Tenth Anniversary of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
On 13 September 2007, the General Assembly adopted the landmark United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. It was a major milestone for the cooperation and solidarity between indigenous peoples and Member States, who worked side by side over two decades to prepare the Declaration. As we celebrate the tenth anniversary of the Declaration, UN DESA Voice takes a look at the achievements and challenges of the last decade.
The Declaration is the most comprehensive international instrument on the rights of indigenous peoples. It embodies a global consensus on the rights of indigenous peoples and establishes a universal framework of minimum standards for their survival, dignity and well-being.
A high-level event to mark the tenth anniversary of the Declaration was organised by the President of the UN General Assembly on 25 April 2017, during the 16th Session of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues. Member States, indigenous peoples from the seven indigenous socio-cultural regions, United Nations entities all took part.
On 13 September, the University of Colorado Law School is holding another event, co-organized by the Secretariat of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, UN DESA’s Division for Social Policy and Development. The event will mark the Declaration’s anniversary with two days of dialogues, presentations and cultural celebrations.
The Declaration – ten years on
Despite major progress in implementing the Declaration over the last decade in several countries, a gap persists between formally recognizing indigenous peoples and implementing policies on the ground. As a result, indigenous peoples continue to face exclusion, marginalization and major challenges in enjoying their basic rights.
Constitutional reforms can be an essential step towards ensuring the recognition, inclusion and promotion of the rights of indigenous peoples. Since the adoption of the Declaration, several countries, particularly in the Latin American region, have taken steps to recognize the identity and rights of indigenous peoples. Regional and national courts have been invoking the Declaration to protect indigenous peoples’ rights and policymakers are gradually including those rights into national laws and policies.
At the international level, the first World Conference on Indigenous Peoples was held in September 2014, and 2016 saw the launch of a United Nations System-Wide Action Plan on Indigenous Peoples. Three specific indigenous mechanisms have been set up, namely the Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples; the UN Permanent Forum on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
With the 2030 Agenda’s focus on placing people at the centre of sustainable development, the next decade can bring further advancements. Only when indigenous peoples, Member States and other partners work together, can we ensure that the Sustainable Development Goals are met and that no one is left behind.
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