I just read an article on BBC News which made me very happy: the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples has just been adopted by the UN’s General Assembly after 22 years of negotiations!!
Why, might you wonder, does she care? Well, I was an observer to the WGDDRIP (Working group on the Draft Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples – I don’t remember if that was the correct acronym of the WG but the UN has the most complicated acronyms and abbreviations..) 6 years ago in Geneva and it was extremely interesting. I learnt a lot during the week while I sat at the back of the big meeting room, listening to different representatives of the member states discuss the draft declaration:
- Only the title of the declaration caused a discussion which lasted several days: should it be people or peoples?? In general some member states oppose the rights of people/peoples because they believe that human rights are only individual and not collective (the USA for example).
- When it comes to the rights of indigenous peoples, the so-called bad guys are Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the USA, for obvious reasons… they don’t want to recognise these rights because it would cause huge problems when it comes to land rights and ownership of natural resources, etc.
- The strongest advocates for the rights of indigenous peoples are the Latin american states.
- France doesn’t have any indigenous peoples, nor do most African countries – according to their own definition. In the Nordic countries we have the Sami people (Lapps) who have quite extensive rights (I knew that already) as a recognised minority [France doesn’t recognise any minorities, everybody is just French according to their definition].
- How long it takes to agree on a text, every comma had to be discussed…
The most absurd thing is that a declaration is not legally binding – you need a convention for that!! Can you imagine how many years it will take for the UN member states to negotiate a legally binding instrument for the real protection of these peoples’ rights?
Read more about indigenous peoples on Wikipedia.
PS I’m very proud that I know the correct word in French for indigenous: autochtone 😉