After two decades of negotiations, the United Nations has finally adopted the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. On 13 September 2007, the UN General Assembly voted to adopt the historic declaration with a large majority (143 in favour, 4 against and 11 abstentions).
Vicky Tauli-Corpus is chairperson of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues. Speaking in an emotional tone filled with joy, she said: "The 13th of September 2007 will be remembered as an international human rights day for the indigenous peoples of the world."
Education International's General Secretary Fred van Leeuwen applauded the move and urged EI member organizations "to renew efforts to achieve quality public education for all and particularly for indigenous children, who are among those most likely to be deprived of education or to be exploited through child labour."
The 12-page Declaration addresses both individual and collective rights including cultural rights and identity, rights to education, health, employment, language, and others. It also outlaws discrimination against the world's 370 million indigenous and promotes their full and effective participation in all matters that concern them.
The Declaration also emphasizes the rights of indigenous peoples to maintain and strengthen their own institutions, cultures and traditions, and to pursue their development in keeping with their own needs and aspirations.
Its adoption will strengthen the rights of indigenous peoples worldwide and serve as a comprehensive framework for cooperation in implementing new minimal international standards for indigenous people’s rights.
The four countries voting against the declaration -- Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United States -- said they could not support it because of concerns over provisions on self-determination, land and resources rights and provisions giving indigenous peoples a right of veto over national legislation and state management of resources. Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Burundi, Colombia, Georgia, Kenya, Nigeria, Russian Federation, Samoa and Ukraine abstained.
The UN Human Rights Council adopted the declaration in June 2006 and recommended its adoption by the General Assembly, over the objections of some member states with sizeable indigenous populations.