Interpreting the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) Factsheet

2018, 4 pp

The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (“UN Declaration” or “Declaration”) is the most comprehensive international human rights instrument that explicitly addresses the rights of Indigenous peoples. It affirms a wide range of political, economic, social, cultural, spiritual and environmental rights. The rights in the Declaration are predominantly collective in nature. At the same time, the rights of Indigenous individuals are positively affirmed and safeguarded in various ways.

The UN Declaration is not binding in the same manner as international treaties or conventions, but it does have diverse legal effects. The Declaration is not merely aspirational. As underlined by former Special Rapporteur, James Anaya, in August 2010:

…even though the Declaration itself is not legally binding in the same way that a treaty is, the Declaration reflects legal commitments that are related to the [United Nations] Charter, other treaty commitments and customary international law. The Declaration […] is grounded in fundamental human rights principles such as non-discrimination, self-determination and cultural integrity ….

The Declaration provides a principled and normative legal framework for achieving reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples around the world. As described by the UN Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in Geneva: “The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples constitutes a principled framework for justice, reconciliation, healing and peace.”

This is a clear and informative factsheet that provides answers and clarification along the following topics:

  • UN Declaration affirms and elaborates on human rights of Indigenous peoples
  • UN Declaration is a collaborative framework based on Indigenous peoples’ self-determination
  • UN Declaration must be read as a whole
  • The preamble matters
  • UN Declaration is an integral part of international human rights law

This factsheet is endorsed by the following:
Amnesty International Canada; Assembly of First Nations; BC Assembly of First Nations; Canadian Friends Service Committee (Quakers); First Nations Summit; Grand Council Of The Crees (Eeyou Istchee)/ Cree Nation Government; Kairos: Canadian Ecumenical Justice Initiatives; Native Women’s Association Of Canada; Union of BC Indian Chiefs; Dr. Mariam Wallet Aboubakrine, Expert Member, UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues

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