World Conference on Indigenous Peoples

In September, I attended the UN World Conference on Indigenous Peoples in New York.

Technically, this was not a true World Conference, but rather a High Level Plenary Meeting of the General Assembly. Although this might sound like a small procedural point, it actually had significant implications for matters such as the way in which the conference programme was developed and who was able to participate. The overall effect was that the conference was more tightly controlled by the General Assembly (i.e. states) than it would have been if it was a true World Conference.

Nevertheless, Indigenous Peoples from around the world took the opportunity to engage states and the UN on important issues relating to the protection and promotion of Indigenous Peoples’ rights.

A key part of the conference was the adoption by the General Assembly of an outcome document that is designed to be a formal commitment by the General Assembly to develop mechanisms for the practical implementation of the rights of Indigenous Peoples. To my mind, some of the most important provisions in the outcome document are the directions that the General Assembly has given to the Secretary-General to develop a system-wide plan for achieving the objectives of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The Outcome Document also includes provisions aimed at other parts of the UN system, such as the Human Rights Council, as well as recognition of the important contribution that comes from Indigenous Peoples’ full participation in all aspects of public life.

Further details about the issues addressed are available in the report on the conference proceedings from the Aotearoa delegates who participated as part of the Pacific caucus at the World Conference (see Report UN WCIP 24sep14_final )