Indigenous Peoples in International Law

Indigenous Peoples in
International Law
Analysing the Position of
Indigenous Peoples within the
International Law Framework
Who are Indigenous Peoples?
• Indigenous peoples inhabit large areas of the
earth's surface. Spread across the world from
the Arctic to the South Pacific, they number, at a
rough estimate, some 300 million.
• Indigenous or aboriginal peoples are so-called
because they were living on their lands before
settlers came from elsewhere; they are the
descendants - according to one definition - of
those who inhabited a country or a geographical
region at the time when people of different
cultures or ethnic origins arrived, the new
arrivals later becoming dominant through
conquest, occupation, settlement or other
What is International Law?
Customary Law
Indigenous Law
United Nations Framework
The United Nations
Where do Indigenous
Peoples fit in?
Where do Maori fit in?
We need to fit into the definition
if we want access to
international law
Why is definition so
Normally only STATES have an
‘identity’ or presence at
international law
Indigenous People are an
EXCEPTION to that rule
If international law doesn’t
recognise us as ‘states’ then
fitting into the definition of
‘indigenous peoples’ is the only
original occupants of the land /
vgdistinct from ‘minority’
Defining PEOPLES
literal interpretation
USA-led interpretation
indigenous peoples interpretation
Playing with the definition of Indigenous
Peoples is
essentially just a high stakes game to
exclude our people from access to
international law – therefore hoping to
exclude us from
Influencing the shape of international
(making us voiceless)
Asserting our rights at international law
(making us powerless)
Holding other states accountable to us
Why ‘Indigenous Peoples’ is
such a threat..
Indigenous Peoples have INALIENABLE
(arguments that our rights were extinguished are
Indigenous Peoples have a COLLECTIVE
(if they let one of us succeed we’ll all succeed)
Indigenous Peoples SUCCESS will upset the
status quo
(fears that the world ‘as we know it’ will crumble)
Indigenous Peoples are STRONG and
These FEARS are not
At the most basic level
they are the fears of states
who have
and don’t want to give it back
Establishment of the United
Permanent Forum on Indigenous
The Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues
shall serve as
an advisory body to the Council with a
mandate to discuss
indigenous issues within the mandate of the
relating to economic and social
development, culture, the environment,
education, health and human rights
International Covenant on
Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR)
All peoples have the right to selfdetermination.
By virtue of that right they freely
determine their political status and
freely pursue their economic, social
and cultural development (Article 1)
• Ko te katoa o nga tangata i te
whanaungatanga mai e watea ana i nga
here katoa; e tauriterite ana hoki nga
mana me nga tika. E whakawhiwhia ana
hoki ki a ratou te ngakau whai whakaaro
me te hinengaro mohio ki te tika me te he,
a e tika ana kia meinga te mahi a tetahi ki
tetahi me ma roto atu i te wairua o te noho
tahi, ano he teina he tuakana i ringa i te
whakaaro kotahi.
In those States in which ethnic,
religious or linguistic
minorities exist, persons belonging to
minorities shall NOT BE DENIED THE
community with the other members of
their group,
• The land issue remains crucial. National
economic development generates
pressure on territory still in the hands of
indigenous peoples. Barren wastelands or
forested hinterlands once thought to have
little economic, political or military value
have been identified as areas of vital
importance. These developments could
affect the economies and habitats, and the
social, religious and cultural systems of
indigenous peoples.
• The world community has long
acknowledged that the distinct cultures
and languages of indigenous peoples form
part of the cultural heritage of humankind
and deserve protection. Much more
important than a means of everyday
communication, language is the vehicle of
culture and identity. Yet organizations
defending indigenous peoples' rights cite
cases where educational systems are
being used to forge nations with one
language, history and culture.
• Many Governments have stated that they
are aware of the serious problems faced
by indigenous peoples living in their
territories and of the factors which have
placed them among the most vulnerable
groups in national societies. In some parts
of the world, a permanent dialogue is
taking place. In other places, direct
negotiations between indigenous peoples
and Governments have been instituted
and are moving forward, with the aim of
improving relations and guaranteeing
better protection of indigenous peoples'
Other important United
Nations documents
• Universal Declaration of Human Rights
• International Covenant on Economic,
Social & Cultural Rights (ICESCR)
• Convention on the Elimination of all forms
of Discrimination against Women
• International Convention on the
Elimination of all forms of Racial
United Nations Indigenous Peoples Website
United Nations -
Centre for World Indigenous Studies
World Intellectual Property Organisation
Maori Leadership
The Challenges Ahead
Elevate Expectations
Demand the best quality
Expect exceptional achievement
Inspire elevation
Move Forward Together
• Tautoko is a concept inherent to our
• Recognise the sacredness of every person
• Leadership that leaves people behind or
tramples on their wairua abandons our
tikanga Maori
- our uniqueness
Maori Tu – Maori Ora
Realise Only Action
Creates Change

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