chapter  1
12 Pages

Preliminary Issues: The Meaning of 'Indigenous Peoples' and 'Ethnic Minorities'

The issue of the rights of ethnic minorities and indigenous peoples has reached an extremely sensitive position in comparative constitutional laws as well as in international law. l Notwithstanding its importance, there are serious disagreements regarding the definition of 'peoples', 'minorities' and 'indigenous peoples'. The primary reason for this controversy is that although 'peoples' and 'indigenous peoples' have a right to self-determination, under contemporary international law 'minorities' do not enjoy the same rights. 2 As the International Labour Organisation Convention 169 (entitled the Convention Concerning Indigenous and Tribal Peoples in Independent Countries [1989])3 and the Draft United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People4 confirm, indigenous peoples are increasingly being recognised as having the right to self-determination. This right, if accorded widespread recognition, could make a difference between the right to independent statehood as opposed to mere entitlement of cultural, linguistic or religious existence within established international boundaries.