A brief history on the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

1983 - The initial steps

The formulation of a Draft Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples first began in 1983 within the Working Group on Indigenous Populations. For almost a decade the Working Group devoted a large part of its time to drafting this text. Representatives of indigenous peoples, government delegations and experts on the subject participated very actively in this process.

In 1993, the Working Group adopted the text of the Declaration and sent it to its superior body, the Sub-Commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights, which, in turn, adopted the text in 1994 and sent it to the Commission on Human Rights for its consideration.

1995- The establishment of the Working Group on the Draft Declaration

In 1995, the Commission on Human Rights considered the text submitted by the Sub-Commission and decided to establish an Inter-sessional Working Group (Resolution of the Commission on Human Rights 1995 / 32, 3 March 1995) with the mandate to consider the text presented and draw up a draft Declaration for its consideration and adoption by the UN General Assembly within the framework of the International Decade of the World's Indigenous People (1995-2004). In 2005 the mandate of the Working Group was renewed.

The Commission on Human Rights also set up a procedure that made it possible for indigenous peoples' organisations to participate actively in the drafting work at the Commission level. That meant that indigenous peoples' organisations without consultative status with the Economic and Social Council were allowed to help draft the Declaration. Those entitled to vote within this Working Group were the member governments of the Commission on Human Rights. Governments that were not members of the Commission, NGOs with consultative status and indigenous organisations with special accreditation had observer status.

2007 - UN General Assembly adopts the Declaration

With an overwhelming majority of 143 votes in favour, only 4 negative votes cast (Canada, Australia, New Zealand, United States) and 11 abstentions, the United Nations General Assembly (GA) adopted the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples on September 13, 2007 after more than 20 years of negotiations between nation-states and Indigenous Peoples.

Les Malezer, Chair of the International Indigenous Peoples' Caucus, welcomed the adoption of the Declaration in a statement to the General Assembly:

"The Declaration does not represent solely the viewpoint of the United Nations, nor does it represent solely the viewpoint of the Indigenous Peoples. It is a Declaration which combines our views and interests and which sets the framework for the future. It is a tool for peace and justice, based upon mutual recognition and mutual respect."

Read the GA resolution, including the full text of the Declaration (pdf)

Read the International Indigenous Caucus' statement (pdf)

Read the statement of the Chair of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (pdf)