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Tool launched to assess Indigenous Peoples’ rights in national constitutions

A publication, reviewed and endorsed by IWGIA, offers a new hands-on method to assess the constitutions of nation-states and their inclusion of Indigenous Peoples’ rights.

The Indigenous Peoples’ Rights in Constitutions Assessment Tool, published on Indigenous Peoples’ Day in August 2020 by the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (International IDEA), aims to make constitutions more accessible by breaking down their complexity and enabling people with different levels of technical understanding to analyse their constitution and other founding pieces of legislation, systematically from the perspective of Indigenous Peoples’ rights.

“At a time when it is more important than ever to enable innovative, sustainable and effective protection and promotion of indigenous peoples’ rights, International IDEA’s Assessment Tool provides all of us dedicated to this issue with an actionable methodology to pursue our work,” IWGIA, Assessment Tool foreword.

A constitution ultimately determines the relationship between citizens and government, as such a constitution is the reflection of a nation’s core values and its recognition and protection of its citizens’ fundamental rights. “The Assessment Tool guides users through an analysis of constitutional language, and also allows for a better understanding of the potentialities of how constitutions can protect and promote indigenous peoples’ rights, primarily by seeing how other countries have addressed these issues in their constitutions.” IDEA, Assessment Tool preface.

The Assessment Tool highlights how, if rights-based protections for specific groups, like Indigenous Peoples, are ingrained in a constitution, it enhances the protection of these rights in the long-run. Rights included in a constitution can be built upon and advanced through institutional and legal innovation – practices the Assessment Tool also describes using examples from around the world.  In this way, it can be used by indigenous peoples’ organizations and advocates for evidence-based advocacy to promote innovation, as well as by state governments and other actors involved in designing and implementing constitutions.

Through a presentation of international standards and comparative examples from different constitutions, legislation and institutional practice from Africa, Latin America, Asia and the Pacific, and Europe, the Assessment Tool uses questions and explanations to guide users through an assessment of to what extent Indigenous Peoples’ rights, as recognized under international law, are reflected in the relevant laws in their country. This provides a baseline analysis from which the Assessment Tool encourages users to develop advocacy plans and “actions” to improve the protection and promotion of Indigenous Peoples’ rights.  

As recognized by the UN, “Although numerous indigenous peoples worldwide are self-governing and some have been successful in establishing autonomy in varying forms, many indigenous peoples still come under the ultimate authority of central governments who exercise control over their lands, territories and resources… In many of our societies, the social contract, at the very least, needs some revision.”[1] Constitutions represent the social contract and as such represent an important site for the protection and promotion of Indigenous Peoples’ rights. The Assessment Tool can help communities and governments alike to develop innovative reforms to improve the social contract and enhance meaningful equality and dignity for all.

The Assessment Tool was reviewed and piloted in cooperation with Indigenous Peoples’ Partnership (IPP, Myanmar), the Lawyers’ Association for Human Rights of Nepalese Indigenous Peoples (LAHURNIP, Nepal), the Institute for autonomy and Governance in the Philippines, as well as with other international and Indigenous experts and advocates. It is ultimately a resource for all who are interested in understanding and promoting the human rights of Indigenous Peoples through constitution-building. The methodology and content the Tool offers is particularly timely for this year’s International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples theme, ‘Leaving no one behind: Indigenous peoples and the call for a new social contract’.

”The Assessment Tool will certainly help IWGIA and the communities it partners with as we work to ensure a world where indigenous peoples can sustain and develop their societies based on their own practices, priorities and visions.” IWGIA, Assessment Tool foreword.

Find the tool here


[1] https://www.un.org/en/observances/indigenous-day

Tags: Human rights, International Processes



IWGIA - International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs - is a global human rights organisation dedicated to promoting, protecting and defending Indigenous Peoples’ rights. Read more.

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