International Law and Indigenous Peoples

International Law and Indigenous Peoples

International Law and Indigenous Peoples

International Law and Indigenous Peoples

Synopsis

This volume, a collection of essays by a variety of scholars in the field of indigenous rights, originates from the Irish Centre for Human Rights at the National University of Ireland in Galway. It highlights those instances in the work of international organizations where advances have been made concerning indigenous rights. It also devotes attention to the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, to the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, and to a number of thematic issues in the field. The human rights situations facing indigenous peoples in Australia, Bangladesh, Canada, India, Kenya, Mexico, Nicaragua, Nigeria and South Africa are dealt with in separate chapters. These surveys show a range of reactions to the multiple problems of discrimination, or lack of proper responses, as far as domestic legislation, national implementation of the laws, and national compliance with the applicable international standards are concerned.

Excerpt

For the last few years, the Irish Centre for Human Rights at the National University of Ireland in Galway has organized a series of summer schools on the rights of indigenous peoples. The emphasis in these training courses has been on international human rights standards, both general and specialized ones, as they apply to indigenous peoples, on the implementation of these standards at national levels, and on the international monitoring of national performance.

The summer schools have been well attended, with representation by indigenous and non-indigenous academics and activists from all parts of the world. Some of them were lawyers, but many other professions were present, thus allowing for interdisciplinary approaches, for lively debates with questions and answers going back and forth, and for occasional disagreements which helped to clarify issues and identify pending problems. As many of the participants have been experienced in matters relating to the promotion and protection of indigenous rights, the discussions have consistently been anchored to realities on the ground.

The present book highlights those instances in the work of international organizations where advances have been made concerning indigenous rights. The jurisprudence of the Human Rights Committee under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, in particular under Article 27, demonstrates an imaginative but logical interpretation of cultural rights. As a result of the case-law, this minority rights clause now covers the right of indigenous peoples to the material and economic base necessary for maintaining their cultures when they rely on close connections to the land on which the groups have traditionally lived. The ILO Convention concerning Indigenous and Tribal Peoples in Independent Countries (ILO Convention No. 169, from 1989) remains the chief human rights treaty with a focus on indigenous rights, with progressive provisions on ownership rights to land and natural resources and the indigenous role in managing them and with a slowly growing list of ratifying States.

Additional chapters in the book are devoted to the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues which reports to the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), to the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, under the International Convention for the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, and to a few thematic issues which are of special importance to indigenous rights. Looking to the future, the Permanent Forum is especially exciting, as indigenous persons constitute part of the official membership and are thus in a better position than ever before in terms of placing their desires and demands on high-level UN agendas.

The human rights situations facing indigenous peoples in a series of States are dealt with in separate chapters. The countries are

* The author is Director of the Raoul Wallenberg Institute of Human Rights and Humanitarian Law and Professor at the Law Faculty of Lund University in Sweden. From 2004 he is a member of the UN Sub-Commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights and the UN Working Group on Minorities.

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