13 September 2007

Africa: Jubilation as UN Approves Indigenous Peoples Declaration

press release

Indigenous peoples around the world are today celebrating the UN General Assembly's approval of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The declaration was approved by an overwhelming majority in an historic vote in New York today.

The vote is the climax of 22 years of intensive debate and negotiation. Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the United States voted against the declaration, whilst 143 nations voted in favour and eleven abstained.

Botswana Bushman Jumanda Gakelebone of First People of the Kalahari said today, 'We would like to say that we are really very happy and thrilled to hear about the adoption of the declaration. It recognises that governments can no longer treat us as second-class citizens, and it gives protection to tribal peoples so that they will not be thrown off their lands like we were.'

Kiplangat Cheruiyot of Kenya's Ogiek tribe said today, 'With the adoption of the declaration, the lives of indigenous peoples will be improved on an equal footing with the rest of world citizens.'

Survival's director Stephen Corry said today, 'The declaration on indigenous peoples, with its recognition of collective rights, will raise international standards in the same way as the universal declaration on human rights did nearly 60 years ago. It sets a benchmark by which the treatment of tribal and indigenous peoples can be judged, and we hope it will usher in an era in which abuse of their rights is no longer tolerated.'

The declaration recognises the rights of indigenous peoples to ownership of their land and to live as they wish. It also affirms that they should not be moved from their lands without their free and informed consent.

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