9 August 2013


UN Photo J Isaac

The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, James Anaya, urged Governments worldwide to respect all agreements -new and old- with indigenous peoples, estimated to number 370 million worldwide, to provide a basis for much needed reconciliation and overcome all obstacles to the full realisation of indigenous peoples’ rights.

“Indigenous peoples around the world face significant challenges that are related to widespread historical wrongs, including broken treaties and acts of oppression and misguided government policies, that today manifest themselves in disadvantages and impediments to the exercise of their individual and collective rights,” the expert said on International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples (Aug 9th).

“Full respect for treaties, agreements and other constructive arrangements is a crucial element in advancing toward reconciliation with indigenous peoples,” he underscored, “and in addressing persistent deep-rooted problems related to historical wrongs, failed policies of the past, and continuing barriers to the full realisation of indigenous peoples’ rights”.

The right of indigenous peoples to recognition and enforcement of treaties, agreements and other constrictive arrangements is a key right recognised in the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The Declaration preamble further recognises that these rights are ‘the basis for a strengthened partnership between indigenous peoples and States.’

“Honouring treaties and other long-standing agreements can go far in helping to build trust among indigenous peoples and to rebuild relationships between States and indigenous peoples in a true spirit of good faith, partnership, and mutual respect,” he noted.

The Special Rapporteur stressed that this should be part of a broader dialogue, both at the international and national levels, “to help build understanding between indigenous peoples and others, and to help shift any persistent negative attitudes or misunderstandings about indigenous peoples and their rights.”

With respect to new treaties and agreements being developed, including in relation to extractive industries operating in or near indigenous lands, the UN expert underscored that these should be consistent with international standards concerning the rights of indigenous peoples, both in relation to indigenous participation in these processes as well as in terms of substantive outcomes.

“In no instance should new treaties or agreements fall below or undermine the standards set forth in the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples or established in other international sources,” he said.

“Broken treaties must become a thing of the past,” he stressed.

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