UN Expert Calls On Assembly To Adopt Declaration On The Rights Of Indigenous Peoples
New York, Oct 17 2006 1:00PM
Member States should follow the lead of the United Nations Human Rights Council and quickly adopt the Declaration on the
Rights of Indigenous Peoples without change, an independent UN expert has told the General Assembly.
Rodolfo Stavenhagen, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous people
also warned the Assembly’s
Third Committee yesterday of the “implementation gap” between legal standards and substantive change in the lives of
He said that in many countries, international norms and principles were not always applied in domestic legislation,
adding that public officials were often ignorant of international norms and the jurisprudence of courts did not reflect
Currently, the UN estimates that there are some 370 million indigenous peoples living in different parts of the world.
José Antonio Ocampo, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, backed the call for adoption of the
Declaration, saying that it provided the international community with a comprehensive international standard towards
which all should strive together.
Mr. Ocampo noted that too often indigenous people experienced violations of their basic human rights and were excluded
from national development processes, pointing out that the UN had an obligation to continue to promote respect for the
full and effective participation of indigenous peoples in development processes at all levels.
While many delegations expressed support for the Declaration some expressed strong reservations, although almost all the
15 representatives from countries and regional groups that took part in the debate expressed concern over the problems
facing indigenous people and urged greater international cooperation to address these issues.
In her response, the representative of New Zealand, Rosemary Banks –– speaking also on behalf of Australia and the
United States –– said those countries could not accept the adoption of a text that was confusing, unworkable,
contradictory and deeply flawed.
For example, she said that the Declaration’s reference to self-determination could be misrepresented as conferring a
unilateral right of self-determination and possible secession, thus threatening the political unity, territorial
integrity and stability of existing Member States.
The representative of Colombia, Claudia Blum, also expressed concerns over the manner in which the Human Rights Council
had adopted the Declaration, noting that more work was needed to achieve a text that could be adopted without
reservations. The Council adopted the draft Declaration in June at its first session after the legislation had been
debated for years.