UN declaration on indigenous people blocked

Final approval at the UN General Assembly of the declaration on indigenous peoples’ rights has been blocked by a group of African countries led by Namibia, and supported by Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Russia.

The declaration is the result of 24 years of discussion at the UN. The newly formed UN Human Rights Council, in its first session, recommended in June that the General Assembly approve the declaration.

This week, 87 countries voted for a ‘non-active motion resolution’ tabled by Namibia, with 67 countries voting against and 25 abstentions. The vote will further delay the adoption of the declaration, and may lead to it being weakened.

Botswana was among the states blocking the declaration. The Gana and Gwi Bushmen have taken the Botswana government to court over their eviction from their ancestral land. The court will rule on 13 December.

Survival’s director Stephen Corry said today, ‘It’s extremely disappointing that the declaration is being delayed yet again. Indigenous peoples have already waited far too long for their rights to be recognised. The prime movers in this week’s result all have indigenous peoples living within their borders and facing ongoing struggles for their rights to their land and to self-determination. These countries should be ashamed of themselves.’

If approved, the declaration would set a benchmark against which countries' treatment of tribal peoples can be judged; it is not legally binding. The declaration recognises the rights of indigenous peoples to their land and to live as they wish. It also affirms that, for example, they should not be moved from their lands without their free and informed consent.

For further information contact Miriam Ross on (+44) (0)20 7687 8734 or email [email protected]