Draft Declaration on Indigenous Peoples Approved

Article excerpt

The Subcommission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities has approved, after 10 years of arduous negotiations, a draft declaration proclaiming the rights and unique value of indigenous peoples.

Faced with an ever-lengthening list of minority-related concerns, spawned by growing ethnic strife, large population movements, and other humanitarian catastrophes in the world, the Subcommission adopted 50 resolutions and 19 decisions at its forty-sixth session (1-26 August, Geneva). Issues ranged from crises in Rwanda and the Middle East, the transition to democracy in South Africa, to the rights of women, children and UN staff, and the violation of human rights and fundamental freedoms throughout the world.

Chairman Judith Sefi Attah of Nigeria said that people around the globe were becoming aware of their rights and were accordingly drawing the attention of Governments to rights that were being denied.

A total of eight texts on the rights of indigenous people were approved, as a prelude to the launching on 10 December of the International Decade of the World's Indigenous People. The 26-member Subcommission--the main subsidiary body of the Commission on Human Rights--welcomed the General Assembly's decision that the Decade's goal should be to strengthen international cooperation for the solution of problems faced by indigenous people in areas related to the environment, development, education and health. it recommended that the Decade's theme be: "Indigenous peoples: A new relationship; partnership in action".

The Subcommission also called for the International Day of Indigenous People to be observed every year on 9 August. The Secretary-General was asked to invite Governments and indigenous organizations to express their views concerning a permanent forum in the UN for indigenous people and recommended that the Centre for Human Rights organize a workshop on the matter.

The Subcommission also acted on the human rights situations in Albania, Iraq, Iran, Chad, Burundi, Togo, Guatemala, Haiti and Papua New Guinea.

One text called upon Governments to prevent, combat and eliminate terrorism and cooperate in the fight against it. Respect for the rights of UN staff members and their families was urged in another text. …