Minorities and indigenous peoples

There is no internationally accepted definition of "indigenous peoples". Self-identification is often used as a fundamental criterion. The ILO-konventionen 169 - Indigenous and Tribal Peoples Convention acknowledges self-identification and self-recognition as essential aspects:

"Peoples in independent countries who are regarded as indigenous on account of their descent from the populations which inhabited the country, or a geographical region to which the country belongs, at the time of conquest or colonisation or the establishment of present State boundaries and who, irrespective of their legal status, retain some or all of their own social, economic, cultural and political institutions."

Right to self-determination

The right to self-determination is expressed in:

  1. UN Charter
  2. International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. The implementation is monitored by the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR).
  3. International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (CCPR). The implementation is monitored by the Human Rights Committee.
  4. Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities (adopted in 1992). The implementation is monitored by the Forum on Minority Issues.

Rights of minorities

The protection of the rights of minorities is provided for in:

  1. International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (CCPR). The implementation is monitored by the Human Rights Committee.
  2. Convention on the Rights of the Child. The implementation is monitored by the Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC).
  3. Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities (antagen 1992). The implementation is monitored by Forum on Minority Issues.

Human rights of minorities and indigenous peoples

The Sub-Commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights was established in 1947 as the main subsidiary body of the former Commission on Human Rights (replaced by the Human Rights Council) to combat discrimination and protect the human rights of minorities, indigenous peoples and other vulnerable groups. In 2008 it was replaced by the Human Rights Council Advisory Committee, which functions as a think-tank for the Council and work at its direction.

Working group on indigenous populations

The Working Group on Indigenous Populations (WGIP) was established in 1982 to review developments in the field of human rights of minorities and give attention to the evolution of international standards concerning indigenous rights. The Working Group elaborated a draft to the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which was passed by the Human Rights Council in June 2006, and adopted by the General Assembly in September 2007. The Working Group was replaced in 2007 by the Forum on Minority Issues, in accordance of the Human Rights Council's resolution 6/15 (A/HRC/6/15). It is a platform for promoting dialogue and cooperation on issues pertaining to national or ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities. The Forum on Minority Issues is guided by the Independent Expert on minority issues.

Three UN bodies on indigenous issues

The UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII) was created in 2000 by the Human Rights Commission to focus on global issues of concern to indigenous peoples and to offer their participation in the forum.

The Permanent Forum is one of three UN bodies that is mandated to deal specifically with indigenous peoples' issues. The others are the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Independent Expert on minority issues

In resolution 2005/79 the Commission on Human Rights requested the High Commissioner for Human Rights to appoint an Independent Expert on minority issues. The mandate was subsequently renewed by the Human Rights Council in its resolutions 7/6 of 27 March 2008, and 16/6 of 24 March 2011. The Independent Expert on minority issues reports annually on the human rights situation of minorities and proposed measures to implement these rights.

Minority rights are being increasingly recognized as an integral part of the United Nation's work for the promotion and protection of human rights, sustainable human development, peace and security. Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) has a leading role within he UN system in this respect.

A special day, year and decade

By resolution 45/164 the General Assembly proclaimed 1993 as the International Year of the World's Indigenous People. It was followed by a Decade for Indigenous People 1995-2004 and a special day every year on August 9.

Other UN programmes, funds and agencies in the field of minority rights:

UN body

Full name

More in DagDok

IFAD

International Fund for Agricultural Development

IFAD

ILO

International Labour Organization

ILO

UNDP

United Nations Development Programme

UNDP

UNESCO

United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization

UNESCO

WIPO

World Intellectual Property Organization

WIPO

More on UN and minorities and indigenous peoples

For more information and documents see also:

Human Rights, conventions and declaration

UN documents and publications in catalogues and databases

  • United Nations Digital Library offers UN documents and open access publications, UN voting data and speeches, UN maps, Content in 6+ languages. Replaces the traditional online catalogue UNBISnet.
  • UN iLibrary UN publications online covering different topics.
  • ODS full-text UN documents published from 1993 onward and scanned documents published between 1946 and 1993 in the official languages of the UN.
  • Daily list of documents (ODS). Documents published for the day, with full text links, can be found in the United Nations full text database ODS.
  • UNBIS Thesaurus a multilingual database of the controlled vocabulary used to describe UN documents.
  • Index to proceedings is an annual bibliographic guide to the proceedings and documentation of the major UN organs. The index includes:
    • a list of all documents
    • a comprehensive subject index
    • an index to speeches
    • a voting chart of resolutions
  • United Nations Documents Index (United Nations Digital Library) References to all documents by subject area are published. A collection of indexes is held by the Dag Hammarskjöld and Law Library, Uppsala, and the Libraries at UN Headquarters in New York and Geneva.
Last modified: 2021-12-02