Supporting the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
The 10th Annual United Nations Student Conference on Human Rights (UNSCHR) will take place 5-7 December 2007. The theme this year is “Recognising the Rights of Indigenous Peoples”. This conference supports the goals of the Second International Decade of the World’s Indigenous People, which aims to strengthen cooperation for finding solutions to problems faced by indigenous peoples
Indigenous peoples are entitled to enjoy all existing human rights. Such rights are set out in the Universal Declaration on Human Rights (1948). United Nations committees which oversee the implementation of binding agreements - the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (1976), the International Convention on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (1976), the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (1969) and the Convention on the Rights of the Child (1990), which includes specific provisions relating to indigenous people – consider indigenous issues when examining reports by States on their performance under these treaties.
However, too many indigenous people find themselves in positions where their basic human rights are violated daily. On 29 June 2006, the Human Rights Council in Geneva adopted a Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples with a view to eliminating human rights violations endured by over 370 million indigenous people worldwide.
The Human Rights Council, upon its adoption of the Declaration, recommended that it be further adopted by the General Assembly. However, the process of adoption was postponed by the Third Committee of the General Assembly in December 2006 due to reservations on the part of various Member States.
After twenty years of debate, the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples was finally adopted by the General Assembly on 13 September 2007 after 143 Member States voted in favor, 11 abstained and four – Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United States – voted against it. The Declaration emphasizes the rights of indigenous peoples to maintain and strengthen their own institutions, cultures and traditions. It also prohibits discrimination against indigenous peoples and promotes their full participation in all matters that concern them, and their right to pursue their own visions of economic and social development.1
During the 2007 UN Students Human Rights Conference, we look forward to raising awareness about indigenous people and their important contributions to society globally, highlighting the significance of this action towards achieving a just and non-discriminatory international human rights policy, and encouraging Member States to implement the Declaration at the national level.
The 2007 UNSCHR conference will unite approximately 60 youth from around the world at the UN Headquarters in New York for discussion, collaboration, and action related to the rights of indigenous peoples. Each co-sponsor will bring up to 12 student representatives to New York to participate. Many others will join through videoconferencing and web-casting.
Prior to the conference, participants will conduct their own research on universal human rights and those specific to indigenous peoples, and share their ideas across cultures through a web-based forum on the UN Cyberschoolbus website. In addition, participants will be able to interact, for the first time, with indigenous representatives and with each other through the use of live video chats during the months leading up to the conference. A schedule of live video chats will be posted soon.
During the conference, student representatives in New York will work with students from other countries participating by videoconferencing and web-casting to develop a consensus on these issues and draft a Plan of Action. The President of the UN General Assembly will be asked to be present at the end of the final day of the conference to accept the Plan of Action from the chairperson of the conference and, as in past years, request its dissemination to UN Member States.
Background to the Conference
In December 1998, the United Nations Department of Public Information invited students from around the world to a conference at UN Headquarters in New York to help celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The conference goal was to produce the Youth Declaration of Human Rights.
This program at the UN was so successful that students lobbied to make the conference an annual event that would be scheduled on or near to Human Rights Day (December 10th). The UN Department of Public Information agreed to host the conference. The Carol Baur Foundation, Global Education Motivators, InterConnections 21 and the UN International School in New York City were founding co-sponsors. A total of nine such annual conferences have taken place since 1998.
While the theme of the conference changes each year, the goals of this annual event remain the same: to promote awareness and prompt action among student leaders about human rights in general, as well as the specific rights issues related to the current year’s theme.
Participants will explore the theme “Recognising the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.” The conference offers student leaders the opportunity to network and develop important leadership skills such as public speaking, team and consensus building, negotiating, and research and drafting.