Encounters on the Frontier of International Human Rights Law: Redefining the Terms of Indigenous Peoples' Survival in the World
46 Pages Posted: 16 Feb 2010
Date Written: February 14, 2010
Williams’ much-cited article was written almost two decades after final passage of the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, while that document was at best a work in progress. No one knew when the article was written that the Declaration would come to fruition. But the article expresses appreciation for the process that was ongoing at the time, through which indigenous peoples themselves were being heard at the Working Group drafting a proposed declaration, heard through their stories and heard in a way that redefined their human rights. The article also expresses appreciation that the stories told by indigenous people allowed them to break free of the old notion that states had exclusive sovereignty and jurisdiction over the terms of indigenous peoples’ survival and to direct the dialogue along their terms: “The highly-formalized, standard-setting activities of the human rights process have provided a sanctuary for indigenous peoples to practice their belief that, through their stories, they can raise consciousness and redefine the terms of their own survival in the world.” Four human rights issues were of utmost concern to indigenous people: their collective rights to survival as distinct peoples; territorial rights; self-determination rights; and international legal status. The Declaration was adopted in September of 2007. Having been written when the Declaration was not at all a sure thing, this article provides context, background and an understanding of the sea change that was occurring in human rights discourse as it was expressed and articulated by indigenous peoples themselves.
Keywords: Indigenous Peoples, human rights, collective rights, self-determination, Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People
JEL Classification: K33
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation