Right to self-determination of Indigenous peoples

Right to self-determination is one of the most fundamental rights that indigenous peoples’ claim and have been well recognized under international law. Indigenous peoples have long been trying to assert this right as equal to ‘equity’ as the right of being treated ‘equal’ like all other peoples. Moreover, right to self-determination for indigenous peoples meant as that right to determine own political status, means the right to participate in a democratic process of governance.

Similarly, right to self-determination to indigenous peoples is meant to determine own economic, social and cultural development The International Labour Organization’s Convention on Indigenous and Tribal Peoples, no. 169, adopted in 1989 (ILO Convention no. 169) doesn’t explicitly use the term ‘self-determination’, however the provisions of the convention amount to a protection of the principles.

One of the major international laws, United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) adopted by UN General Assembly in the year 2007 explicitly affirms that Indigenous peoples have right to self-determination. Article 3 of UNDRIP states, “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 development.

Right to self-determination today serves as the basis for all the rights of indigenous peoples in international law. While examining government reports regarding indigenous peoples in light of International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), 1966 and International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (IECSCR), 1966, UN Human Rights Committee has often assessed compliance of ‘indigenous peoples’ right to self-determination as stated in Article 1 (1) of both international human rights Conventions, which state, “all peoples have the right of self-determination. By virtue of that right they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development.” Right to self-determination undoubtedly are the rights of non-discrimination, including the right to cultural integrity, indigenous peoples’ right over land, territory and natural resources, also the social welfare and development.

ILO Convention no. 169 including UNDRIP, government party to these international laws, require to take steps to eliminate discrimination towards indigenous peoples. The term right to self-determination many governments today however have replaced and narrowly defined to mean ‘autonomy and self-governant.

In this connection, International Work Group For Indigenous Affairs (IWGIA) recently organized an international seminar in Mexico city to discuss and analyze the experience around autonomy and self-government. In the seminar, indigenous peoples’ representatives from Chile, Bolivia, Peru, Colombia, Panama, Nicaragua, Mexico, USA, Canada, Greenland, Norway, Finland, Russia, Kenya, Nepal, India and Philippines have attended. Of all participants, in this episode, the thoughts and experience of Nepal and India in regards to realization of this right has been presented. The episode also has included the thought expressed by UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples also have presented to present the struggles of indigenous peoples to realize the right to self-determination in a practical sense.

In this program, the perspective of victoria tauli corpuz, gam shimray and Shankar Limbu on Right to self-determination.

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