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UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

Fact Sheet 1: Overview

The Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on 14 September 2007 (AEST). The Declaration has 46 substantive articles and 24 preambular paragraphs.1 It includes 9 changes to the text of the Declaration as adopted by the UN Human Rights Council in June 2006.

The Declaration is divided into the following broad thematic areas:

  • Over-arching principles (Articles 1-6): The rights of indigenous peoples to the full enjoyment of all human rights, non-discrimination, self-determination and autonomy, maintenance of Indigenous institutions, and the right to a nationality.
  • Life, integrity and security (Articles 7-10): Freedom from genocide, forced assimilation or destruction of culture, forced relocation from land, right to integrity and security of the person, and right to belong to an indigenous community or nation.
  • Cultural, spiritual and linguistic identity (Articles 11 – 13): Rights to practice and revitalize culture and the transmission of histories, languages etc; and the protection of traditions, sites, ceremonial objects and repatriation of remains.
  • Education, information and labour rights (Articles 14-17): Right to education, including to run own educational institutions and teach in language; cultures to be reflected in education and public information; access to media (both mainstream and indigenous specific); and rights to protection of labour law and from economic exploitation.
  • Participatory, development and other economic and social rights (Articles 18-24): Rights to participation in decision-making, through representative bodies; rights to their own institutions to secure subsistence and development; special measures to be adopted to address indigenous disadvantage and ensure non-discriminatory enjoyment of rights; guarantees against violence and discrimination for women and children; right to development; and access to traditional health practices and medicines.
  • Land, territories and resources rights (Articles 25-32): rights to maintain traditional connections to land and territories; for ownership of such lands and protection of lands by State; establishment of systems to recognize indigenous lands; rights to redress and compensation for lands that have been taken; conservation and protection of the environment; measures relating to storage of hazardous waste and military activities on indigenous lands; protection of traditional knowledge, cultural heritage and expressions and intellectual property; and processes for development on indigenous land.
  • Indigenous institutions (Article 33 – 37): Rights to determine membership and to maintain institutions (including judicial systems), to determine responsibilities of individuals to their communities, to maintain relations across international borders, and right to the recognition of treaties, agreements and other constructive arrangements with States.
  • Implementation of the Declaration (Articles 38 – 42): States and UN agencies to implement the provisions of the Declaration, including through technical and financial assistance; access to financial and technical assistance for Indigenous peoples to implement the Declaration; and conflict resolution processes to be established that are just and fair.
  • General provisions of the Declaration (Articles 43-46): The provisions of the Declaration are recognized as minimum standards and apply equally to Indigenous men and women; the standards recognized in the Declaration may not be used to limit or diminish indigenous rights, and must be exercised in conformity with the UN Charter and universal human rights standards; the provisions in the Declaration to be interpreted in accordance with principles of justice, democracy, respect for human rights, equality, non-discrimination, good governance and good faith.2


[1] The Declaration, as approved by the General Assembly, is available online

[2] For a detailed description of the Declaration’s structure (prior to the changes accepted by the Human Rights Council) see: Pritchard, S., An analysis of the United Nations Draft Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, ATSIC Canberra 1999. See also: Charters, C, ‘The rights of Indigenous peoples’, New Zealand Law Journal, October 2006, pp 335-337.