Thursday, September 13, 2012

5th anniversary of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

The International Indigenous Network of People with Disabilities (IINPWD) is an email-based network where participants advocate and mediate for the voice of indigenous/first peoples with disabilities to be heard at all levels of the development and implementation of law and policy in relation to the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Article by Les Malezer* 13 September 2012

Today marks the fifth anniversary of the adoption of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Without doubt this international instrument has already been established universally as a human rights benchmark to confirm the indigenous peoples of the world are equal to all other peoples.

This achievement, within the first five years of its life, is verification that the rights of our peoples, encompassing social organisation, cultures, territories and development, are progressively being acknowledged.

Our collective rights as peoples are being expressed, interpreted, integrated and experienced by the many distinct indigenous populations, populations which historically have been ruthlessly dominated and exploited by powerful, gregarious societies.

Indigenous peoples everywhere are citing the Declaration and its components as they vie for equality and non-discrimination in their own territories. Slowly but surely, member States of the United Nations are revising their relationships with indigenous peoples to respect these human rights.

We can see evidence that basic human rights as articulated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights are being given extra attention where indigenous peoples are involved.
More importantly the collective rights of indigenous peoples, rights which are so vital to the survival and success of civilizations, can no longer be denied or opppressed through legitimisation by the authority of States. Indigenous peoples have much to expect from the United Nations to ensure the
equality of peoples is respected at the global level.

The establishment of mechanisms, including the UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, the UN Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues are concrete steps already taken to guarantee change.

These are very specific and important actions taken by the United Nations to ensure that the rights of Indigenous Peoples are a priority concern towards not only global peace, security and development, but also the wellbeing of the cultural and ecological environs.

States should be taking consequent steps, if they have not already done so, to broaden the momentum for change. The World Conference on Indigenous Peoples, declared by the United Nations as an event in Year 2014, should be seen as a time for important reflection. This significant occasion will mark the end of the Second Decade of the World's Indigenous Peoples.

The World Conference will offer an opportunity for States and indigenous peoples alike to examine the endeavors, achievements and shortcomings over two decades to realise the rights of the indigenous peoples of the world.

The Australian Human Rights Commission is collaborating with the National Congress of Australia's First Peoples and the Indigenous Peoples Organisations to implement a national strategy for increased awareness and understanding of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Looking back we must remember how it has taken so long to have our rights as indigenous peoples recognised in global governance and international law. Five years on, it is time for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to be more vigorous in exercising these rights and freedoms.
* Les Malezer was the Chairperson / Coordinator of the Indigenous Peoples Global Caucus on the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples leading up to and at the time of the UN General Assembly vote on the Declaration on 13 September 2007. He is currently the Co-Chairperson of the National Congress of Australia's First Peoples.

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