The Grand Council of the Crees

Dutch Government in favour of draft UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

Dutch Government in favour of draft UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

Posted: 2006-05-16

Unofficial translation To the Speaker of the Second Chamber of the States-General Binnenhof 4 The Hague Human Rights and Peacebuilding Department PO Box 20061 2500 EB The Hague Date: 6 April 2006. Handled by: Joris Geeven. Reference: DMV/MR-06/126. Telephone: 070 348 5313. Sheet 1/3. Fax: 070 348 5049. Subject: Draft Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. On behalf of the Minister for Development Co-operation as well as myself, please find enclosed our response to your request concerning the Draft Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, as formulated during the ministerial consultation with the House Committee regarding the United Nations Human Rights Committee. The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dr B. R. Bot

The Draft Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

The United Nations Working Group on the Draft Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples made significant progress during its sessions of 5-16 December 2005 and 30 January-3 February 2006. On 24 February the Working Group's Chairman, Ambassador Luis Enrique Chavez, submitted a text for the Draft Declaration to the United Nations Human Rights Committee (HRC) for its consideration. That text is attached (document E/CN.4/2006/79). The government of the Netherlands has been closely involved in the negotiating process since it began. Whenever opportunities for progress presented themselves, as during the Dutch presidency of the European Union, the government seized upon them in order to bring those involved closer together. By consulting intensively with its European partners at that time, the Netherlands did indeed succeed in moving the EU towards playing a more active part in the Working Group negotiations. The result of that Dutch initiative to greater activity was a new dynamic in the negotiating process during the final few meetings of the Working Group, leading ultimately to the text you are now being sent. As I told you in my letter of 26 January 2005 (Parliamentary Documents 2004-2005, 29 800, no. 75) about the Draft Declaration, Dutch concerns about the attribution of collective rights to indigenous peoples were shared by a majority of the delegations. Those concerns have now been eliminated, since the text draws a clear distinction between the collective rights of indigenous peoples on the one hand and universal human rights on the other. This means that the Dutch government can support the enclosed text. I am also pleased to report that practically all representatives of indigenous peoples themselves have stated that the text strikes the correct balance between their collective rights and interests and those of individuals. Given the position being taken by the Australia, New Zealand and the United States, however, it remains to be seen whether the text can actually be adopted in the short term. These countries have problems with the version prepared by Ambassador Chavez and are not prepared to approve quick Draft Declaration as it stands. The Draft Declaration is a political statement in which the member states of the United Nations express their will to treat indigenous peoples in accordance with the terms thereof. The Draft Declaration emphasises that indigenous peoples are equal to all other peoples and that they are no less entitled than anyone else to universal human rights. It also states that indigenous peoples have the right to retain and perpetuate their own political, economic, social and cultural institutions, as well as the right to organise their own systems of education. Since the Netherlands has no indigenous peoples in its territory, the Draft Declaration has no repercussions for our domestic policy. As far as our foreign policy is concerned, amongst other things the Dutch government is committed to achieving genuine improvements in the living conditions of indigenous peoples. Through the Environment Programme, for example, the Minister for Development Co-operation is supporting activities designed to strengthen the role played by such peoples in managing ecosystems, to allow them to share in the yields created by biodiversity and to enable them to apply their knowledge in this respect. Unfortunately, the UN Commission on Human Rights was unable to consider the draft text during it 62nd session. Because of the impending establishment of the UN Human Rights Council, that final meeting was devoted entirely to procedural matters. Specifically, it resolved to transfer all the Committee's mandates and reports to the new Council for its consideration. They included the report of the Working Group on the Draft Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Speaking on behalf of all the Western nations during the final one-day sitting of the Human Rights Committee on 27 March, the Netherlands stated that all working group reports should be dealt with as a priority by the new Council and that, as far as possible, proposed texts should be adopted. We could not be more specific than that, since we were also speaking in the name of Australia, New Zealand and the United States. As far as the Netherlands is concerned, however, the proposed text is acceptable and should be given priority during the Human Rights Council's first session on 19-30 June, so that it can then be adopted by the General Assembly.