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  • UN passes resolution on indigenous peoples (hello Ainu, Ryukyuans)

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on September 14th, 2007

    Hi Blog. Sorry for not talking about the PM Abe resignation (truth is, I don’t know what to say. Yet. Nor does anyone, really). Instead, topics germane to the focus of Debito.org:

    Just received this from the United Nations. This may become a historical event, especially given the indigenous peoples in Japan (Ainu, Ryukyuans) and their lack of official recognition (in 1997, the Ainu received tentative recognition for their aboriginal status from the GOJ, not that it meant they got any money or special favors for it). FYI. Debito

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    UNITED NATIONS ADOPTS DECLARATION ON RIGHTS OF INDIGENOUS PEOPLES
    New York, Sep 13 2007 3:00PM

    Courtesy of UNNews@un.org

    The General Assembly today adopted a landmark declaration outlining the rights of the world’s estimated 370 million indigenous people and outlawing discrimination against them – a move that followed more than two decades of debate.

    The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples has been approved after 143 Member States voted in favour, 11 abstained and four – Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United States – voted against the text.

    A non-binding text, the Declaration sets out the individual and collective rights of indigenous peoples, as well as their rights to culture, identity, language, employment, health, education and other issues.

    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.

    General Assembly President Sheikha Haya Rashed Al Khalifa, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour have all welcomed today’s adoption.

    Sheikha Haya said “the importance of this document for indigenous peoples and, more broadly, for the human rights agenda, cannot be underestimated. By adopting the Declaration, we are also taking another major step forward towards the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms for all.”

    But she warned that “even with this progress, indigenous peoples still face marginalization, extreme poverty and other human rights violations. They are often dragged into conflicts and land disputes that threaten their way of life and very survival; and, suffer from a lack of access to health care and education.”

    In a statement released by his spokesperson, Mr. Ban described the Declaration’s adoption as “a historic moment when UN Member States and indigenous peoples have reconciled with their painful histories and are resolved to move forward together on the path of human rights, justice and development for all.”

    He called on governments and civil society to ensure that the Declaration’s vision becomes a reality by working to integrate indigenous rights into their policies and programmes.

    Ms. Arbour noted that the Declaration has been “a long time coming. But the hard work and perseverance of indigenous peoples and their friends and supporters in the international community has finally borne fruit in the most comprehensive statement to date of indigenous peoples’ rights.”

    The UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues estimates there are more than 370 million indigenous people in some 70 countries worldwide.

    Members of the Forum said earlier this year that the Declaration creates no new rights and does not place indigenous peoples in a special category.
    2007-09-13 ENDS

    5 Responses to “UN passes resolution on indigenous peoples (hello Ainu, Ryukyuans)”

    1. debito Says:

      PS: Note who neglected to vote for the resolution: the US, Canada, Oz, and NZ–with their relatively strong aboriginal populations. And hark who did: Japan. Wonder what’s up with that.

    2. colin Says:

      I was wondering the same thing. My best guess would be that the resolution was sort of a slap in the face for the Canadians who already have very strong government policies put in place for First Nations people (not too mention the newly created territory, Nunavut). Perhaps the UN resolution simply lacked content and the Canadians rejected it because the policies they already have in place do a much better job than what the resolution sets out to.

    3. colin Says:

      Or perhaps I was wrong! :-)

      http://www.thestar.com/News/article/256372

      Canada votes against UN aboriginal declaration
      Sep 13, 2007 06:09 PM
      Steve Lambert
      Canadian Press
      Aboriginal leaders, human rights groups and the opposition blasted the Conservative government today after Canada voted against a United Nations declaration on aboriginal rights.

      They accused the government of trying to sweep aside an important show of support for aboriginals that took 20 years of negotiations among UN countries.

      “By opposing this declaration the Conservative government has signalled to aboriginal Canadians that their rights aren’t worth defending,” Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion said in a statement.

      “This is a stain on the country’s international reputation,” said Phil Fontaine, head of the Assembly of First Nations.

      “It is disappointing to see this government vote against recognizing the basic rights of Canada’s First Peoples.”

      The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples passed easily Thursday, 143-4. Canada, New Zealand, Australia and the United States voted against and 11 countries abstained.

      Canada said it could not support the document because its broad wording appeared to give native communities sweeping powers that could contravene existing law.

      “It’s inconsistent with the Canadian Constitution, with Supreme Court decisions and with our own treaty negotiations and obligations,” Indian Affairs Minister Chuck Strahl said from Ottawa.

      Among the many problems with the document, Strahl said, are sections that say laws that affect aboriginals should only be passed with the prior consent of First Nations.

      “We’d have to consult with 650 First Nations to do that. I mean, it’s simply not doable,” he said.

      Another section of the UN declaration says aboriginals “have the right to maintain and strengthen their distinct political, legal, economic, social and cultural institutions.”

      That is also unworkable, according to Strahl.

      “Some people … say that means we can have our own legislatures, our own council in our own language,” Strahl said.

      “But no one’s quite sure, and that’s the trouble with language like that.”

      Strahl’s critics argued the UN declaration is not binding on any country, and is more of a symbolic commitment to aboriginal rights.

      “It’s an aspirational document … it wouldn’t contravene laws that are in place,” NDP Indian affairs critic Jean Crowder said from Nanaimo, B.C.

      “I think (Canada’s vote) is a very cowardly and, I would say, un-Canadian approach to human rights.”

      Aboriginal leaders, however, felt the document was more than just a vague expression of support.

      “It recognizes who we are, that we have these fundamental rights,” said John Paul, executive director of the Atlantic Policy Congress, which represents 35 aboriginal communities.

      “To us it’s like the U.S. Declaration of Independence, because it lays out a number of inalienable truths about us as aboriginal people in the world.”

      Ron Evans, grand chief of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs, said the vote “doesn’t bode well” for relations between aboriginals and Ottawa.

      Human rights groups including Amnesty International said Thursday the vote has given Canada a black eye on the world stage. But Strahl said the Tories want to focus on concrete measures to improve the lives of aboriginals instead of symbolic statements.

      “For First Nations people in Canada, I think we’ve seen too many years of empty promises,” he said.

      “Our government is taking the approach of `let’s do concrete steps that will actually improve the lives of First Nations.’ That’s why we’re moving ahead on specific (land) claims legislation, on residential schools compensation … on including First Nations peoples under the Canadian Human Rights Act.”
      ENDS

    4. debito Says:

      UNICEF WELCOMES ADOPTION OF DECLARATION ON RIGHTS OF INDIGENOUS PEOPLES
      New York, Sep 16 2007 2:00PM
      Welcoming the General Assembly’s adoption of a declaration outlining the rights of the world’s estimated 370 million indigenous people, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has called for greater policies and programmes to tackle the poverty, discrimination and exclusion faced by indigenous children.

      UNICEF Executive Director Ann M. Veneman issued a < http://www.unicef.org/media/media_40879.html>statement praising UN Member States after they voted in the Assembly on Thursday — after more than 20 years of debate — to approve the < http://www.un.org/esa/socdev/unpfii/en/declaration.html>UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
      A non-binding text, the Declaration sets out the individual and collective rights of indigenous peoples, as well as their rights to culture, identity, language, employment, health, education and other issues.
      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.
      The majority of the 370 million indigenous people worldwide are children or adolescents, Ms. Veneman said, noting that they are often among the most marginalized and vulnerable members of their societies.

      “In particular, UNICEF welcomes the recognition in the Declaration that indigenous children sometimes need special assistance to realize the rights — to an education and to protection from exploitation, discrimination and harm — that all children possess,” she said.

      Ms. Veneman said it was vital that the Declaration is followed by the introduction and implementation of policies and programmes to increas
      the opportunities available to indigenous children.

      She added that she hoped the adoption of the Declaration would also build greater momentum towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the global agreed set of targets for reducing economic and social ills, all by 2015.

      Ms. Veneman’s remarks join similar statements from General Assembly President Sheikha Haya Rashed Al Khalifa, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour welcoming the Declaration’s adoption.

      2007-09-16 00:00:00.000

    5. Mz. Questions Says:

      As a long time resident of a foreign culture, I have always felt that the traditional art forms (dance, music, language) and the history of indigenous people’s should be taught and promoted. However, as far as the cultural practices in thier entirety, what happens when those practices are in direct conflict with already accepted UN human and civil rights resolutions? Which would take presedence? Should all traditional aspects of an indegenous culture be adhered to and promoted in a modern global society?

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