Reconciling Collective and Individual Rights: Indigenous Education and International Human Rights Law
Suffolk University Law School
July 1, 2011
UCLA Journal of International Law and Foreign Affairs, Vol. 15, p. 83, 2010
Suffolk University Law School Research Paper No. 10-54
This paper was written for the UCLA Journal of International Law and Foreign Affairs, which sponsored a symposium titled “Indigenous Peoples’ Rights in the International Human Rights Framework: A Comfortable Fit?”. This question of a “comfortable fit” is one that has informed my work as a member of the ILA Committee on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which has been charged with the task of formulating a commentary on the newly adopted United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (“Declaration”). My research on the Declaration has focused on two primary areas of law: education and media. Elsewhere, I have argued that these two rights are essential to Indigenous Peoples’ struggles to strengthen and maintain their societies and cultures.
This paper focuses primarily on the right to education under Article 14 of the Declaration, which is an area of international law that lends itself well to contemplating issues of individual and collective rights (the topic of our panel discussion). The underlying question of this paper is whether a body of law built primarily on the recognition of individual rights can also be a facilitator of collective rights. My research suggests that it can. First, this paper demonstrates that the current international human rights framework actually contemplates both collective and individual rights, and that the two are not mutually exclusive. Second, it analyzes one means by which international human rights law can facilitate collective rights — through the linking together of core human rights precepts. As we will see, the right to indigenous education under Article 14 of the UN Declaration makes little sense if it is not placed or analyzed within a wider range of human rights, such as the rights to self-determination and cultural integrity. Before expounding on either of these points, the paper briefly discusses the history surrounding Article 14 and the right to education.
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Date posted: September 22, 2010 ; Last revised: September 12, 2011