The Grand Council of the Crees

United Nations Draft Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

United Nations Draft Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Plain language version(prepared by the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission, Canberra, Australia)

Posted: 0000-00-00

Introduction

The United Nations is the international organisatlon which consists of the governments of the world.From its earliest days the UN has been concerned with protecting human rights. However, the UN was slow to recognise the human rights concerns of indigenous peoples. In 1982, a Working Group on Indigenous Populations (WGIP) was established. In 1993, the WGIP completed its work on a "Draft Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples" to be adopted by the UN General Assembly. The Draft Declaration was the result of the work of representatives of indigenous peoples and governrnents from all parts of the world.The Draft Declaration deals with the rights of indigenous peoples in areas such as seIf-determination, culture and language, education, health, housing, employment, land and resources, environment and development, intellectual and cultural property, indigenous law and treaties and agreements with governments. In 1995, the Commission on Human Rights established its own working group to examine the Draft Declaration.This working group is likely to revise some provisions of the Draft Declaration. When the Cornmission on Human Rights completes its work, the Draft Declaration will be submitted jo the UN General Assembly for final adoption.This plain language version of the Draft Declaration is intended to help indigenous communities and organisations understand the Draft Declaration.

The Draft Declaration will be a powerful tool in changing attitudes, laws and policies. In Australia there are signs that the Draft Declaration is. already having an impact on debate about indigenous issues.

Preamble

(The Preamble lists some of the reasons which led the United Nations to develop a declaration on indigenous peoples? rights. The Declaration sets out the rights of indigenous peoples. The language of "peoples" is important. Indigenous peoples do not want to be treated simply as numerical populations. They want recognition of their rights as distinct peoples, including the right to self-determination and the right to control development of their societies).

Racism

Rejection of the view that some peoples are better than others as racist and wrong.

Colonisation

Recognition that indigenous peoples have been deprived of their human rights and freedoms and that this has led to their colonisation and the taking of their land.

Respect

Recognition of the urgent need to respect the rights of indigenous peoples, particularly their rights to their land and resources.

Indigenous Organisations

Recognition that indigenous peoples are getting together to end discrimination and oppression.

Environment

Recognition that respect for indigenous peoples' knowledge can contribute to fair and lasting development and better management of the environment.

Part 1: Fundamental Rights

(Part I sets out some very fundamental rights of indigenous peoples. It states that indigenous peoples have the same rights as other peoples and must be treated like everybody else. Part I recognises that indigenous peoples have the right of self-determination and the right to keep their distinct characteristics.(There is much disagreement over what self-determination means: Indigenous peoples base their claims to self-determination on the fact that they were the first peoples in their territories. Self-determination means the right of indigenous peoples to chose their political status and to make decisions about their own development. Self-determination can take a variety of forms.(Some governments reject the right of indigenous peoples to self-determination or try to limit its scope. They are fearful of independence movements and the possibility of national disintegration.

(Indigenous representatives at the UN consider this view to be racist and discriminatory. They point to the fact that the UN Charter and the main human rights instruments state self-determination as a right of all peoples).

Article 1 : Human Rights

Indigenous peoples have the right to all the human rights and freedoms recognised in international law.

Article 2: Equality

Indigenous peoples are equal to all other peoples. They must be free from discrimination.

Article 3 : Self-Determination

Indigenous peoples have the right of self-determination. This means they can choose their political status and the way they want to develop.

Article 4 : Distinct Characteristics

Indigenous peoples have the right to keep and develop their distinct characteristics and systems of law. They also have the right, if they want, to take part in the life of the rest of the country.

Article 5 : Citizenship

Every indigenous person has the right to be a citizen of a country.

Part II: Life and Security

(Part II sets out the right of indigenous peoples to exist as distinct peoples. Indigenous peoples are to be free from genocide and their children must not be removed from their communities. They have the right to their culture and identity. They have the right to stay on their land and must be specially protected in time of war.(Genocide means the physical destruction of a people, including through the removal of children.

(Cultural genocide refers to the destruction of a people's culture).

Article 6: Existence

Indigenous peoples have the right to live in freedom, peace and security.They must be free from genocide and other acts of violence.

Their children must not be removed from their families and cornmunities, for any reason at all.

Article 7: Cultural Integrity

Indigenous peoples shall be free from cultural genocide.Governments shall prevent:(a) actions which take away their distinct cultures and identities;(b) the taking of their land and resources;(c) their removal from their land;(d) measures of assimilation;

(e) propaganda against them.

Article 8: Identity

Indigenous peoples have the right to their distinct identities.

This includes the right to identify themselves as indigenous.

Article 9: Communities and Nations

Indigenous peoples have the right to belong to indigenous communities and nations, in accordance with their traditions and customs.

Article 10: Removal and Relocations

Indigenous peoples shall not be removed from their land by force.

They shall not be relocated without their agreement. Where they agree, they should be given compensation and the possibility to return.

Article 11: Time of War

Indigenous peoples shall have protection in time of war.Governments shall respect international law and must not:(a) force indigenous people to enter the army, particularly if they have to fight against other indigenous people;(b) allow indigenous children to join the army;(c) force indigenous people to leave their land;

(d) force indigenous people to work for the army under discriminatory conditions.

Part III: Culture, Religion and Language

Article 12: Culture

Indigenous peoples have the right to their cultural traditions and customs.This includes aspects of their culture such as sacred sites, designs, ceremonies, technologies and performances.

Their cultural property shall be returned to them, if it was taken without their permission.

Article 13: Spiritual and Religious traditions

Indigenous peoples have the right to their spiritual and religious traditions, their customs and their ceremonies.They have the right to their sacred sites, ceremonial objects and the remains of their ancestors.

Governments shall assist indigenous peoples to preserve and protect their sacred places.

Article 14: Language

Indigenous peoples have the right to their histories, languages, oral traditions, stories, writings and their own names for people and places.

Governments shall ensure that in courts and other proceedings indigenous peoples can understand and be understood through interpreters and other appropriate ways.

Part IV: Education, Media and Employment

(Part IV sets out the rights of indigenous peoples in the areas of education, the media and employment. Indigenous children have the right to education, including education in their own languages and culture. They have the right to use mainstream media, as well as to establish their own media. They have the right to be treated fairly in all matters relating to employment).

Article 15: Education

Indigenous children have the right to the same education as all other children.Indigenous peoples also have the right to their own schools and to provide education in their own languages.

Indigenous children who do not live in indigenous communities shall be able to learn their own culture and language.

Article 16: Information

All forms of education and public information shall reflect the dignity and diversity of indigenous cultures, traditions and aspirations.

In consultation with indigenous peoples, governments shall take measures to promote tolerance and good relations between indigenous and other peoples.

Article 17: Media

Indigenous peoples have the right to their own media in their languages.

They shall also have equal access to non-indigenous media. Government-owned media must reflect indigenous culture.

Article 18: Employment

Indigenous peoples have rights under international labour law and under national labour laws. Indigenous peoples must not be discriminated against in matters connected with employment.

Part V: Participation and Development

(Part V sets out the rights of indigenous peoples to participate in decisions and developments which affect them. Indigenous peoples must participate in, and give their consent to, decisions and law-making that affect them. They have the right to their own economic activities and to special measures to improve their economic and social conditions).

Article 19: Decision-Making

Indigenous peoples have the right to participate in decisions that affect them.

They can choose their own representatives and use their own decision-making procedures.

Article 20: Law and Policy-Making

Indigenous peoples have the right to participate in law and policy-making that affects them.

Governments must obtain the consent of indigenous peoples before adopting these laws and policies.

Article 21 : Economic Activities

Indigenous peoples have the right to their own economic and social systems and to pursue their own traditional and other economic activities.

Where indigenous peoples have been deprived of means of subsistence, they are entitled to compensation.

Article 22 Special Measures

Indigenous peoples have the right to special measures to improve their economic and social conditions.

This includes in the areas of employment, education, housing, health and social security.

Article 23 : Economic and Social Development

Indigenous peoples have the right to determine priorities and strategies for their development.

They should determine health, housing and other economic and social programs and, as far as possible, deliver these programs through their own organisations.

Article 24: Health

Indigenous peoples have the right to their traditional medicines and health practices. The plants, animals and minerals used in medicines shall be protected.

Indigenous peoples shall have access to all medical institutions and health services without discrimination.

Part VI: Land and Resources

(Part VI sets out the rights of indigenous peoples to their land. They have the right to maintain their distinctive spiritual relationship with their land, waters and resources. They have the right to own and develop their land, waters and resources, and to the return of land taken without their consent. Their environment and their cultural and intellectual property must be protected. Indigenous peoples have the riglit to control development of their land.(Cultural Property: There is high demand for indigenous artwork and cultural artefacts. Through theft and unauthorised use and sale, indigenous peoples have been robbed of their cultural heritage. Therefore, indigenous peoples are seeking protection of their cultural property. This includes sites, human remains, oral traditions, designs, art and ceremonies.

(Intellectual Property: Indigenous knowledge is a valuable resource. However, the profits are rarely shared with indigenous peoples. Therefore, indigenous peoples are seeking protection of their intellectual property. This means indigenous knowledge in areas such as medicinal plants, agricultural biodiversity and environmental management).

ArticIe 25 : Distinctive Relationship

Indigenous peoples have the right to keep and strengthen their distinctive spiritual relationship with their land and waters.

Article 26 : Ownership

Indigenous peoples have the right to own and control the use of their land, waters and other resources.

Indigenous 1aws and customs shall be recognised.

Article 27: Restitution

Indigenous peoples have the right to return of land and resources taken without their consent.Where this is not possible, they shall receive just compensation in the form of land and resources. Article 28 : EnvironmentIndigenous peoples shall receive assistance in order to restore and protect the environment of their land and resources.

Army activities shall not take place on the land of indigenous peoples without their consent. Hazardous material shall not be stored or disposed of on the land of indigenous peoples. Governments shall take measures to assist indigenous peoples whose health has been affected by such material.

Article 29 : Cultural and Intellectual Property

Indigenous peoples have the right to own and control their cultural and intellectual property.

They have the right to special measures to control and develop their sciences, technologies, seeds, medicines, knowledge of flora and fauna, oral traditions, designs, art and performances.

Article 30: Resource Development

Indigenous peoples have the right to determine strategies for the development of their land and resources.Governments must obtain the consent of indigenous peoples before giving approval to activities affecting their land and resources, particularly the development of mineral, water and other resources.Just compensation must be paid for such activities.

Part VII: Self-government and Indigenous Laws

(Part VII sets out guidelines for situations in which indigenous peoples exercise their right of self determination through self-government. It recognises the right of indigenous peoples to determine their citizenship, to their own laws and customs, to relations with other peoples across borders, and to treaties and agreements with governments.(Treaties and agreements: In the past, many indigenous peoples have reached treaties and agreements with governments. For indigenous peoples, treaties have great spiritual meaning, and provide recognition of their status as self-governing peoples and their right to self-determination.

Indigenous peoples have struggled for the recognition of their treaty rights in domestic and international law. Treaty rights can also be a way to regain control over indigenous land and resources.

Article 31: Self-Government

As a form of self-determination, indigenous peoples have the right to self- government in relation to their own affairs.

These include culture, religion, education, media, health, housing, employment, social security, economic activities, land and resources management, environment and entry by non-members.

Article 32: Indigenous Citizenship

Indigenous peoples have the right to determine who are their own citizens.They have the right to decide upon the structures and membership of their organisations.

Article 33: Indigenous Laws and Customs

Indigenous peoples have the right to their own legal customs and traditions, as long as they accord with international human rights law.

Article 34 : Responsibilities

Indigenous peoples can decide the responsibilities of individuals to their communities.

Article 35: Borders

Indigenous peoples separated by international borders have the right to maintain relations and undertake activities with one another.

Article 36: Treaties and Agreements

Governments shall respect treaties and agreements entered into with indigenous peoples.

Disputes should be resolved by international bodies.

Part VIII: Implementation

(Part VIII sets out what governments and the United Nations must do in order to put the Declaration into practice).

Article 37: National Law

In consultation with indigenous. peoples, governments shall take measures to give effect to this Declaration. This includes making the rights recognised in the Declaration into national law so that they can be enforced by indigenous peoples.

Article 38 : Financial Assistance

Indigenous peoples have the right to financial and other assistance from governments and international organisations in order to exercise the rights recognised in this Declaration.

Article 39: Disputes

Governments shall establish fair procedures for resolution of disputes with indigenous peoples. These procedures must take account of indigenous customs and traditions.

Article 40: United Nations

The United Nations and other international organisations shall provide financial and other assistance in order to give effect to the rights recognised in this Declaration.

Article 41: Special International Body

The United Nations shall create a special international body in order to give effect to this Declaration. Indigenous peoples shall participate directly in this body.

Part IX: Understanding the Declaration

(Part IX provides some guidance as to how to understand the Declaration).

Article 42:Minimum Standards

This Declaration contains only minimum standards for indigenous peoples.

Article 43: Men and Women

The rights recognised in this Declaration apply equally to indigenous men and women.

Article 44 : Other Indigenous Rights

Nothing in this Declaration affects other rights indigenous peoples presently hold or may get in the future.

Article 45: United Nations Charter

Nothing in this Declaration allows any action against the Charter of the United Nations.