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Indigenous Rights charter meets hurdle

Published by MAC on 2006-11-28

Indigenous Rights charter meets hurdle

28th November 2006

The Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples was blocked last week as it reached its final stage before a committee of the UN General Assembly, despite considerable backing earlier in the year.


UN affirms Indigenous Peoples are not equal to all other Peoples


28th November 2006

The Indigenous Caucus is shocked and outraged by the actions of the United Nations, who today failed to adopt the most important international instrument for the promotion and protection of human rights for Indigenous Peoples. The Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which represents more than 20 years of work within the UN, constitutes the minimum standards for their survival, dignity and well-being.

The newly created UN Human Rights Council, which is the premier international body to deal with human rights, adopted the Declaration in June of this year. The Declaration was one of the substantial achievements of the Council. However, it was delivered a huge blow today by African States, most of whom had chosen not to participate throughout this standard-setting process. Africa took the lead in blocking the adoption of the Declaration, which strategy was supported and encouraged by New Zealand, Canada, Australia and the United States.

It is clear that these actions are a politicization of human rights that show complete disregard for the ongoing human rights abuses suffered by Indigenous Peoples. This betrayal and injustice severely impacts 370 million Indigenous people in all regions of the world, who are among the most marginalized and vulnerable.

On May 24, 2002, Secretary General Kofi Annan, had proclaimed that the world's Indigenous Peoples ".have a home at the United Nations."

However, today's vote by opposing States clearly demonstrates that this is not the case.

Indigenous Peoples Caucus / At UN Headquarters, New York


Les Malezer, Chairperson, Indigenous Peoples' Caucus - +1 917 774 7346

Mattias Ahren, Arctic Caucus, Indigenous Peoples - +47 47 379161 Grand Chief Ed John, North American Caucus, Indigenous Peoples - +1 604 219 1705

Jennifer Tauli Corpuz, Asian Caucus, Indigenous Peoples - +1 520 461 2042

Statement of the Indian Law Resource Center regarding the delay in adoption of the United Nations

Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

Indian Law Resource Center

Centro de Recursos Juridicos para los Pueblos Indigenas

602 North Ewing Street . Helena, Montana 59601

(406) 449-2006 . Fax (406) 449-2031 . Email

28th November 2006

Several African nations, led by Namibia, were successful today in their bid to delay the adoption of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples at a meeting of the Third Committee of the General Assembly.

Namibia sponsored a resolution asking for a delay in its adoption possibly until next September. The resolution was adopted by a majority vote.

Concerns were expressed in the Third Committee about the right of self-determination for indigenous peoples. Concerns also were expressed about the lack of a definition of who is indigenous, and that this could lead to uncertainty and instability within African nations. These concerns have been discussed for years, but most of the African countries did not take part in those discussions.

"We are very disappointed that the Declaration will not be immediately adopted. But we understand that there are concerns because this is a very serious declaration of rights," said Robert "Tim" Coulter, executive director of the Indian Law Resource Center in Helena, Mont. and one of the original authors of the declaration.

"The Indian Law Resource Center is prepared to continue fighting for adoption of the Declaration, and we believe that the concerns expressed by Namibia and other countries can be resolved so that the Declaration can be adopted within the coming year without weakening indigenous peoples' rights," he said.

"It is especially important that consultations about the Declaration in the coming months include indigenous representatives, especially representatives of indigenous governments. This is a crucial time for representatives of indigenous governments to join the process to win adoption of the Declaration," Coulter said.

"We must continue the work of persuading states to respect our rights and to adopt the strongest possible declaration," he added.

For more information, call 406/449-2006 or email

First Nations Leadership Council Troubled

By Today's Vote at the United Nations Inaction on Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Inexcusable

For Immediate Release

28th November 2006

Coast Salish Territory/Vancouver BC - After two decades of discussion and development, the slow pace of approval of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples came to a halt today at the current session of the UN General Assembly in New York. A resolution put forward by the Namibian delegation - in effect, a non-action motion on the Declaration - was supported by a majority with 82 Nation States voting in favour, 67 Nation States voting not in favour and 25 Nation States abstaining.

Grand Chief Ed John, First Nations Summit Executive member, who is in New York on behalf of the Assembly of First Nations and working with the Indigenous Peoples' Caucus, stated "Today is a very sad day for the United Nations and a very serious setback for the integrity of the newly formed Human Rights Council who urged the General Assembly to formally adopt this historic document. It now appears that the most likely outcome will be that the United Nations never formally adopts the Declaration. This is a remarkable and bizarre development."

"Canada was positioned to play a significant role in supporting the Declaration but Canada chose to actively oppose the Declaration as a member of the Human Rights Council and at the General Assembly," commented BC Assembly of First Nations Regional Chief Shawn Atleo. "We share the deep frustration of all those who worked long and hard to get the Declaration to this point. We sincerely hope that the Declaration is not lost and that we can find a way in which to revitalize this important work."

Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, President of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs, stated "Canada no longer enjoys a 'blue beret' reputation at the United Nations. Canada's disgraceful and disgusting conduct against Indigenous People at both the national and international levels is being noted. It is simply shameful that as a Council member of the Human Rights Council, Canada pretends to espouse the highest standards and protection of Human Rights. It is those countries who have lived with the ravages of colonialism now speak for continuing colonialism for all Indigenous Peoples."

The Declaration was adopted by the UN Human Rights Council this past June and was recommended for adoption by the General Assembly. Canada was one of few countries to vote against the Declaration in June.


Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, Union of BC Indian Chiefs, (250) 490-5314 Colin Braker, First Nations Summit, (604) 926-9903 or (604) 328-4094 Heather Gillies, BC Assembly of First Nations, (604) 837-6908

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