Friday, 24 October 2014

UN in your language

Individual vs. collective rights

norske samer Karin Beate NøsterudIndigenous peoples have become more visible in the last 50 years, largely due to efforts from within their own communities and organizations. However, it has not been easy for the international community to create legal instruments that would guarantee their autonomy, cultural integrity, protection of their special needs… in general to guarantee their rights. Indigenous peoples are the inheritors and practitioners of unique cultures and ways of relating to other people and to the environment. Indigenous peoples have retained social, cultural, economic and political characteristics that are distinct from those of the dominant societies in which they live. Despite their cultural differences, the various groups of indigenous peoples around the world share common problems related to the protection of their rights as distinct peoples.

What are indigenous peoples?

There is no universal definition because it’s quite impossible to come up with an all-inclusive description that would fit all indigenous peoples. However, attempts at a definition can be found in international law, such as the 1989 International Labour Organization´s Convention and the 2007 Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples:

  • Tribal peoples whose social, cultural and economic conditions distinguish them from other sections of the national community, and whose status is regulated wholly or partially by their own customs or traditions or by special laws or regulations;
  • Peoples who are regarded as indigenous on account of their descent from the populations which inhabited the country, or a geographical region to which the country belongs, at the time of conquest or colonisation who, retain some or all of their own social, economic, cultural and political institutions.
  • Self-identification as indigenous or tribal is regarded as a fundamental criterion.

“Indigenous communities, peoples and nations are those which, having a historical continuity with pre-invasion and pre-colonial societies that developed on their territories, consider themselves distinct from other sectors of the societies now prevailing on those territories, or parts of the,” writes Jose R. Martinez Cobo, the Special Rapporteur of the Sub-Commission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities, in his famous Study on the Problem of Discrimination against Indigenous Populations.


Collective rights of indigenous peoples as a group

Why can’t we just fall back on the existing and internationally recognized human rights treaties? Because most human rights treaties reflect an individualistic concept of rights and rights-holders. But for many indigenous peoples their identity as an individual is inseparably connected to the community to which that individual belongs. Therefore the problem is that whilst human rights treaties and instruments guarantee individual rights, indigenous peoples ask for protection of their collective rights as a group.

Indigenous peoples around the world have sought recognition of their identities, their ways of life and their right to traditional lands, territories and natural resources, yet throughout history, their rights have been violated. Indigenous peoples are arguably among the most disadvantaged and vulnerable groups of people in the world today. The international community now recognizes that special measures are required to protect the rights of the world's indigenous peoples.

http://www.indigenouspeoples.nl/indigenous-peoples/definition-indigenous

www.un.org/.../workshop_data_background.doc

http://www.ilo.org/ilolex/cgi-lex/convde.pl?C169

http://www.hrev.org/en/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/tp2legalframework.pdf

http://www.un.org/esa/socdev/unpfii/en/history.html

 

One of the most cited descriptions of the concept of the indigenous was given by Jose R. Martinez Cobo, the Special Rapporteur of the Sub-Commission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities, in his famous Study on the Problem of Discrimination against Indigenous Populations:

“Indigenous communities, peoples and nations are those which, having a historical continuity with pre-invasion and pre-colonial societies that developed on their territories, consider themselves distinct from other sectors of the societies now prevailing on those territories, or parts of them. They form at present non-dominant sectors of society and are determined to preserve, develop and transmit to future generations their ancestral territories, and their ethnic identity, as the basis of their continued existence as peoples, in accordance with their own cultural patterns, social institutions and legal system.

“This historical continuity may consist of the continuation, for an extended period reaching into the present of one or more of the following factors:

a)         Occupation of ancestral lands, or at least of part of them;

b)         Common ancestry with the original occupants of these lands;

c)         Culture in general, or in specific manifestations (such as religion, living under a tribal system, membership of an indigenous community, dress, means of livelihood, lifestyle, etc.);

d)         Language (whether used as the only language, as mother-tongue, as the habitual means of communication at home or in the family, or as the main, preferred, habitual, general or normal language);

e)         Residence on certain parts of the country, or in certain regions of the world;

f)          Other relevant factors.

            “On an individual basis, an indigenous person is one who belongs to these indigenous populations through self-identification as indigenous (group consciousness) and is recognized and accepted by these populations as one of its members (acceptance by the group).

            “This preserves for these communities the sovereign right and power to decide who belongs to them, without external interference”

Social Media

facebook32x32 Dblue twitter32x32 Dblue vimeo32x32 Dblue Issuu dark blue 32
UNRIC Social Media

 

UNRIC InFocusl transparent

"Every few weeks UNRIC shines the spotlight on forgotten stories or themes that are on the UN's agenda."

3 Questions to Denise Zmekho Director of the film "Children of the Amazon"


F
acts:

  • Considering the diversity of indigenous peoples, an official definition of “indigenous” has not been adopted by any UN-system body. Instead the system has developed a modern understanding of this term based on the following:
    o Self- identification as indigenous peoples at the individual level and accepted by the community as their member.
    o Historical continuity with pre-colonial and/or pre-settler societies
    o Strong link to territories and surrounding natural resources
    o Distinct social, economic or political systems
    o Distinct language, culture and beliefs
    o Form non-dominant groups of society
    o Resolve to maintain and reproduce their ancestral environments and systems as distinctive peoples and communities.

  • It is estimated that there are more than 370 million indigenous people spread across 70 countries worldwide. Practicing unique traditions, they retain social, cultural, economic and political characteristics that are distinct from those of the dominant societies in which they live.

  • Most indicators of well-being show that indigenous peoples suffer disproportionately compared to non-indigenous peoples. Poverty rates are significantly higher among indigenous peoples compared to other groups. While they constitute 5 per cent of the world's population, they are 15 per cent of the world's poor.

  • Of the some 7,000 languages today, it is estimated that more than 4,000 are spoken by indigenous peoples. Language specialists predict that up to 90 per cent of the world’s languages are likely to become extinct or threatened with extinction by the end of the century.