Indigenous Peoples and Human Rights

By Patrick Thornberry | Go to book overview

15

The UN draft Declaration on the
Rights of Indigenous Peoples

An antidote for a troubling reality (Matthew Coone Come) 1


An explanation of the chapter

The draft Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples has been referred to at many points in the present text, and the content has been briefly summarised in an earlier chapter. Inter alia, it has been utilised as a statement of indigenous claims, a guide to understanding the indigenous concept, and a `heuristic' or standard to measure the development of international human rights law. The present chapter takes the Declaration as a potential future global standard for indigenous peoples - `emerging law' - and appraises its principal characteristics. The chapter is not intended as a full commentary: it should be remembered that, at the time of writing, it remains an uncompleted document, so that exegesis of an eventual Declaration is the stuff of another study. However, the text is too important to indigenous groups to be dismissed as merely another draft: it is part of the common currency of discussion of indigenous rights; is widely addressed in the literature; and is resolutely defended by indigenous groups in the Drafting Group of the Human Rights Commission. 2 Within its regional context, approximately similar claims could be made for the proposed American Declaration. However, the drafting process has been much less open to indigenous participation, and the eventual text may not adequately reflect indigenous views. It will be important for indigenous peoples that the two eventual

____________________
1
Grand Chief of the Grand Council of the Crees, cited by S. Pritchard in The United Nations Draft Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples: An Analysis (ATSIC, June 1996), p. 10.
2
At the Commission Drafting Group, some indigenous groups set out criteria which might be used in reviewing proposed changes to the text: proposals `should be reasonable, necessary, and improve or strengthen the texts, and . . . should be consistent with the fundamental principles of equality, non-discrimination and the prohibition of racial discrimination' (E/CN.4/2000/84, para. 123).

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