Background information and mandate of the Special Rappporteur

In response to the persistence of existing obstacles to the full and effective protection of the human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous peoples, the Commission on Human Rights decided, in 2001, to appoint a Special Rapporteur on the Situation of the Human Rights of Indigenous People. The appointment of the Special Rapporteur is a significant achievement of indigenous peoples in their on-going pursuit for the protection and recognition of their fundamental rights by the United Nations.

On 28 September 2007, the Human Rights Council, during its sixth session, decided to renew for an additional period of three years, the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms of Indigenous People.

Professor Rodolfo Stavenhagen was the first United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms of Indigenous People. He was appointed by the UN Commission on Human Rights in 2001. In 2008 the United Nations Human Rights Council appointed Professor James Anaya to the mandate of Special Rapporteur.

In September 2010, the Human Rights Council renewed the mandate of the Special Rapporteur for a period of three years, and in doing so changed the title of the mandate from “Special Rapporteur on the situation of the human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous people” to “Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples” (A/HRC/15/14).

In May 2014, Ms Victoria Tauli-Corpuz was appointed by the United Nations Human Rights Council to the mandate of Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Undoubtedly, the Special Rapporteur’s mandate has been a crucial instrument for making the situation of indigenous peoples more visible in the work of human rights bodies and international agencies, and has opened spaces for dialogue among indigenous peoples, states and international organizations.

The Special Rapporteur's mandate is:

  • To gather information and communications from all relevant sources – including governments, indigenous peoples and their communities and organisations – on violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous peoples.
  • To formulate recommendations and proposals on measures and activities to prevent and remedy violations of the basic human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous peoples.
  • To work in close contact with other special rapporteurs, special representatives, working groups and independent experts of the Commission on Human Rights and the Sub-Commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights.

The Special Rapporteur can investigate specific human rights complaints. The Special Rapporteur is authorised to take complaints from indigenous individuals, groups or communities, including requests for urgent action, to investigate them, to make visits to the countries where the complaints originate, and to make recommendations to the country violating indigenous human rights and to the various human rights organs of the UN as to steps they should take to remedy the violations or to prevent future violations.

Method of work

In the fulfillment of her/his mandate, the Special Rapporteur:

  • Presents annual reports on particular topics or situations of special importance regarding the promotion and protection of the rights of indigenous peoples.
  • Undertakes country visits.
  • Exchanges information with Governments concerning alleged violations of the rights of indigenous peoples.
  • Undertakes activities to follow-up on the recommendations included in her/his reports.

Making use of the Special Rapporteur

IWGIA would like to encourage indigenous organisations and communities to make use of the special Rapporteur mechanism by submitting information to her/him pertaining to the violation of their rights, so that she/he can act on such information.

Contact

The mandate of the Special Rapporteur is serviced by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights:

OHCHR, United Nations
1211 Geneva 10
Switzerland
Tel. + 41 - 22 917 91 34
fax + 41 - 22 917 60 10
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The procedures for submitting information to the Special Rapporteur can be found on UNHRCs webpage for the Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

More information