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Indigenous Rights to Development, Socio-Economic Rights, and Rights for Groups with Vulnerabilities

Indigenous Rights to Development, Socio-Economic Rights, and Rights for Groups with Vulnerabilities

RESEARCH PAPER by CROP Fellow Camilo Perez-Bustillo (Universty of Dayton) and Jessie M. Hohmann (University of London).

June 2017

The authors focus on the challenges and implications of Articles 20(1), 21, 22, 24, and 44 of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP). These provisions are centered on: the economic, social, and cultural (ESC) rights of indigenous peoples, (with a particular focus on the right to health); their right to development; the rights of those indigenous individuals and groups who are particularly vulnerable, including women and children, and again with a particular focus on women's rights to be free from violence. The provisions highlight the evolving place of indigenous rights within the overall framework of international law and international human rights.

The UNDRIP symbolises the potential emergence of a historic new pact between indigenous peoples and the international system which reflects important hopes and aspirations, but also confronts multiple barriers to effective implementation which are inherent in the origins, characteristics, structures, and contradictions of that system itself.

This goes to the heart of the complex chemistry between the Declaration and other international norms and structures within which it is necessarily embedded. On the one hand the Declaration must be understood and interpreted within the context, and against the backdrop, of the overall contemporary international system, but on the other hand, several of its provisions conflict with, or fit at best uneasily, with longstanding assumptions and practices which are characteristic of that system.

The negotiating history of the provisions considered demonstrates that some of the core issues addressed in these Articles remain contested. The right to development itself, let alone a vision of development in harmony with indigenous worldviews, remains controversial and resisted by states.

It is likely that the provisions addressed by Perez-Bustillo and Hohmann will remain central for indigenous individuals and peoples in the coming decades. Accordingly, it is likely that some of the areas now nascent – such as the law on indigenous peoples with special vulnerabilities - will experience considerable development over time. Social movements grounded in indigenous communities will play a crucial role in the further development and implementation of existing international legal standards regarding their rights, and in their deepening in terms of indigenous worldviews and demands.

It can only be hoped that indigenous peoples will achieve self-determined development, adequate standards of living, and cease to be vulnerable, such that these rights become unimportant. That would be the true success of the UNDRIP in this area.

Visit the Social Science Research Network to read the text in full.

23.06.2017
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