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African Caucus Statement to the UN General Assembly

The following is an excerpt of Indigenous Rights Radio interviews conducted with Indigenous leaders about their reflections on the accomplishments and challenges of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Agnes Leina (Maasai), Executive director of Illaramatak Community Concerns, Kenya

The adoption of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in 2007 was indeed a watershed moment in the history of the advancement of the rights of Indigenous Peoples. For Africa, it provided a strong basis and renewed impetus for Indigenous Peoples on the continent to assert their rights, opened up new policy spaces, and had far reaching impacts at the national level in some of our countries.

Over the last 10 years, the Declaration has no doubt facilitated new frontiers of engagement and dialogue between Indigenous Peoples and national governments about Indigenous Peoples’ policies and programs, including framing certain positive actions in favor of Indigenous Peoples. The African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, the regional body for human rights on the continent, had also adopted a policy framework that is in line with the Declaration and continues to have an advisory working group on implementation.
Whilst appreciating that various African governments have taken positive actions to implement the Declaration nationally, including Namibia, Kenya, DR Congo, Congo Republic, Morocco, Chad, Burundi, Central African Republic, and Niger, many African governments are yet to give recognition to the rights of Indigenous Peoples in their respective countries on the continent and also integrate the Declaration as a basis for national development planning.

The challenge, therefore, is to ensure that African governments develop elaborate and inclusive frameworks for the implementation of the core principles embedded in the Declaration, such as Free, Prior and Informed Consent, recognition of collective rights of Indigenous Peoples, and right to lands and territories, and ensure these are mainstreamed into national laws and practices. We note with exception the developments in the Republic of Congo regarding its national law on the rights of Indigenous Peoples; the 2010 Kenyan Constitution, which recognizes the historical marginalization of Indigenous communities and provides for the protection of their rights; the Namibian government response to the report of the UN Special Rapporteur; and the decisions of the Universal Periodic Review in relation to the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The African Caucus calls upon the African governments to consider a working group be established at the African Union to track progress on the implementation and promotion of the Declaration in Africa; inclusion of Indigenous Peoples in the African Union Agenda 2063 regional development vision; the development of National Action Plans on the implementation of the Declaration at the national level, including aspirations of the Outcome Document of the World Conference of Indigenous Peoples; the adoption by the African Development Bank of safeguards based on the Declaration; the adoption of a UNESCO policy on Indigenous Peoples in line with the Declaration and also binding on the UNESCO treaties, including the World Heritage Convention; and special recommendation to the African states with reservations with the term “Indigenous” to make the implementation of the Declaration a priority.

Photo by Broddi Sigurdarson.

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