The ICJ and Survival International have called on the UN General Assembly to adopt the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, at its current session in New York.
Representatives of indigenous peoples across the world, Survival International and many other NGOs, lobbied over the past two decades for the text of the Declaration to be finalized. It was adopted by the UN Human Rights Council at its first session in June this year and was sent to the General Assembly for final approval.
The Declaration sets out benchmarks that can be used to judge the way that governments treat tribal peoples. Although it is not legally binding, it is the result of many years of intensive intergovernmental negotiations, with the full participation of indigenous representatives, and stands as the authoritative policy of the international community on the rights of indigenous people.
The Declaration recognises the rights of indigenous peoples to their land and to live as they wish. It provides that indigenous peoples must be protected from forced assimilation, forced removal from their lands and the destruction of their culture. Indigenous peoples have a right to reparation for violations of their rights, including restitution and compensation.
“After many years of negotiations and compromises, this Declaration is ready for final adoption, an opportunity that must not be lost”, said Nicholas Howen, Secretary-General of the ICJ.
“This Declaration recognises that indigenous peoples have rights and must be able to enforce them to protect their way of life”, he added.
Survival’s Director Stephen Corry said today, “The imperial era was largely based on the dispossession of most of the world’s indigenous peoples and it cannot be considered over until the world accepts these peoples’ rights. The UN must get on with it and ensure the general assembly finally approves this declaration. Today’s indigenous peoples are still threatened with extinction; they need this declaration now.”