New Zealand Backs UN Declaration on Indigenous Rights
NEW YORK -- New Zealand on Monday announced its support for a U.N. declaration protecting the rights of more than 370 million Indigenous peoples worldwide, and the United States is set to announce that it will review its opposition to the declaration, Associated Press reports.
declaration affirms the equality of indigenous peoples and their right to
maintain their own institutions, cultures and spiritual traditions. It also
establishes standards to combat discrimination and marginalization and
eliminate human rights violations against them.
the General Assembly adopted the declaration in September 2007, there were four
opponents - the U.S., Canada, Australia and New Zealand - who argued that it
was incompatible with their existing laws.
announced its support for the declaration in April 2009, and New Zealand´s
Minister of Maori Affairs Pita Sharples announced his government´s approval at
Monday´s opening session of the U.N. Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, which
about 2,000 native peoples are attending.
Ambassador Susan Rice is scheduled to address the forum on Tuesday and will
announce that "we will be conducting a formal review of the declaration
and the U.S. position on it," according to an excerpt from her prepared
text obtained by The Associated Press.
first nations face serious challenges: disproportionate and dire poverty,
unemployment, environmental degradation, health care gaps, violent crime and
bitter discrimination," Rice says. "We recognize that, for many
around the world, this declaration provides a framework for addressing
Canadian government said in a speech by the governor general last month that it
would take steps to endorse the U.N. declaration "in a manner fully
consistent with Canada´s constitution and laws." Indigenous groups have
urged the government to embrace the human rights instrument without conditions
declaration, which is not legally binding, was approved by the 192-member
General Assembly after more than 20 years of deliberation. The vote was 143-4,
with 11 abstentions and 34 countries not voting.
calls on states to prevent or redress the forced migration of indigenous
peoples, the seizure of their land or their forced integration into other
cultures. It also grants indigenous groups control over their religious and
cultural sites and the right to manage their own education systems, including
teaching in their own languages.
opponents and many countries that abstained said they wanted to work toward a
solution, but they took exception to several key parts of the declaration which
they said would give indigenous peoples too many rights and clash with existing
Zealand´s Sharples said that "when voting took place in 2007, Maori - my
people - were hugely disappointed that our country had voted against it and
since that time many Maori have been working" to reverse the government´s
hope that they´re relieved and happy that we now have a commitment as a country
to the declaration without any conditions being laid down onto it," he
told a news conference.
said the government´s change of heart "reflects perhaps the impact of a
Maori party that has just developed, and its influence on the government."
He said New Zealand will now be able to address human rights and indigenous
rights throughout the world.
Gonnella Frichner, a North American member of the Permanent Forum and founder
of the American Indian Law Alliance, said she is "hopeful" that both
Canada and the United States will support the declaration.
President Barack Obama´s campaign for the White House, she said, "he did
state very clearly to indigenous leaders here in the United States that he was
committed to the adoption of the declaration, ... so we still feel very
positive about that and hope that he will commit to that promise."
Frichner, a lawyer,
professor and member of the Onandaga nation, said indigenous delegates have
also been lobbying countries that abstained, and Colombia is now supporting the
Here are some facts about the United Nations
Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples:
Declaration says indigenous people have the right to the lands and resources
they traditionally owned.
- They have
the right to self government
- They also
have the right to maintain distinct political, legal, economic, social and cultural
declaration is non binding, which means it has no legal force
There are around 370 million indigenous people on the planet
Declaration was first adopted by the UN General Assembly during its 62nd
session at UN Headquarters in New York City on 13 September 2007
- The idea
originated in 1982 when the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) set up its
Working Group on Indigenous Populations (WGIP), on the problem of
discrimination faced by indigenous peoples
- The vote
in 2007 was 143 countries in favour, four against, and 11 abstaining. The four
that voted against were Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United States
abstaining countries were Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Burundi, Colombia,
Georgia, Kenya, Nigeria, Russian Federation, Samoa and Ukraine
34 member states were absent from the vote
has become the first country to approve the UN declaration of indigenous rights
and make it law there.
signed the declaration after Kevin Rudd came to power. His government formally
endorsed it on April 3, 2009.
Zealand, under PM John Key, which is in government with the support of the
Maori Party, approved the declaration on April 20, 2010
- Canada is
on the path of approving the declaration
- The US
and the UK have yet to approve the declaration. The US states the declaration
does not provide a clear definition of exactly whom the term "indigenous
peoples" is intended to cover and the UK states that no specific group in
the UK can be described as "indigenous" in the way the Declaration
- After 20 years of negotiations between Indigenous Peoples and nation-states,
the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Declaration on the Rights of
Indigenous Peoples in September 2007.
The Declaration recognises the human rights of Indigenous peoples to:
self-determination; land and natural resources; developing and protecting
cultural, political, religious and educational institutions, and intellectual
property; freedom from discrimination, assimilation and destruction of culture;
economic and social development; environmental conservation; free, prior and
informed consent, consultation, and participation in decision-making; fair and
mutually acceptable procedures for conflict resolution; and fair and adequate
compensation for rights violations.
In particular, the Declaration calls attention to the needs of Indigenous
elders, women, youth, children and persons with disabilities in the implementation
of these rights.