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United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
by Robert T. Coulter - The Declaration contains more than 15 articles spelling out and protecting many aspects of tribal self-government and jurisdiction. Tribes are studying these detailed provisions, making strategies, and deciding what elements of the Declaration to implement first. The Declaration is a very useful guide for what changes are necessary, but it will take a strong, national campaign by tribes to get serious, concrete changes made.
December 16, 2010
Today, the United States government at last officially endorsed the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and joined the international community in recognizing that American Indians and other indigenous peoples have a permanent right to exist as peoples, nations, cultures, and societies.
The 10th session of the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (EMRIP), which took place July 10-14, 2017, included a discussion of its new mandate and working methods. The expanded mandate is a result of the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples of 2014, which requested the Council review EMRIP with a view to improve its mandate to better serve as an effective implementing and monitoring body for the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
The United Nations will delay any substantive action on their work to enable the participation of indigenous peoples’ representatives and institutions at the UN. After years of discussions among indigenous peoples and member states, and several weeks of states-only negotiations this summer, member states were not able to reach consensus.
In a season of reckless threats and racist and misogynistic rhetoric, of xenophobia and border walls, indigenous peoples’ rights are at risk, whether intended targets or not. Right now, the Senate is considering a budget that calls for $1.6 billion for "high-priority tactical infrastructure and border security technology." This border wall that is envisioned by President Trump and U.S. lawmakers would cut across at least half a dozen Native American lands including Yuma, Apache, Yaqui, Pima, Kickapoo and Tohono O’odham.
It is hard to believe that on September 13, 2017, a decade will have passed since the United Nations adopted the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Over the last ten years, we have continued our work to ensure the promises in the Declaration are realized and, in spite of some challenges, we have seen some good progress in laws, policies, and practices locally and internationally.
This month marks the sixth anniversary of the United States announcing it would endorse the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. And in 2017, the world will celebrate the ten year anniversary of the adoption of the Declaration by the United Nations. While we have won some important victories, the work to implement the Declaration is far from over, and we must be united and vigilant to see the promises of the Declaration fully realized.
Indian nations have historically been international actors and a part of the world community of sovereign nations, and this is shown by their treaties with the United States and other nations. Today, tribes are seeking to rejoin the international community in order to protect their lands, sovereignty, and cultures, and to benefit their communities, according to experts who spoke at the “Indian Nations in the United Nations” workshop hosted by the Citizen Potawatomi Nation and the Indian Law Resource Center on April 22, 2016 in Shawnee, Okla.
Executive Director, Robert T. Coulter, addressed the 30th session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva today recommending the swift establishment of an implementing and monitoring body for the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The statement makes a number of recommendations about this body, including specific proposals regarding its mandate, structure, and composition.
One of the largest tribes in the United States recently asked me how to get involved at the United Nations. Like many tribes, they are interested in taking their place in the World community and working to protect indigenous rights in this country and globally. Their question was: How do we get started?
Here are some concrete steps: