Indigenous Rights under the spotlight at the United Nations

Indigenous Rights under the spotlight at the United Nations

July 27, 2015

This July Indigenous Rights Commissioner Karen Johansen and the Commission’s Kaiwhakarite Matua, Perēri Hathaway, presented to the Eighth Session of the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (EMRIP) at the United Nations in Geneva.

As well as gathering information that can be used back in Aotearoa and networking with other participants, the Commission presented two papers or interventions focusing on two key issues:

  1. the rights of indigenous peoples with respect to their cultural heritage with a focus on the need to promote and protect Māori language
  2. the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) with a focus on supporting its implementation and supporting the recent establishment in New Zealand of an UNDRIP independent monitoring mechanism by the National Forum of Iwi Leaders

The Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples is a forum that meets annually where indigenous peoples, governments, non-profit organisations, national human rights institutions and others submit advice and recommendations on current thematic and around the implementation of the Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. This year’s thematic focus was on indigenous peoples and cultural heritage. The Declaration was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on 13 September 2007 and supported by New Zealand in 2010.

Because UNDRIP is a Declaration and not a Convention or a Treaty, it is not legally binding under international law. However, declarations are part of the development of international legal norms and by supporting the Declaration, New Zealand has indicated a commitment to uphold the rights contained in it with respect to indigenous peoples.

These rights include:

  • self-determination
  • equality and non-discrimination and participation in decision-making
  • the rights to culture, identity
  • language
  • employment
  • health
  • education
  • land and resources
  • and free, prior and informed consent.

Māori are the indigenous people of Aōtearoa New Zealand. Many articles of the Declaration intersect with the articles of the Treaty of Waitangi. The Declaration helps to explain how international human rights standards apply and how the promise of the Treaty can be achieved.

The Commission is committed to promoting and advocating for the rights of Māori as the indigenous people of Aōtearoa New Zealand.

See Karen Johansen present to the United Nations Eighth Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples below:

Human Rights Commission

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