Indigenous Peoples and Human Rights

By Patrick Thornberry | Go to book overview

13

ILO standards I

Introduction

In the matter of general instruments on indigenous peoples, the ILO was first in the field. As noted, ILO Conventions 107 and 169 are in force, although the former is now closed to ratification. Both employ, to differing extents, the language of collective rights - rudimentary in the first treaty, massively conditioning the second. They represent the bulk of contemporary hard law of international indigenous rights. They work within the context of the ILO, but interrelate with the general world of human rights. They offer adapted general rights as well as specific rights not found elsewhere in international treaty law. The ILO can claim much of the credit for bringing rights of indigenous peoples - as such, and not as derivatives of other rights or applications of them - into the forefront of contemporary discussion. The Organisation has been regularly concerned with the condition of indigenous peoples during the course of its existence. 1


A brief history

According to ILO statements, the indigenous issue has been on the Organisation's agenda since 1921, when the ILO undertook studies on the labour conditions of indigenous and tribal workers, particularly the forced labour of so-called native populations in colonies. 2 In 1926 the Governing Body

____________________
1
In addition to the two specific conventions, Convention No. 29 - (the Forced Labour Convention 1930); No. 111 - the Discrimination (Employment and Occupation) Convention 1958; and No. 182 - the Convention on the Elimination of the Worst Forms of Child Labour 1999, are among those relevant to indigenous peoples.
2
See the section on the ILO in the Martinez-Cobo Report, UN Doc. E/CN.4/ Sub.2/1982/2/Add.1, 16 May 1982, paras. 31-134; and ibid., pp. 60-2, for a list of

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