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Statement by UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous People, on the General Assembly’s decision not to adopt the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

4 December 2006

The Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms of Indigenous People, Rodolfo Stavenhagen, is concerned about the recent decision of the General Assembly to adjourn consideration of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. It is disappointing that the General Assembly missed the opportunity to assert its principled support of this important human rights instrument on the occasion of this year’s Human Rights Day, and as a major contribution to the world’s human rights.

The Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples was adopted by the Human Rights Council, the United Nations’ main human rights authority, during its first session in June 2006. The Declaration is the result of many years of discussion and negotiation among the states members of the Human Rights Commission, with the active participation of representatives of the world’s indigenous peoples.

It is now incumbent upon the Human Rights Council to reaffirm its commitment in promoting and protecting the dignity, survival and well-being of the millions of indigenous people around the world whose rights have long been ignored and neglected, when not actually breached in practice.

Indigenous people expect the Human Rights Council as well as the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, and other UN agencies, to continue promoting the provisions of the Declaration for the protection of the human rights of their members and communities. Much can be done over the next few years, and in the current restructuring of the Council’s mechanisms a space must be found to ensure the continuing participation of indigenous representatives in debates concerning the application of international human rights standards to the particular circumstances of indigenous peoples.

The Special Rapporteur hopes that the General Assembly may reconsider its position and adopt the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples at the earliest possible moment.