Experts hail Australia’s backing of UN declaration of indigenous peoples’ rights

A participant at the 7th session of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (file photo)

3 April 2009 – Three United Nations experts today welcomed Australia’s endorsement of the United Nations landmark declaration outlining the rights of the world’s estimated 370 million indigenous people and outlawing discrimination against them.

Australia, along with Canada, New Zealand and the United States, originally voted against the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples when it was adopted by the General Assembly in September 2007, a move that followed more than two decades of debate.

A non-binding text, the Declaration sets out the individual and collective rights of indigenous peoples, as well as their rights to culture, identity, language, employment, health, education and other issues.

The Declaration emphasizes the rights of indigenous peoples to maintain and strengthen their own institutions, cultures and traditions and to pursue their development in keeping with their own needs and aspirations.

It also prohibits discrimination against indigenous peoples and promotes their full and effective participation in all matters that concern them, and their right to remain distinct and to pursue their own visions of economic and social development.

“The rights recognized in the Declaration constitute the minimum standards for the survival, dignity and well-being of the indigenous peoples of the world,” according to a statement issued by James Anaya, the Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation and fundamental freedoms of indigenous people; John Henriksen, the Chairperson-Rapportueur of the UN Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples; and Victoria Tauli-Corupz, Chairperson of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues.

Australia’s endorsement of the Declaration is of “crucial importance” since it strengthens the global consensus on the rights of indigenous peoples, the experts noted.

They also called on Member States to implement the agreement at both national and regional levels, in consultation with indigenous peoples.


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