The Grand Council of the Crees

United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples - SUPPORTIVE STATEMENTS WORLDWIDE

Posted: 2009-02-25

United Nations

The Secretary-General warmly welcomes the adoption of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as a triumph for indigenous peoples around the world. … [T]his marks a historic moment when UN Member States and indigenous peoples have reconciled with their painful histories and are resolved to move forward together on the path of human rights, justice and development for all.

The Declaration … has been 20 years in the making. Its contents are drawn from the experiences of thousands of indigenous representatives who have shared their anguish and their hopes. … As we stand at the brink of this historic decision by the General Assembly, it is the time to call upon member states of the United Nations to join as one and adopt the Declaration and thereby establish a universal framework for indigenous peoples’ rights, social justice and reconciliation.

Message of Louise Arbour, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and Rodolfo Stavenhagen, Special Rapporteur, on the occasion of the International Day of the World's Indigenous Peoples, August 7, 2007


Today, by adopting the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples we are making further progress to improve the situation of indigenous peoples around the world … We are also taking another major step forward towards the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms for all.

President of UN General Assembly, Her Excellency Sheikha Haya Rashed Al Khalifa, New York, September 13, 2007

[The UN] has fulfilled its role as the world’s parliament and has responded to the trust that Indigenous Peoples around the world placed in it … that it will stand for dignity and justice, development and peace for all, without discrimination.

Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, Sha Zukang, New York, September 13, 2007

To enable the world’s indigenous peoples to exercise all their human rights fully and effectively, the international community must recognize and respect the provisions of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples ... The United Nations system, at all levels, has the ineluctable responsibility of championing the principles and objectives of this Declaration for the benefit of the hundreds of millions of people in the world who are of indigenous origin and whose rights have been trampled for so long.

Rodolfo Stavenhagen, Report of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous people, August 21, 2007

We see this is as a strong Declaration which embodies the most important rights we and our ancestors have long fought for; our right of self-determination, our right to own and control our lands, territories and resources, our right to free, prior and informed consent, among others. Each and every article of this Declaration is a response to the cries and complaints brought by indigenous peoples ... This is a Declaration which makes the opening phrase of the UN Charter, “We the Peoples…” meaningful for 370 million indigenous persons all over the world.

Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, Chair, UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, Statement to the UN General Assembly, New York, September 13, 2007


The Declaration … represents a significant contribution to the guiding principles of justice and dignity championed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which celebrates its 60th anniversary this year.

Statement by Acting UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Kyung-wha Kang, and S. James Anaya, the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous people, August 8, 2008


… the Expert Mechanism has an important role in promoting the rights affirmed in the Declaration, and in mainstreaming them into the Human Rights Council's overall efforts to promote and protect all human rights.

Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (John Henriksen, Chairperson-Rapporteur), October 1, 2008

Specialized Agencies

The Inter Agency Support Group on Indigenous Peoples’ Issues hails the adoption of the Declaration on the Rights on Indigenous Peoples by the General Assembly ... The Declaration sends out a clear message to the entire international community, reaffirming the human rights of the world’s indigenous peoples. This landmark action of the United Nations bears political, legal, symbolic and moral significance …

Inter-Agency Support Group on Indigenous Issues [IASG, made up of 31 agencies1], Statement on the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, adopted at its Annual Meeting in September 2007


With the adoption of the Declaration, the UN has taken a major step forward in the promotion and protection of indigenous and tribal peoples’ rights throughout the world. … The ILO welcomes the adoption of [the Declaration] and is committed to promoting it.

International Labour Organization, “ILO standards and the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples: Information note for ILO staff and partners”, n.d., distributed at the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, 7th sess., April 2008

The adoption of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples has provided a fresh impetus to UNDP engagement with indigenous peoples.

Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, Information received from the United Nations system and other intergovernmental organizations: United Nations Development Programme [UNDP], 7th sess., New York, 30 January 2008

With the adoption of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, efforts to implement the Declaration, with a view to improving the quality of life in indigenous communities, will continue to be a priority concern.

Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, Information received from the United Nations system and other intergovernmental organizations: United Nations Institute for Training and Research [UNITAR], 7th sess., New York, 23 February 2008

… the World Bank welcomes the adoption of the “United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples” by the United Nations General Assembly. … The Declaration asks that the organs and specialized agencies of the UN system (of which the World Bank is one) and other intergovernmental organizations contribute to the full realization of the Declaration’s provisions …

Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, World Bank Statement, 7th sess., New York, 21 April 2008

UN human rights bodies

While noting the position of the [United States] with regard to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples … the Committee … recommends that the declaration be used as a guide to interpret the State party’s obligations under the Convention relating to indigenous peoples.

Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, Concluding observations of the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination: United States of America, 9 May 2008

… the Committee regrets the change in the position of [Canada] in the Human Rights Council and the General Assembly. … The Committee recommends that the State party support the immediate adoption of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples …

Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, Concluding observations of the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination: Canada, 25 May 2007

Regional human rights bodies

The African Commission is confident that the Declaration will become a very valuable tool and a point of reference for the African Commission’s efforts to ensure the promotion and protection of indigenous peoples’ rights on the African continent.

African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, “Communique on the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples”, Brazzaville, Republic of Congo, 28 November 2007

The Rapporteurship on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), applauds the approval of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples … The IACHR Rapporteurship hopes that the recently approved UN Declaration will facilitate the prompt approval of the OAS Declaration so that the rights of indigenous peoples of the Americas can be recognized and protected.

Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, “IACHR Rapporteurship Applauds Approval of UN Declaration on Rights of Indigenous Peoples”, September 18, 2007

Non-governmental organizations

Adoption of the Declaration sends a clear message to the international community that the rights of Indigenous Peoples are not separate from or less than the rights of others, but are an integral and indispensable part of a human rights system dedicated to the rights of all.

Joint Statement by Amnesty International, Friends World Committee for Consultation (Quakers), International Federation of Human Rights Leagues, International Service for Human Rights, and Rights & Democracy, September 14, 2007

… the [UN Human Rights] Council is responsible for promoting universal respect for the protection of all human rights … for all, without distinction of any kind ... It is therefore most fitting that this historic first session of the Council has the opportunity to propose to the General Assembly for adoption one of the most urgently needed and long overdue standards for the recognition and protection of human rights, the draft United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Joint Statement by over 40Human Rights Non-governmental Organizations, Human Rights Council, Geneva, June 27, 2006

Environmental organizations

The World Conservation Congress … ENDORSES the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples … [and] DIRECTS Council to form a task force to examine the application of the Declaration to every aspect of the IUCN Programme (including Commission Mandates), policies and practices and to make recommendations for its implementation …

International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), Resolution of its World Conservation Congress, Barcelona, Spain, 5-14 October 2008


Indigenous Peoples

The Declaration is a framework for States to link and integrate with the Indigenous Peoples, to initiate new and positive relations but this time without exclusion, without discrimination and without exploitation. … These rights in the Declaration are already recognised in international law, but they are rights which have been denied to Indigenous Peoples everywhere.

Les Malezer, Chair, Global Indigenous Peoples’ Caucus, Statement to the UN General Assembly, New York, September 13, 007

With the passage of the Declaration we herald the dawning of a new era for relations between pacific Indigenous Peoples and States, as well as UN agencies and specialized bodies. An era which we believe can now be established on a strong human rights foundation. The passage of the Declaration affirms the fundamental principle that human rights are universal and that the Indigenous Peoples and cultures of the Pacific are entitled to the rights and fundamental freedoms which have for so long been withheld.

Pacific Regional Caucus Statement on the Adoption of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, September 13, 2007

[The UN Declaration] will be an instrument and tool which we will use to raise the awareness of the society at large on our rights and to make governments address the situation of indigenous peoples who have long been suffering from injustice, discrimination and marginalization. It will be an instrument that will be used [to] enhance further the empowerment of Indigenous Peoples.

Asia Indigenous Peoples Caucus on the Occasion of the Adoption of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, September 13, 2007


The tragic and brutal story of what happened to us, especially at the hands of the governments, is well known. … But today, with the adoption of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples by the United Nations General Assembly, we see the opportunity for a new beginning, for another kind of relationship with States in North America and indeed throughout the world.

Statement of Indigenous Representatives from the North American Region, September 13, 2007

Les Peuples Autochtones doivent interpréter la déclaration comme une dynamique de reconnaissance des Droits des Peuples Autochtones qui viennent d’être inclus dans la grande famille des Droits reconnu par la charte des nations unies. Cet acte moral ne constitue pas un règlement définitif des violations des droits des Peuples Autochtones mais plutôt un pas qui favorise et ouvre les voies pour des règlements pacifiques de nos situations.

[Unofficial translation: Indigenous Peoples must interpret the Declaration as a dynamic of recognition of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples that are being included in the large family of Rights recognized by the Charter of the United Nations. This moral act does not constitute a definitive settlement of the violations of the rights of Indigenous Peoples but rather a step that favours and opens the way for peaceful settlements of our situations.]

African Indigenous Caucus, Regional Statement, New York, September 13, 2007


The Inuit Circumpolar Council and Sami Council welcome this momentous occasion. For the first time, the world community has proclaimed a universally applicable human rights instrument in order to end centuries of marginalisation and discrimination, and to affirm that Indigenous peoples are peoples, equal in dignity and rights with all other peoples.

Inuit Circumpolar Council and Sami Council, Statement of the Arctic Region, September 13, 2007

The Declaration recognizes our collective histories, traditions, cultures, languages, and spirituality. It is an important international instrument that supports the activities and efforts of Indigenous peoples to have their rights fully recognized, respected and implemented by state governments.

National Chief Phil Fontaine, “AFN National Chief applauds today’s passage of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples – Recognizing 30 years of work in the making”, September 13, 2007


… the UN Declaration is a triumph of achievement – a cause for great celebration. It is a contribution to justice and humanity. The international human rights system is being strengthened. … The Declaration is the most comprehensive international instrument addressing the rights of Indigenous peoples. … As distinct peoples, we now have a principled international legal framework that affirms our human rights.

Grand Chief Matthew Mukash, Grand Council of the Crees (Eeyou Istchee), September 26, 2007

What a tremendous day. It’s all over now and we have in our hands a Declaration we helped construct and one on which we can proudly stand. Notwithstanding Canada's “NO” vote they will have to be accountable against the Declaration's standards. It cannot pick and choose the human rights it wants. We should all be proud in our collective achievement. I was proud to be a part of our tremendous effort and achievement!

Grand Chief Edward John, Co-Coordinator of the North American Regional Indigenous Peoples Caucus, New York, September 13, 2007

The First Nations Leadership Council stands together with the indigenous peoples of the world in celebrating this historic achievement … However we remain shocked and angered at Canada’s refusal to support this important international human rights instrument.

Grand Chief Steward Phillip, President, Union of BC Indian Chiefs & Member, First Nations Leadership Council, “Passage of the UN Declaration an historic day for Aboriginal people in Canada: Canada’s opposition a national disgrace and a stain on its international reputation”, September 13, 2007

The 13th of September 2007 will be remembered as an international human rights day for the Indigenous Peoples of the world, a day that the United Nations and its Member States, together with Indigenous Peoples, reconciled with past painful histories and decided to march into the future on the path of human rights. Unfortunately this is a bittersweet victory for Indigenous Peoples in this country … Canada will have to work very hard to redeem itself and its position as an international leader of the protection of Human Rights.

Quebec Native Women’s Association, Press Release, September 14, 2007


The Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples will serve as a comprehensive international human rights instrument for Indigenous women, men and youth around the world. … The adoption of the Declaration will allow Indigenous women and their families to infuse local human rights struggles with the power of international law and hold their governments accountable to international human rights standards.

International Indigenous Women’s Forum, “Statement on the Occasion of the Adoption by the General Assembly of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples”, September 13, 2007

This vote culminates a decades-long struggle by Indigenous Peoples for recognition of their rights and dignity at the UN … The adoption of the Declaration marks an historic step forward for the word’s Indigenous Peoples in our struggles to defend our rights from the local to the international levels … State are called upon by the Declaration to act in good faith to implement its provisions.

International Indian Treaty Council, “History is made for Indigenous Peoples at United Nations”, September 16, 2007

No one is rejoicing here in Manipur, in the northeastern territories of India, as many people began a fast yesterday against a racist military law that has seen thousands of indigenous persons held without charge, assaulted, killed, maimed, disappeared, tortured, sexually abused or extra-judicially executed since 1958 till today. While the present scenario is bleak for the surviving indigenous peoples, even critical for many, the declaration comes to us this autumn as a long overdue fresh wind with an elusive promise.

Roy Laifungbam, CORE Centre for Organisation Research & Education [Indigenous Peoples' Centre for Policy and Human Rights in India's Eastern Himalayan Territories], Manipur, India, September 16, 2007

Although the challenge ahead is huge, the recognition of the rights of Indigenous Peoples by the United Nations is truly a cause for celebration. … The DRIP is a major milestone, a vital point of reflection and affirmation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights”’.

Anselmo Lee, Executive Director, Asia Forum of Human Rights and Development, Bangkok “A Milestone Achieved: the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples is adopted by the United Nations General Assembly”, September 14, 2007

States

We are certain that this text will lay the foundations for a sound new relationship between the world’s indigenous peoples and the States and societies in which they live and with which they coexist.

Peru, introducing the resolution to adopt the Declaration to the UN General Assembly, September 13, 2007

The Government of Bolivia … granted legal status to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples by the adoption of Act No. 3760 of 7 November 2007. … Bolivia has therefore taken the lead in the field of indigenous rights, since it is the first country in the world to have taken this measure.

Bolivia, information provided to the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, 11 February 2008

The Declaration constitutes one of the most significant achievements in this field of human rights, and we are confident that it will advance the rights and ensure the continued development of indigenous peoples around the world. The EU was encouraged by the wide support to the Declaration from Indigenous peoples’ representatives, as well as the large number of States. … The challenge before us now, is to make sure that the indigenous peoples will in fact enjoy the rights recognised in the Declaration.

Portugal (on behalf of the European Union), Human Rights Council, Oral Statement, Geneva, September 26, 2007

The recent adoption by the General Assembly, by an overwhelming majority, of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples will provide a new and comprehensive framework for the Special Rapporteur in pursuing the realization of the rights of indigenous peoples, numbering over 315 million around the world, constituting one of the world’s most vulnerable groups. Indeed, the adoption of the Declaration requires the continuation of the mandate of the Special Rapporteur, with a view to promote its implementation …

Egypt (on behalf of the African Group), Human Rights Council, Oral Statement, Geneva, September 26, 2007

The UN Declaration on the rights of indigenous peoples … represents in our view a framework for improved partnership between governments and indigenous peoples. We therefore agree that it provides the Special Rapporteur with a new moral and political force and the mandate merits its renewal and strengthening by this Council in the framework of the principles and rights affirmed in the UN Declaration on the rights of indigenous peoples.

Norway, Human Rights Council, Geneva, Oral Statement, September 26, 2007

The adoption of the Declaration of the Rights of the Indigenous Peoples by the General Assembly of the United Nations on September 13, 2007 constitutes a historical milestone for the Indigenous movement.

Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, “Statement by the Permanent Representative of Spain, Ambassador Juan Antonio Yáñez-Barnuevo”, 7th sess., New York, 22 April 2008

Domestic human rights bodies

The passage of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples on September 13, 2007 marked a milestone for the world’s indigenous peoples, and for the United Nations. … The Commission will look to the Declaration for inspiration in our own work.

Canadian Human Rights Commission, Public Statement, February 15, 2008

… by supporting the UN Declaration, Canada would be affirming its commitment to the rights of its own indigenous peoples, many of whom have become increasingly alienated by the seeming inaction of governments in response to their plight. Such a move would have great symbolic value in furthering the relationship between governments and Indigenous people in this country. Lastly, by supporting the UN Declaration, Canada would be further cementing the leadership position this country has long enjoyed in the global movement to respect human rights. Canada’s otherwise respected human rights position would be sullied by continuing efforts to oppose the Declaration and slow down the General Assembly’s approval of it.

Barbara Hall, Chief Commissioner, Ontario Human Rights Commission, Letter to Stephen Harper, August 9, 2007

The Human Rights Commission today welcomed the adoption of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples by the United Nations General Assembly. This is an important milestone internationally in the recognition of the rights of indigenous peoples … the Commission is sorry that the New Zealand government felt unable to support the adoption of the Declaration over a few outstanding issues …

Chief Human Rights Commissioner Rosslyn Noonan and Race Relations Commissioner Joris de Bres, New Zealand Human Rights Commission, “Indigenous Rights Declaration to guide Commission work”, New Zealand, September 14, 2007

[The adoption of the Declaration] is a milestone for the world’s indigenous peoples and the United Nations … However, it is a matter of great regret that Australia and three other nations have opposed the Declaration … the Australian Government’s reasoning for opposing the Declaration has no sound base and does not interpret the Declaration consistently with international law. In fact, their arguments had been roundly condemned by both Indigenous peoples and other governments …

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner Tom Calma, Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission, Australia, “UN Declaration a milestone for Indigenous Peoples”, September 14, 2007

Australia’s refusal to support the declaration does not preclude it from having relevance domestically. In Victoria, the Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities provides a mandate to consider international law, such as the declaration, when interpreting the practical meaning and application of the rights contained in the charter. This means the declaration will prove an invaluable resource in understanding how the rights of indigenous people can be best served under the charter.

Dr Helen Szoke, Chief Executive of the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission, Victoria, Australia, September 26, 2007

Parliament of Canada

That the government endorse the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on 13 September 2007 and that Parliament and Government of Canada fully implement the standards contained therein.

House of Commons, Canada, Motion, adopted April 8, 2008 (dissent by Conservative members of Parliament)

Opposition parties

Stephen Harper’s government has failed in its duty by voting against the adoption of the Declaration. … The Conservative government is moving backwards on the Aboriginal question and is once again isolated on the international scene. It’s deplorable.

Bloc Quèbècois, “The United Nations Adopts the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples without Canada’s Support”, September 13, 2007

Today’s vote marks the first time Canada has opposed a major human rights document. By arguing against the text it helped draft, and ultimately trying to defeat it, Canada has lost credibility among the community of nations concerned about the protection of human rights.

Liberal Party, “Harper Government failed Canada with UN Vote”, September 13, 2007

Canada had an opportunity to show the world it still has some relevance in international affairs as a catalyst to create agreement, instead of blocking action. … voting in favour of the Declaration on Indigenous Peoples Rights would have been a confirmation of our history of conciliation and compromise and a signal that Canada intends to honour its obligations to indigenous peoples.

NDP, “NDP appalled by Canada's vote against UN declaration on Indigenous peoples’ rights”, June 29, 2006

A Federal Labor Government would endorse Australia becoming a signatory to the International Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The declaration is about the international community expressing its support for Indigenous people and their children having an equal chance at life. It is something that most of the international community aspires to in the interests of equality.

Australian Labor Party, “International Declaration on The Rights Of Indigenous Peoples”, September 14, 2007