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A Milestione Victory for Indigenous Peoples All Over the World!
Nations have once and for all in one voice upheld the rights of the IP. The United Nations Declaration on Indigenous Peoples Rights was adopted on September 13, 2007 before the UN concluded its 61st General Assembly.
UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues Chairperson Victoria Tauli-Corpuz said in her statement from the UN headquarters in New York: “Through the adoption of the Declaration on the Rights of the Indigenous Peoples, the United Nations marks a historical milestone in its long history of developing and establishing international human rights standards. It marks a major victory for Indigenous Peoples who actively took part in crafting this Declaration. This day will be forever etched in our history and memories as a significant gain in our long struggle for our rights as distinct peoples and cultures.”
Majority of 144 states, including the Philippines, vote 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 UN Declaration.
A non-binding text, the Declaration states that native peoples have the right “to the recognition, observance and enforcement of treaties” concluded with States or their successors. It also prohibits discrimination against indigenous peoples and promotes their full and effective participation in all matters that concern them.
Philippine Indigenous Peoples Human Rights Watch coordinator Joan Carling hailed the Philippine government for voting for the Declaration, but stressed: “Let’s hope government now reviews its policies favoring corporate interests and ensures that indigenous peoples participate in the management, control and development of their land and resources.”
“The importance of this document for indigenous peoples and, more broadly, for the human rights agenda, cannot be underestimated,” said General Assembly President Sheikha Haya Rashed Al Khalifa in a statement delivered by Assembly Vice-President, Aminu Bashir Wali of Nigeria. She warned that, even with the progress achieved by events such as the 1995 first United Nations International Decade of the World’s Indigenous Peoples and the beginning of the Second International Decade last year, native peoples still faced marginalisation, extreme poverty and other human rights violations. They were often dragged into conflicts and land disputes that threatened their way of life and very survival; and, suffered from a lack of access to health care and education.
Tauli-Corpuz said that the long time devoted to the Declaration (over two decades of negotiations) was not wasted because it paved the way for “constructive dialogue” among all stakeholders and led to “a better understanding of diverse world-views and cultures, a realignment of positions and, finally to the building of partnerships between states and indigenous peoples for a more and just and sustainable world.”
While she respected the interpretive statements made by Member States, indigenous people believed the significance and implications of the Declaration should not be minimized in any way. That would amount to discrimination. “For us, the correct way to interpret the Declaration is to read it in its entirety or in a holistic manner and to relate it with existing international law,” she said.
She said that effective implementation of the Declaration would test the commitment of States and the whole international community to protect, respect and fulfill indigenous peoples’ collective and individual human rights. ”I call on Governments, the UN system, indigenous peoples and civil society at large to rise to the historic task before us and make the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples a living document for the common future of humanity,” she concluded.
(Sources: http://www.un.org/ and http://www.treatycouncil.org)