United Nations, Sep 14 (UNI) The UN General Assembly has adopted a landmark declaration, outlining the rights of about 370 million indigenous people in the world and outlawing discrimination against them, a move that followed debate for more than twon decades.
The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples has been approved after 143 member states voted in favour, 11 abstained and four countries - Australia, Canada, New Zealand and US 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 welcomed yesterday's adoption.
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 the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms for all, said Sheikha Haya.
But she warned that even with this progress, indigenous peoples still face marginalisation, extreme poverty and violation of their rights. 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.
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 all the governments and civil societies to ensure that the declaration's vision becomes a part of their policies and programmes.
High Commissioner for Human Rights, Louise 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.
There are more than 370 million indigenous people in some 70 countries worldwide according to the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues .