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UN Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

The UN Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNEMRIP) issued its "Final report of the study on indigenous peoples and the right to participate in decision-making". The Report, which addresses good practices at different levels, has been submitted to the Human Rights Council.

The UNEMRIP was established by the Human rights Council in 2007 under Resolution 6/36 making it a subsidiary body of the Council.  The Expert Mechanism is comprised of five independent experts on indigenous peoples including:

(Name and Term ending)
Mr. Vital BAMBANZE (Burundi) 2012
Ms. Anastasia CHUKHMAN (Russian Federation) 2013
Ms. Jannie LASIMBANG (Malaysia) 2014
Mr. Wilton LITTLECHILD (Canada) 2014
Mr. Jose Carlos MORALES (Costa Rica) 2013

The decision of the UNEMRIP has ramifications for the participation of indigenous peoples in a wide range of discussions and negotiations involving matters of direct concern to their rights, interests and security.  The Climate Change negotiations, and those concerning the Convention on Biodiversity and the Convention on Intellectual Property are of particular note.

Of particular interest is the Report's Annex - "Expert Mechanism advice No. 2 (2011): Indigenous peoples and the right to participate in decision-making".  Indigenous peoples and civil society organizations have been successful in having a diverse range of rights and concerns and related State obligations reflected in the "advice" to the Council.

In relation to international and regional processes, such as those relating to the Nagoya Protocol and climate change, see for example:

26. Reform of international and regional processes involving indigenous peoples should be a major priority and concern. In particular, multilateral environmental processes and forums should ensure full respect for the rights of indigenous peoples and their effective participation including, for example, in relation to the negotiation of the Nagoya Protocol.

27. Respect for indigenous peoples’ right to participate in decision making is essential for achieving international solidarity and harmonious and cooperative relations. Consensus is not a legitimate approach if its intention or effect is to undermine the human rights of indigenous peoples. Where beneficial or necessary, alternative negotiation frameworks should be considered, consistent with States’ obligations in the Charter of the United Nations and other international human rights law.

29. States have a duty to respect indigenous peoples’ right to participate in all levels of decision-making, including in external decision-making …

33. States and relevant international and domestic organizations should ensure that indigenous peoples have the financial and technical capacity to engage in consultation and consent-seeking exercises and to participate in regional and international decision-making processes.

34. States should also recognize that the right to self-determination of indigenous peoples constitutes a duty for States to obtain indigenous peoples’ free, prior and informed consent, not merely to be involved in decision-making processes, but a right to determine their outcomes.


Clearly, these points are developmental in character and do not guarantee the right of participation in substantive and consenting ways, but the language appears to be developing.

We are indebted to the Grand Council of the Crees (Eeyou Istchee) and our collaboration with them for the continuing progress toward the full realization of the principle of "free, prior and informed consent" within the framework of international treaty negotiations and policy formulation.

See the full report in the Forum for Global Exchange Program at   http://fge.cwis.org/

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