Indigenous peoples are from unique cultural backgrounds that possess ways of relating people to the environment. They possess social, cultural, economic and political characteristics that are quite distinct from the dominant society they live in. Although their cultures may be different, these people share a common issue relating to the protection of their rights as distinct peoples. Historically, this group has constantly sought for recognition to only have their rights violated, making them vulnerable and disadvantaged. It has been deemed by the international community that special matters must be taken to protect their rights so their distinct cultures and way of life are not lost.
Adopted by the General Assembly on September 13, 2007, the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples aims to set out individual and collective rights of Indigenous peoples. It gives them rights to culture, identity, language, employment, health, education and other issues. It prohibits discrimination against these peoples and calls for them to have full participation in matters that concern them. The goal is for governments to work alongside these peoples in combatting issues.
However, countries such as Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United States of America voted against it. These four countries possess many Indigenous peoples which questions if the Declaration has succeeded in its attempt to protect the rights of these groups.
The focus of this topic will be geared towards securing the land rights of indigenous peoples and ensuring their communities can live sustainably on these lands. Indigenous peoples’ land is crucial for them to maintain and strengthen their culture and traditions. This means that actions taken by government, corporations and non-aboriginal peoples should not forcibly remove these peoples from their lands or attempt to relocate them without their agreement. Also, States should act in good faith with these peoples and obtain their consent when a project affects their lands or territories and resources.
Another issue is even if these people secure land rights, the land these Indigenous people live on lack basic infrastructure to make their lands livable. Extreme poverty is rampant and there are no basic provisions for food, water, shelter, electricity and other basic infrastructure. This makes maintaining their community difficult as these peoples live in poorer conditions than the dominant society.
As such, what should be done so that these Indigenous peoples possess the same rights of the dominant society? How will land settlements be addressed? What rights to their land or territories will these Indigenous peoples possess? What is the best way to ensure these peoples can protect and maintain their collective identity? What can be done so that these Indigenous peoples’ lands are sustainable and can support future generations?
Indigenous People at the UN. Retrieved September 1, 2016, from UN website https://www.un.org/development/desa/indigenouspeoples/about-us.html
State of the World’s Indigenous Peoples. Retrieved September 5, 2016 from UN website http://www.un.org/esa/socdev/unpfii/documents/SOWIP/en/SOWIP_web.pdf
United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Retrieved September 1, 2016, from UN website http://www.un.org/esa/socdev/unpfii/documents/DRIPS_en.pdf