Introduction: Indigenous Peoples, the United Nations and Human Rights
In recent decades, and in response to the mobilization of indigenous peoples in and around the United Nations, the rights of indigenous peoples have assumed a highly visible place within the United Nations overall treatment of human rights. In this time, a plethora of instruments, bodies, and mechanisms relevant to indigenous peoples’ rights have come into being, highlighting the importance that the United Nations and the international community more broadly have come to place upon the protection of indigenous peoples, who are widely recognized to be amongst the most vulnerable and at risk human communities in the world today. This heightened international concern takes its most concrete form in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), which was adopted by the UN General Assembly in September 2007 after some 25 years of intensive negotiations between independent human rights experts, indigenous peoples’ representatives, and state delegates. The Declaration EURDGO\UHÀHFWVWKHDVSLUDWLRQVRILQGLJHQRXVDGYRFDWHVOHDGHUVDQGFRPPXQLW\ representatives participating in its production, in particular in recognizing a right of indigenous peoples to self-determination, and is already considered by some experts to have achieved – in part at least – the status of customary international law. In addition, the United Nations has declared two International Decades of the World’s Indigenous People, appointed a UN Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms of Indigenous People, and, in an unprecedented move, established a UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (PFII), which has been the vehicle for the further mainstreaming of indigenous rights within the United Nations system.