Friday, December 17, 2010
President Barack Obama announced that the United States supports the Declaration on the RIghts of Indigenous Peoples. When the U.N. General Assembly adopted the Declaration in September 2007, the United States was only one of four countries (along with Canada, Australia and New Zealand) that voted against it.
With the announcement this week, the United States has now joined the other three countries in endorsing the non-binding text that sets out the individual and collective rights of an estimated 370 million indigenous peoples, as well as their rights to culture, identity, language, employment, health, education and other issues.
The UN Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, James Anaya, issued a statement saying he is “elated” at the US announcement, calling it a “groundbreaking development” for Native Americans and all those who seek greater protection for human rights across the globe. “With its endorsement of the Declaration, the United States strengthens it stated commitment to improve the conditions of Native Americans and to address broken promises. Indigenous peoples can now look to the Declaration as a means of holding the United States to that commitment,” said Mr. Anaya, who reports to the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council in an independent and unpaid capacity.
The Declaration emphasizes the rights of indigenous peoples to maintain and strengthen their own institutions, cultures and traditions and to pursue their development in keeping with their own needs and aspirations. It also prohibits discrimination against indigenous peoples and promotes their full and effective participation in all matters that concern them, and their right to remain distinct and to pursue their own visions of economic and social development.
(Adapted from a UN Press Release)