UN expert marks first anniversary of landmark declaration on indigenous peoples

Participants at the seventh session of Forum on Indigenous Issues

13 September 2008 – A United Nations independent expert today commemorated the first anniversary of the General Assembly's adoption of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, calling on States to renew their commitment to the historic document.

Earlier this week, James Anaya, the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous peoples, presented his first annual report to the Geneva-based Human Rights Council.

In it, he details the different measures that countries, international organizations, indigenous peoples themselves and others can take to ensure that the Declaration and other human rights instruments are effectively implemented.

Characterizing the Declaration as a “remedial instrument,” Mr. Anaya told the Council that it “takes basic human rights principles that are applicable to all and elaborates upon them in the specific historic, cultural, political and social context of indigenous peoples.”

The document seeks to overcome the marginalization and discrimination that indigenous people have faced due to “historical processes of colonization, conquest and dispossession,” he noted.

The expert also cautioned that such legacies persist, and urged States and the international community to take steps to ensure the 350 million indigenous peoples in more than 70 nations are guaranteed the rights enshrined in the Declaration and other pacts.

In honour of the anniversary, the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) will hold its first-ever meeting of representatives of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues and of the UN Inter-Agency Support Group on Indigenous Peoples' Issues from 15-17 September in Paris.


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