Brochure on the UN Draft Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples by the Inuit Circumpolar Conference and Chiefs of Ontario.
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DOCUMENT: INFOONU.TXT


       THE UN DECLARATION ON THE RIGHTS OF INDIGENOUS PEOPLES
      United Nations International Decade Of Indigenous Peoples
                             
     Over the past 25 years, there has been a growing interest in 
     the situation of indigenous peoples worldwide.  This 
     interest has led to several important developments at the 
     international level such as the proclamation of the 
     International Decade of the World's Indigenous People by the 
     United Nations (UN) in December 1994.  The stated goal of 
     the Decade is the strengthening of international cooperation 
     for the solution of problems faced by indigenous peoples in 
     such areas as human rights, the environment, development, 
     education, and health. 

     To this end, one of the most important events of the Decade 
     will be the UN's consideration of a proposed Declaration on 
     the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.  This pamphlet provides 
     some basic information on this work which is intended to 
     improve international protection for indigenous peoples. 


     WHAT IS THE UNITED NATIONS?
     ---------------------------

     The UN is a political body made up of countries (also called 
     states) from around the world.  It provides a forum for 
     discussion of international concerns such as human rights, 
     development, environmental protection and peace.  Since its 
     establishment after the Second World War, the UN has 
     developed a growing body of international human rights 
     documents, intended to protect the rights of all people. 


     WHAT IS A HUMAN RIGHTS DECLARATION?
     -----------------------------------
     
     UN human rights declarations are important statements of 
     human rights principles which governments are expected and 
     encouraged to respect even though they are not legally 
     binding.  These declarations provide means of pressuring 
     governments to improve their human rights performance.  They 
     are the first step towards the development of legally 
     binding international human rights standards (called 
     treaties and conventions).  The UN has adopted several human 
     rights conventions including ones that address specific 
     concerns, such as racial discrimination and discrimination 
     against women. 

     Human rights documents are not intended to create special 
     rights, but to promote respect for the equality and 
     fundamental dignity of all people, as individuals and as 
     peoples.  Existing UN human rights documents primarily 
     emphasize individual human rights.  However, the UN also is 
     founded on principles of collective equality -- the equality 
     of all peoples, including their equal right to self-
     determination. 


     WHAT IS THE PURPOSE OF A DECLARATION 
     ON INDIGENOUS PEOPLES RIGHTS?
     ------------------------------------

     Indigenous peoples are entitled to the same human rights as 
     other people and are supposed to be protected by existing 
     international human rights law.  In their everyday life, 
     however, their fundamental rights as individuals and as 
     peoples are too often violated or ignored. A declaration 
     addressing the specific situation of indigenous peoples 
     could improve respect for their human rights by addressing 
     fundamental issues affecting their social, economic, 
     cultural and political existence.  A declaration on 
     indigenous rights could address the specific ways in which 
     indigenous human rights are most often violated.  It could 
     provide specific and wide-ranging standards affecting every 
     aspect of indigenous life at the community level. 


     THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE 1993 DRAFT
     DECLARATION ON INDIGENOUS PEOPLES RIGHTS
     ----------------------------------------
     
     For many years, indigenous peoples have brought to the 
     attention of the United Nations the need for international 
     legal protection of their most fundamental rights.  Between 
     1985 and 1993, a group of UN human rights experts (called 
     the UN Working Group on Indigenous Populations or UNWGIP) 
     worked on a document now referred to as the draft 
     Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.  This was 
     done through a series of annual meetings to which government 
     and indigenous peoples representatives were invited and 
     presented their views.  This work was completed in 1993 and 
     the draft Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples 
     then was adopted by resolution of UNWGIP's parent body, the 
     UN Subcommission on Prevention of Discrimination and 
     Protection of Minorities. 

     There has been significant government opposition to certain 
     key provisions of the Draft Declaration (e.g. land rights 
     and self-determination).  A process has been created to 
     reconsider and perhaps redraft the existing Draft 
     Declaration.  The UN Commission on Human Rights (CHR) 
     created a new Working Group which met for the first time in 
     1995.  The CHR Working Group is a body of political 
     representatives, rather than an independent body of experts.  
     It is open-ended, meaning any member state of the UN can 
     join. Indigenous peoples organizations can apply for rights 
     of participation in the CHR Working Group (whether or not 
     they have status as a UN Non-Governmental Organization) to 
     present their views on the Declaration. 

     Indigenous peoples worldwide are concerned governments in 
     the new Working Group will remove or radically alter the 
     most valuable parts of the Declaration such as recognition 
     of the right to self-determination.  Many indigenous peoples 
     around the world regard the existing Draft Declaration as 
     the minimum standard of rights acceptable. 

      
     HIGHLIGHTS OF THE 1993 DRAFT DECLARATION 
     ON THE RIGHTS OF INDIGENOUS PEOPLES
     ----------------------------------------
     
     The 1993 Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples is 
     divided into nine major parts, containing a total of 45 
     articles or provisions. The Draft Declaration begins by 
     addressing the reasons why an international declaration on 
     indigenous peoples rights is needed.  It affirms the 
     equality of indigenous peoples at a collective and 
     individual level while identifying many of the human rights 
     problems that have historically plagued indigenous peoples, 
     such as the taking of indigenous peoples lands, and racial 
     discrimination. 


     PART I - FUNDAMENTAL RIGHTS
     ---------------------------
     
     Part 1 affirms the equality of indigenous peoples as 
     individuals and as peoples.  It recognizes the entitlement 
     of indigenous peoples to all fundamental human rights and 
     freedoms.  Part I affirms the right of indigenous peoples to 
     be free of all forms of discrimination. 

     Existing human rights documents recognize the right of all 
     peoples to exist and develop in all aspects of their 
     collective life - political, economic, social and cultural.  
     Article 3 of the 1993 Draft Declaration on the Rights of 
     Indigenous Peoples would make clear that indigenous peoples 
     also have this right of self-determination: Indigenous 
     peoples have the right to self-determination.  By virtue of 
     that right they freely determine their political status and 
     freely pursue their economic, social and cultural 
     development. 


     PART II - LIFE AND SECURITY
     ---------------------------
     
     Part II sets out the right of indigenous peoples to live in 
     freedom, peace and security; to be free of genocide, 
     violence, forced relocations and assimilation; and to not 
     have their children removed from their communities.  
     Indigenous peoples are recognized as having the right to 
     their culture and identity and as needing special protection 
     in periods of armed conflict. 


     PART III - CULTURE, LANGUAGE AND SPIRITUALITY
     ---------------------------------------------
     
     Part III addresses rights relating to culture, language and 
     spirituality. 
     
     It protects rights:
     
          to practice cultural, spiritual and religious 
          traditions 
     
          to patriation of human remains 
     
          to indigenous cultural heritage in all aspects 
          (including ceremonies, designs, technologies, art, 
          literature, historical sites and artifacts) and 
     
          to rights of restitution 
     
          to maintain, develop and pass on to future generations 
          indigenous language and knowledge. 

     Part III imposes obligations on governments to act to ensure 
     the protection of these rights. 


     PART IV - EDUCATION, MEDIA AND EMPLOYMENT
     -----------------------------------------
     
     Part IV protects indigenous peoples rights:
     
          to education at all levels, to control own education 
          systems, to culturally appropriate education in 
          indigenous language 
     
          to establish own media 
     
          to all labour rights and to freedom from 
          discrimination. 


     PART V - DECISION-MAKING AND DEVELOPMENT
     ----------------------------------------
     
     Part V protects indigenous peoples rights:
     
          to their own means of subsistence and development,
     
          to their own forms of decision-making,
     
          to participate in all decision-making and law-making 
          affecting them (and state governments must seek the 
          free and informed consent to all such laws and 
          policies),
     
          to traditional medicine and access to all medical 
          services, 
     
          to special measures to improve economic and social 
          conditions. 


     PART VI - LANDS AND RESOURCES
     -----------------------------
     
     Part VI protects indigenous peoples rights to:
     
          to maintain their distinctive relationship to their 
          traditional lands, waters and resources, and to the 
          return of land taken without consent,

          to own and control development of their lands, waters, 
          coastal seas, sea-ice and other resources,
     
          to recognition of indigenous laws and customs governing 
          the use of these resources,
     
          to protection of their environment and cultural 
          property. 


     PART VII - SELF-GOVERNMENT
     --------------------------
     
     Recognizes rights of indigenous peoples:
     
          to self-government in internal or local matters,
     
          to their own citizenship and laws and customs,
     
          to maintain relations across borders,
     
          to enforcement of treaties. 


     PART VIII - IMPLEMENTATION OF THE DECLARATION
     ---------------------------------------------
     
     The Declaration is intended as a minimum standard of 
     guidelines for state governments to respect. 

     The rights and freedoms protected by the Declaration are for 
     the equal benefit of indigenous men and women. 

     This pamphlet is a joint project of the Inuit Circumpolar 
     Conference and the Chiefs of Ontario (made possible by the 
     financial assistance of the Department of Indian Affairs and 
     Northern Development and Inuit Tapirisat of Canada) and will 
     soon be available in printed form in English, Inuktitut, 
     Cree and Ojibway. 


     Copyright Inuit Circumpolar Conference and Chiefs of Ontario.
     October 1996

     FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT:

     Wendy Moss
     Special Assistant to President
     Inuit Circumpolar Conference
     President's Office
     170 Laurier Ave. W. Suite 505
     Ottawa, Ont. K1P 5V5
     tel: 613-563-4967
     fax: 613-563-0470

     or

     Richard Powless
     Executive Assistant to Ontario Regional Chief
     c/o Chiefs of Ontario
     2 College St.
     Toronto, Ont.
     M5G 1K2
     tel: 416-972-0212
     fax: 416-972-0217

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