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The UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

On September 13, 2007 the UN General Assembly adopted the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. This followed more than twenty years of discussion within the UN system. Indigenous representatives played a key role in the development of this Declaration.

There are over 370 million indigenous people in Africa, the Americas, Asia, Europe and the Pacific. They are among the most impoverished, marginalized and frequently victimized people in the world.

This universal human rights instrument is celebrated globally as a symbol of triumph and hope. While it is not legally binding on States, and does not, therefore, impose legal obligations on governments, the Declaration carries considerable moral force. Effective implementation of the Declaration would result in significant improvements in the global situation of indigenous peoples.

The content of the Declaration on the rights of indigenous peoples

The Declaration is a long and complex document with a preamble and 46 articles.

The text recognises the wide range of basic human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous peoples. Among these are the right to unrestricted self-determination, an inalienable collective right to the ownership, use and control of lands, territories and other natural resources, their rights in terms of maintaining and developing their own political, religious, cultural and educational institutions along with the protection of their cultural and intellectual property.

The Declaration highlights the requirement for prior and informed consultation, participation and consent in activities of any kind that impact on indigenous peoples, their property or territories. It also establishes the requirement for fair and adequate compensation for violation of the rights recognised in the Declaration and establishes guarantees against ethnocide and genocide.

The Declaration also provides for fair and mutually acceptable procedures to resolve conflicts between indigenous peoples and States, including procedures such as negotiations, mediation, arbitration, national courts and international and regional mechanisms for denouncing and examining human rights violations.

Download the full version of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples or read it online

Download a plain language version of the Draft Declaration (pdf)

Read the brief history of the making of the Declaration here