Former Chairperson of the Global Indigenous Peoples Caucus on the Declaration, Les Malezer noted “The adoption of this Declaration occurred at a critical time in the new Millennium when the role and effectiveness of the United Nations was under intense scrutiny.” He continued stating “For those of us who worked in the final negotiations for the adoption of the Declaration we were becoming acutely aware that the era of developing new standards was drawing to a close.”
Negotiated after more than two decades, the Declaration’s final outcome was seen by Malezer and many other Indigenous Peoples around the world as an outstanding success.
There are already clear indications that awareness regarding the Declaration is increasing around the world. Indigenous Peoples whose populations are estimated at over 370 million are citing the Declaration as a standard that needs to be met on the local and national levels.
Mildred Karaira Gandia, a representative of the United Confederation of Taíno People stated “in Latin America there are governments like Bolivia who are who are working to incorporate the Declaration’s standards into laws. In Belize, the Maya won a significant court case with the Declaration being cited in the Supreme Court decision.”
Highlighting the important role of the Declaration among indigenous communities themselves, Gandia notes that in a recent meeting of the International Indian Treaty Council held in Guatemala “at least two of the IITC conference’s resolutions focused on the Declaration.”
“It is important for our peoples to be familiar with this document” she said.
The UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous peoples, James Anaya, characterized the Declaration as a “remedial instrument.” Anaya said that the historic document “takes basic human rights principles that are applicable to all and elaborates upon them in the specific historic, cultural, political and social context of indigenous peoples.”
The Declaration seeks to overcome the marginalization and discrimination that indigenous people have faced due to “historical processes of colonization, conquest and dispossession,” he noted.
Anaya also cautioned that such legacies persist, and he urged States and the international community to renew their commitment to the Declaration and ensure that Indigenous Peoples are guaranteed the rights enshrined in this historic document as well as in other international treaties.