted by consensus, in its resolution 6/36, the establishment of a new Expert Mechanism on the Right of Indigenous Peoples. The Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples was established to provide the Council with thematic expertise on the rights of indigenous peoples in the manner and form requested by the Council. The expert mechanism consists of five independent experts. The independent experts are appointed for a three-year period and may be reelected for one additional period.
Special Rapporteur: The Commission on Human Rights decided to appoint in 2001 a Special Rapporteur on the rights of Indigenous Peoples, as part of the system of thematic Special Procedures. The Special Rapporteur’s mandate was renewed by the Commission on Human Rights in 2004, and by the Human Rights Council in 2007. The Special Rapporteur undertakes efforts to follow-up on the recommendations included in his predecessor’s reports in relation to the foregoing areas of work. Additionally, he reports annually on his activities to the Human Rights Council.