Sunday, August 10, 2008

Today is world's indigenous people day

Today is the International Day of the World's Indigenous People (IDWIP), and it is a timely reminder that New Zealand is one of four countries that voted against the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in 2007. In fact the Government tried to derail it with its proposal to substantially alter the text so that it would have given indigenous peoples fewer rights than others.

One of the reasons why we failed to agree was that the Declaration implied that indigenous peoples had rights that others did not have.

They already do - they can enrol on the Maori roll, for a start.

The Declaration provides a minimum standard for the survival, dignity and well-being of the indigenous peoples of the world, and was explained by its supporters as intending to inspire, rather than to have legal effect. New Zealand did not, however, accept that a State could responsibly take such a stance towards a document that it knew it couldn't implement. But this is a declaration, not a treaty or legislation. New Zealand has passed laws as well as UN Conventions that it has not implemented. Why is this declaration so special that it had to be ignored?

Because clearly, we have been breaching ratified UN treaties for years. For example, the UN just last year noted that New Zealand is diminishing the importance and relevance of the Treaty of Waitangi and to create a context unfavourable to the rights of Maori under the International Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination

And our Government was not impressed at all with the report of the UN Special Rapporteur for indigenous issues, Rudolfo Stavenhagen, after he visited last year to investigate the treaty settlements process, the Foreshore and Seabed Act and policies designed to reduce social inequalities.The report is the product of the most important international human rights institution there is, but our Government thumbed its nose at it and has decided that it does not want to give a message that it is a Government that cares for rights of indigenous people.

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