UN Processes and Instruments
Within the last 30 years, indigenous peoples have fought their way into participation in the discussions and structures of the international community.
Originally, only representatives of Nation-States – which means governments – had a voice at the United Nations. Indigenous peoples were not even given opportunities to speak. This has changed dramatically.
Starting with the establishment of a UN Working Group on Indigenous Populations in 1982, indigenous peoples have slowly but steadily won their space within the United Nations. The next major achievement was the proclaiming of the International Decade of the World’s Indigenous People from 1995-2004 which has been followed up by the Second Decade, 2005-2015. In 2001, the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues was established and in 2002 it held its first annual session at the UN Headquarters in New York. Two years later, a Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous people was appointed. In 2007, the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples was adopted by the UN General Assembly. Finally, in December 2007, the Human Rights Council has decided to establish an Expert Mechanism on the rights of indigenous peoples, composed of 5 independent experts.
This section describes these various UN processes and instruments. The available instruments, structure and main areas of work are outlined, along with the opportunities they offer for indigenous peoples and their organizations to participate.