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Thematic reports

A/HRC/45/38: Right to land under the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples: a human rights focus Study of the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples


15 July 2020

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Indigenous Peoples


The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples is the only international human rights legal instrument with a specific focus on the all-encompassing significance of lands, territories and resources for Indigenous Peoples.

The explicit recognition in the Declaration of Indigenous Peoples’ right to their lands, territories and resources seeks to address a long history of illegal and unjust dispossession, which continues today. This study seeks to contribute to an understanding of the rights contained in the Declaration, the obligations of States arising therefrom and the practice of States in implementing those rights.

It was undertaken against a backdrop of a rise in conflict on indigenous lands due to destruction, encroachment and land-grabbing and a commensurate rise in the criminalization and harassment of and violence against defenders of indigenous lands.

The level of protection of land rights varies across the regions, with some States having established sophisticated, albeit often overly onerous and complex, means of granting land tenure to Indigenous Peoples while others have failed to recognize Indigenous Peoples at all, let alone their right to land. Yet other States continue to discriminate and persecute Indigenous Peoples. The implementation gap remains wide and failure to recognize land rights contributes to ongoing violence in many regions. The pursuit of the Sustainable Development Goals, several of which relate to land rights, gives States an opportunity to secure Indigenous Peoples’ control over their lands, territories and resources.

The international focus on climate change and climate justice is also an opportunity to recognize the critical role that Indigenous Peoples play in the protection of the environment and the maintenance of biodiversity.