on the Rights of Indigenous People
September 13, 2007 (website)
The Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples was adopted
by the General Assembly on Thursday September 13, 2007 by a majority
of 144 states in favour, 4 votes against (Australia, Canada, New
Zealand and the United States) and 11 abstentions (Azerbaijan,
Bangladesh, Bhutan, Burundi, Colombia, Georgia, Kenya, Nigeria,
Russian Federation, Samoa and Ukraine).
Since its adoption, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the United
States have all reversed their positions and now endorse the
Declaration. Colombia and Samoa have also reversed their positions
and indicated their support for the Declaration.
During the Durban Review Conference in April 2009, 182 States from
all regions of the world reached consensus on an outcome document in
which they “ Welcome[d] the adoption of the UN Declaration on the
rights of indigenous peoples which has a positive impact on the
protection of victims and, in this context, urge[d] States to take
all necessary measures to implement the rights of indigenous peoples
in accordance with international human rights instruments without
discrimination…” (UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human
Rights, Outcome document of the Durban Review Conference, 24 April
2009, para. 73).
United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People
The General Assembly,
Guided by the purposes and principles of the Charter of the
United Nations, and good faith in the fulfilment of the obligations
assumed by States in accordance with the Charter,
Affirming that indigenous peoples are equal to all other peoples,
while recognizing the right of all peoples to be different, to
consider themselves different, and to be respected as such,
Affirming also that all peoples contribute to the diversity and
richness of civilizations and cultures, which constitute the common
heritage of humankind,
Affirming further that all doctrines, policies and practices
based on or advocating superiority of peoples or individuals on the
basis of national origin or racial, religious, ethnic or cultural
differences are racist, scientifically false, legally invalid,
morally condemnable and socially unjust,
Reaffirming that indigenous peoples, in the exercise of their
rights, should be free from discrimination of any kind,
Concerned that indigenous peoples have suffered from historic
injustices as a result of, inter alia, their colonization and
dispossession of their lands, territories and resources, thus
preventing them from exercising, in particular, their right to
development in accordance with their own needs and interests,
Recognizing the urgent need to respect and promote the inherent
rights of indigenous peoples which derive from their political,
economic and social structures and from their cultures, spiritual
traditions, histories and philosophies, especially their rights to
their lands, territories and resources,
Recognizing also the urgent need to respect and promote the
rights of indigenous peoples affirmed in treaties, agreements and
other constructive arrangements with States,
Welcoming the fact that indigenous peoples are organizing
themselves for political, economic, social and cultural enhancement
and in order to bring to an end all forms of discrimination and
oppression wherever they occur,
Convinced that control by indigenous peoples over developments
affecting them and their lands, territories and resources will
enable them to maintain and strengthen their institutions, cultures
and traditions, and to promote their development in accordance with
their aspirations and needs,
Recognizing that respect for indigenous knowledge, cultures and
traditional practices contributes to sustainable and equitable
development and proper management of the environment,
Emphasizing the contribution of the demilitarization of the lands
and territories of indigenous peoples to peace, economic and social
progress and development, understanding and friendly relations among
nations and peoples of the world,
Recognizing in particular the right of indigenous families and
communities to retain shared responsibility for the upbringing,
training, education and well-being of their children, consistent
with the rights of the child,
Considering that the rights affirmed in treaties, agreements and
other constructive arrangements between States and indigenous
peoples are, in some situations, matters of international concern,
interest, responsibility and character,
Considering also that treaties, agreements and other constructive
arrangements, and the relationship they represent, are the basis for
a strengthened partnership between indigenous peoples and States,
Acknowledging that the Charter of the United Nations, the
International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (2)
and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, as
well as the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action,(3) affirm
the fundamental importance of the right to self-determination of all
peoples, by virtue of which they freely determine their political
status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural
Bearing in mind that nothing in this Declaration may be used to
deny any peoples their right to self-determination, exercised in
conformity with international law,
Convinced that the recognition of the rights of indigenous
peoples in this Declaration will enhance harmonious and cooperative
relations between the State and indigenous peoples, based on
principles of justice, democracy, respect for human rights,
non-discrimination and good faith,
Encouraging States to comply with and effectively implement all
their obligations as they apply to indigenous peoples under
international instruments, in particular those related to human
rights, in consultation and cooperation with the peoples concerned,
Emphasizing that the United Nations has an important and
continuing role to play in promoting and protecting the rights of
Believing that this Declaration is a further important step
forward for the recognition, promotion and protection of the rights
and freedoms of indigenous peoples and in the development of
relevant activities of the United Nations system in this field,
Recognizing and reaffirming that indigenous individuals are
entitled without discrimination to all human rights recognized in
international law, and that indigenous peoples possess collective
rights which are indispensable for their existence, well-being and
integral development as peoples,
Recognizing that the situation of indigenous peoples varies from
region to region and from country to country and that the
significance of national and regional particularities and various
historical and cultural backgrounds should be taken into
Solemnly proclaims the following United Nations Declaration on
the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as a standard of achievement to be
pursued in a spirit of partnership and mutual respect:
Indigenous peoples have the right to the full enjoyment, as a
collective or as individuals, of all human rights and
fundamental freedoms as recognized in the Charter of the United
Nations, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights(4) and
international human rights law.
Indigenous peoples and individuals are free and equal to all
other peoples and individuals and have the right to be free from
any kind of discrimination, in the exercise of their rights, in
particular that based on their indigenous origin or identity.
Indigenous peoples have the right to self-determination. By
virtue of that right they freely determine their political
status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural
Indigenous peoples, in exercising their right to
self-determination, have the right to autonomy or
self-government in matters relating to their internal and local
affairs, as well as ways and means for financing their
Indigenous peoples have the right to maintain and strengthen
their distinct political, legal, economic, social and cultural
institutions, while retaining their right to participate fully,
if they so choose, in the political, economic, social and
cultural life of the State.
Every indigenous individual has the right to a nationality.
- Indigenous individuals have the rights to life, physical and
mental integrity, liberty and security of person.
- Indigenous peoples have the collective right to live in
freedom, peace and security as distinct peoples and shall not be
subjected to any act of genocide or any other act of violence,
including forcibly removing children of the group to another
- Indigenous peoples and individuals have the right not to be
subjected to forced assimilation or destruction of their
- States shall provide effective mechanisms for prevention of,
and redress for:
- Any action which has the aim or effect of depriving them of
their integrity as distinct peoples, or of their cultural values
or ethnic identities;
- Any action which has the aim or effect of dispossessing them
of their lands, territories or resources;
- Any form of forced population transfer which has the aim or
effect of violating or undermining any of their rights;
- Any form of forced assimilation or integration;
- Any form of propaganda designed to promote or incite racial
or ethnic discrimination directed against them.
Indigenous peoples and individuals have the right to belong
to an indigenous community or nation, in accordance with the
traditions and customs of the community or nation concerned. No
discrimination of any kind may arise from the exercise of such a
Indigenous peoples shall not be forcibly removed from their
lands or territories. No relocation shall take place without the
free, prior and informed consent of the indigenous peoples
concerned and after agreement on just and fair compensation and,
where possible, with the option of return.
- Indigenous peoples have the right to practise and revitalize
their cultural traditions and customs. This includes the right
to maintain, protect and develop the past, present and future
manifestations of their cultures, such as archaeological and
historical sites, artefacts, designs, ceremonies, technologies
and visual and performing arts and literature.
- States shall provide redress through effective mechanisms,
which may include restitution, developed in conjunction with
indigenous peoples, with respect to their cultural,
intellectual, religious and spiritual property taken without
their free, prior and informed consent or in violation of their
laws, traditions and customs.
- Indigenous peoples have the right to manifest, practise,
develop and teach their spiritual and religious traditions,
customs and ceremonies; the right to maintain, protect, and have
access in privacy to their religious and cultural sites; the
right to the use and control of their ceremonial objects; and
the right to the repatriation of their human remains.
- States shall seek to enable the access and/or repatriation
of ceremonial objects and human remains in their possession
through fair, transparent and effective mechanisms developed in
conjunction with indigenous peoples concerned.
- Indigenous peoples have the right to revitalize, use,
develop and transmit to future generations their histories,
languages, oral traditions, philosophies, writing systems and
literatures, and to designate and retain their own names for
communities, places and persons.
- States shall take effective measures to ensure that this
right is protected and also to ensure that indigenous peoples
can understand and be understood in political, legal and
administrative proceedings, where necessary through the
provision of interpretation or by other appropriate means.
- Indigenous peoples have the right to establish and control
their educational systems and institutions providing education
in their own languages, in a manner appropriate to their
cultural methods of teaching and learning.
- Indigenous individuals, particularly children, have the
right to all levels and forms of education of the State without
- States shall, in conjunction with indigenous peoples, take
effective measures, in order for indigenous individuals,
particularly children, including those living outside their
communities, to have access, when possible, to an education in
their own culture and provided in their own language.
- Indigenous peoples have the right to the dignity and
diversity of their cultures, traditions, histories and
aspirations which shall be appropriately reflected in education
and public information.
- States shall take effective measures, in consultation and
cooperation with the indigenous peoples concerned, to combat
prejudice and eliminate discrimination and to promote tolerance,
understanding and good relations among indigenous peoples and
all other segments of society.
- Indigenous peoples have the right to establish their own
media in their own languages and to have access to all forms of
non-indigenous media without discrimination.
- States shall take effective measures to ensure that
State-owned media duly reflect indigenous cultural diversity.
States, without prejudice to ensuring full freedom of
expression, should encourage privately owned media to adequately
reflect indigenous cultural diversity.
- Indigenous individuals and peoples have the right to enjoy
fully all rights established under applicable international and
domestic labour law.
- States shall in consultation and cooperation with indigenous
peoples take specific measures to protect indigenous children
from economic exploitation and from performing any work that is
likely to be hazardous or to interfere with the child’s
education, or to be harmful to the child’s health or physical,
mental, spiritual, moral or social development, taking into
account their special vulnerability and the importance of
education for their empowerment.
- Indigenous individuals have the right not to be subjected to
any discriminatory conditions of labour and, inter alia,
employment or salary.
Indigenous peoples have the right to participate in
decision-making in matters which would affect their rights,
through representatives chosen by themselves in accordance with
their own procedures, as well as to maintain and develop their
own indigenous decision-making institutions.
States shall consult and cooperate in good faith with the
indigenous peoples concerned through their own representative
institutions in order to obtain their free, prior and informed
consent before adopting and implementing legislative or
administrative measures that may affect them.
- Indigenous peoples have the right to maintain and develop
their political, economic and social systems or institutions, to
be secure in the enjoyment of their own means of subsistence and
development, and to engage freely in all their traditional and
other economic activities.
- Indigenous peoples deprived of their means of subsistence
and development are entitled to just and fair redress.
- Indigenous peoples have the right, without discrimination,
to the improvement of their economic and social conditions,
including, inter alia, in the areas of education, employment,
vocational training and retraining, housing, sanitation, health
and social security.
- States shall take effective measures and, where appropriate,
special measures to ensure continuing improvement of their
economic and social conditions. Particular attention shall be
paid to the rights and special needs of indigenous elders,
women, youth, children and persons with disabilities.
- Particular attention shall be paid to the rights and special
needs of indigenous elders, women, youth, children and persons
with disabilities in the implementation of this Declaration.
- States shall take measures, in conjunction with indigenous
peoples, to ensure that indigenous women and children enjoy the
full protection and guarantees against all forms of violence and
Indigenous peoples have the right to determine and develop
priorities and strategies for exercising their right to
development. In particular, indigenous peoples have the right to
be actively involved in developing and determining health,
housing and other economic and social programmes affecting them
and, as far as possible, to administer such programmes through
their own institutions.
- Indigenous peoples have the right to their traditional
medicines and to maintain their health practices, including the
conservation of their vital medicinal plants, animals and
minerals. Indigenous individuals also have the right to access,
without any discrimination, to all social and health services.
- Indigenous individuals have an equal right to the enjoyment
of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental
health. States shall take the necessary steps with a view to
achieving progressively the full realization of this right.
Indigenous peoples have the right to maintain and strengthen
their distinctive spiritual relationship with their
traditionally owned or otherwise occupied and used lands,
territories, waters and coastal seas and other resources and to
uphold their responsibilities to future generations in this
- Indigenous peoples have the right to the lands, territories
and resources which they have traditionally owned, occupied or
otherwise used or acquired.
- Indigenous peoples have the right to own, use, develop and
control the lands, territories and resources that they possess
by reason of traditional ownership or other traditional
occupation or use, as well as those which they have otherwise
- States shall give legal recognition and protection to these
lands, territories and resources. Such recognition shall be
conducted with due respect to the customs, traditions and land
tenure systems of the indigenous peoples concerned.
States shall establish and implement, in conjunction with
indigenous peoples concerned, a fair, independent, impartial,
open and transparent process, giving due recognition to
indigenous peoples’ laws, traditions, customs and land tenure
systems, to recognize and adjudicate the rights of indigenous
peoples pertaining to their lands, territories and resources,
including those which were traditionally owned or otherwise
occupied or used. Indigenous peoples shall have the right to
participate in this process.
- Indigenous peoples have the right to redress, by means that
can include restitution or, when this is not possible, just,
fair and equitable compensation, for the lands, territories and
resources which they have traditionally owned or otherwise
occupied or used, and which have been confiscated, taken,
occupied, used or damaged without their free, prior and informed
- Unless otherwise freely agreed upon by the peoples
concerned, compensation shall take the form of lands,
territories and resources equal in quality, size and legal
status or of monetary compensation or other appropriate redress.
- Indigenous peoples have the right to the conservation and
protection of the environment and the productive capacity of
their lands or territories and resources. States shall establish
and implement assistance programmes for indigenous peoples for
such conservation and protection, without discrimination.
- States shall take effective measures to ensure that no
storage or disposal of hazardous materials shall take place in
the lands or territories of indigenous peoples without their
free, prior and informed consent.
- States shall also take effective measures to ensure, as
needed, that programmes for monitoring, maintaining and
restoring the health of indigenous peoples, as developed and
implemented by the peoples affected by such materials, are duly
- Military activities shall not take place in the lands or
territories of indigenous peoples, unless justified by a
relevant public interest or otherwise freely agreed with or
requested by the indigenous peoples concerned.
- States shall undertake effective consultations with the
indigenous peoples concerned, through appropriate procedures and
in particular through their representative institutions, prior
to using their lands or territories for military activities.
- Indigenous peoples have the right to maintain, control,
protect and develop their cultural heritage, traditional
knowledge and traditional cultural expressions, as well as the
manifestations of their sciences, technologies and cultures,
including human and genetic resources, seeds, medicines,
knowledge of the properties of fauna and flora, oral traditions,
literatures, designs, sports and traditional games and visual
and performing arts. They also have the right to maintain,
control, protect and develop their intellectual property over
such cultural heritage, traditional knowledge, and traditional
- In conjunction with indigenous peoples, States shall take
effective measures to recognize and protect the exercise of
- Indigenous peoples have the right to determine and develop
priorities and strategies for the development or use of their
lands or territories and other resources.
- States shall consult and cooperate in good faith with the
indigenous peoples concerned through their own representative
institutions in order to obtain their free and informed consent
prior to the approval of any project affecting their lands or
territories and other resources, particularly in connection with
the development, utilization or exploitation of mineral, water
or other resources.
- States shall provide effective mechanisms for just and fair
redress for any such activities, and appropriate measures shall
be taken to mitigate adverse environmental, economic, social,
cultural or spiritual impact.
- Indigenous peoples have the right to determine their own
identity or membership in accordance with their customs and
traditions. This does not impair the right of indigenous
individuals to obtain citizenship of the States in which they
- Indigenous peoples have the right to determine the
structures and to select the membership of their institutions in
accordance with their own procedures.
Indigenous peoples have the right to promote, develop and
maintain their institutional structures and their distinctive
customs, spirituality, traditions, procedures, practices and, in
the cases where they exist, juridical systems or customs, in
accordance with international human rights standards.
Indigenous peoples have the right to determine the
responsibilities of individuals to their communities.
- Indigenous peoples, in particular those divided by
international borders, have the right to maintain and develop
contacts, relations and cooperation, including activities for
spiritual, cultural, political, economic and social purposes,
with their own members as well as other peoples across borders.
- States, in consultation and cooperation with indigenous
peoples, shall take effective measures to facilitate the
exercise and ensure the implementation of this right.
- Indigenous peoples have the right to the recognition,
observance and enforcement of treaties, agreements and other
constructive arrangements concluded with States or their
successors and to have States honour and respect such treaties,
agreements and other constructive arrangements.
- Nothing in this Declaration may be interpreted as
diminishing or eliminating the rights of indigenous peoples
contained in treaties, agreements and other constructive
States in consultation and cooperation with indigenous
peoples, shall take the appropriate measures, including
legislative measures, to achieve the ends of this Declaration.
Indigenous peoples have the right to have access to financial
and technical assistance from States and through international
cooperation, for the enjoyment of the rights contained in this
Indigenous peoples have the right to access to and prompt
decision through just and fair procedures for the resolution of
conflicts and disputes with States or other parties, as well as
to effective remedies for all infringements of their individual
and collective rights. Such a decision shall give due
consideration to the customs, traditions, rules and legal
systems of the indigenous peoples concerned and international
The organs and specialized agencies of the United Nations
system and other intergovernmental organizations shall
contribute to the full realization of the provisions of this
Declaration through the mobilization, inter alia, of financial
cooperation and technical assistance. Ways and means of ensuring
participation of indigenous peoples on issues affecting them
shall be established.
The United Nations, its bodies, including the Permanent Forum
on Indigenous Issues, and specialized agencies, including at the
country level, and States shall promote respect for and full
application of the provisions of this Declaration and follow up
the effectiveness of this Declaration.
The rights recognized herein constitute the minimum standards
for the survival, dignity and well-being of the indigenous
peoples of the world.
All the rights and freedoms recognized herein are equally
guaranteed to male and female indigenous individuals.
Nothing in this Declaration may be construed as diminishing
or extinguishing the rights indigenous peoples have now or may
acquire in the future.
- Nothing in this Declaration may be interpreted as implying
for any State, people, group or person any right to engage in
any activity or to perform any act contrary to the Charter of
the United Nations or construed as authorizing or encouraging
any action which would dismember or impair, totally or in part,
the territorial integrity or political unity of sovereign and
- In the exercise of the rights enunciated in the present
Declaration, human rights and fundamental freedoms of all shall
be respected. The exercise of the rights set forth in this
Declaration shall be subject only to such limitations as are
determined by law and in accordance with international human
rights obligations. Any such limitations shall be
non-discriminatory and strictly necessary solely for the purpose
of securing due recognition and respect for the rights and
freedoms of others and for meeting the just and most compelling
requirements of a democratic society.
- The provisions set forth in this Declaration shall be
interpreted in accordance with the principles of justice,
democracy, respect for human rights, equality,
non-discrimination, good governance and good faith.
(2) See resolution 2200 A (XXI), annex.
(3) A/CONF.157/24 (Part I), chap. III.
(4) Resolution 217 A (III).
Adopted by General Assembly Resolution 61/295 on September