Thursday, April 22, 2010

Will the U.S. Ratify the UN's Indigenous Rights Declaration now that New Zealand has and Australia is considering it?

What follows first is from *here*. Two short related news stories are also included in this post.

NZ to Ratify UN's Indigenous Rights Declaration

By Rich Bowden Img: Maori flag

New Zealand’s Maori Affairs minister Pita Sharples has told Radio New Zealand that his Government will ratify the non-binding United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples within weeks, reversing the previous Labour party’s policy.

Previously one of only four countries – along with Australia, Canada and the United States – to refuse to endorse the declaration, New Zealand has now decided to ratify the key declaration which guarantees Indigenous peoples the right to right to self-determination, autonomy and the self-government of their local and internal affairs.

Australia has since decided to change its stance on the document.

Mr Sharples told Radio New Zealand he expected to make a joint announcement within weeks with Prime Minister John Key on the details of the ratification.

Mr Sharples, who is also the co-leader of the Maori Party in the Government coalition, said the the ratification of the declaration would protect Maori culture and would not override New Zealand sovereign law or provide additional claims of self-determination.

However the declaration has been criticised from a number of quarters.

One of the bones of contention is Article 26 which says Indigenous peoples have the right to “…own, use, develop or control lands and territories that they have traditionally owned, occupied or used.”

The NZ Herald quoted New Zealand’s permanent UN representative, Rosemary Banks, as saying such an arrangement would be unworkable in the country.

“For New Zealand, the entire country is potentially caught within the scope of the article. The article appears to require recognition of rights to lands now lawfully owned by other citizens, both indigenous and non-indigenous.”

However the document supporters contend that it is intended as an aspirational declaration rather than legal and the New Zealand Government has decided, unlike the previous Labour administration, that ratifying its posed no legal dilemmas.

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What's next is from *here*, with a follow-up on the U.S. below...

New Zealand Signs UN Declaration of Indigenous Rights

New Zealand has become one of the last holdout countries to ratify the UN declaration of indigenous rights, leaving only the US and Canada in opposition. New Zealand cabinet member Pita Sharples announced the move on Monday.
Pita Sharples: “I come with humble heart to celebrate the Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous People. The New Zealand government has long discussed this matter and has recently decided to support it.”
The UN General Assembly passed the sweeping declaration granting native peoples the “right to self-determination” in 2007 with an overwhelming 143 votes in favor. New Zealand was one of only four countries to vote against the declaration, along with the US, Australia and Canada. Australia has also reversed its position.

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Last up for this post, is from *here*.

Updated at 3:02pm on 21 April 2010
The United States is reviewing its opposition to the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Washington's UN ambassador Susan Rice has announced.

The move came a day after New Zealand signed up to the declaration that was passed by a large majority in the General Assembly in September 2007.

The United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand were the only countries to vote against the declaration when it was adopted. Following a change of government, Australia said last year it had decided to back the text.

The declaration says indigenous peoples "have the right to the lands, territories and resources which they have traditionally owned, occupied, or otherwise used and acquired." Opponents said the phraseology went too far and threatened legal chaos over property rights.

US officials said at the time - when the Bush administration was in office - that the text was unclear and that those who drafted it had failed to seek consensus.

Howeover, addressing a UN forum on indigenous peoples on Tuesday, Ms Rice said the United States had decided to review its position.

She noted that Native American leaders had encouraged President Barack Obama to re-examine the US stance.
Copyright © 2010 Radio New Zealand

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