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Saturday, August 28, 2010

The U.S. must endorse the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Now!

Of the 143 member states who adopted the UN Declaration to protect the rights of indigenous people in 2007, the U.S. was not one of them.

In fact, the U.S. was one of only four member states who voted against it.

The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) is a non-legally binding human rights instrument which affirms universal minimum standards for the survival, dignity and well being of all Indigenous Peoples. Adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 2007, the UNDRIP recognizes the right of Indigenous Peoples as both a collective and as individuals, to fully enjoy their basic human rights - including Indigenous cultural rights and identity and the right to education, health, employment, and language. 

The UNDRIP prohibits discrimination against Indigenous Peoples and promotes their full and effective participation in all matters that concern them. It also ensures their right to retain distinct institutions and to pursue their own priorities in economic, social and cultural development. The UNDRIP also explicitly encourages harmonious and cooperative relations between States and Indigenous Peoples.
In 2007, the UNDRIP was adopted by the United Nations after a vote by the overwhelming majority of states. However, the United States was one of four countries, along with Australia, Canada and New Zealand, that voted against the Declaration. Since its adoption, Australia and New Zealand have reversed their initial positions and now endorse the UNDRIP, and in March 2010 Canada announced that it was taking steps to review its own position.
In November 2009, President Obama signed a Presidential Memorandum which directed the head of each federal agency to call for regular and meaningful consultation and collaboration with tribal officials in the development of federal policies that have tribal implications. In April 2010, U.S. Ambassador to the UN, Susan E. Rice announced to the UN that the United States would be formally reviewing its position on the UNDRIP. Agencies are now in the process of holding dialogues with tribal officials and other interested stakeholders on the United States’ position on the Declaration. Read Amnesty International’s statement and recommendations to the U.S. Department of State consultation on the UNDRIP.