Self-Determination and Indigenous Peoples in International Law

American Indian Law Review, Vol. 31, No. 2, Symposium: Lands, Liberties, andLegacies: Indigenous Peoples and International Law (2006/2007), pp. 375-399

26 Pages Posted: 27 Jan 2019

See all articles by Elena Cirkovic

Elena Cirkovic

Aarhus University; University of Lapland; Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - MIT Media Laboratory

Date Written: January 15, 2007

Abstract

In an era of pragmatism, dominated by institutions in international law, scholars have so far failed to move away from longstanding elitist attitudes and practices regarding the politics of power inherent in international relations and in international law. To no surprise, questions of universality and particularity keep recurring with little hope of resolution. This is especially evident in the arena of international human rights law, where human rights discourse claims universality while remaining deeply embedded in the colonial sources of the international legal order. At the same time, such rights discourses offer promises of liberation by mobilizing marginalized peoples everywhere. By focusing on indigenous1 rights in international law, this investigation seeks to engage with a larger contemporary inquiry into the universalist aspirations of the public international legal order and the continued debate over the possibility of globally accepted human rights. As a result of a state-centred international legal order, the unresolved status of indigenous claims unfolds in the context of a global struggle over universal human rights, where indigenous rights do not seem to be easily recognizable in either the national or international arena. This analysis will examine the struggle over the recognition of indigenous peoples as subjects under public international law and their right to self determination as expressed in Articles 1 and 55 of the UN Charter, as well as in common Article 1 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR). Three guiding questions will orient the analysis. First, Part II will address whether the established human rights discourse can serve as a strategic tool for indigenous peoples, or whether it works to delegitimize indigenous discourses and world views. Second, Part III examines the difference, if any, between the present situation of indigenous peoples in international law from that of previous historical periods. And finally, Part IV asks whether a contradiction exists between the right to self-determination as a liberating, legal instrument, and the current politics of national reconciliation that purport to bring peace and security.

Keywords: indigenous peoples' rights, self-determination, public international law, history of international law

Suggested Citation

Cirkovic, Elena, Self-Determination and Indigenous Peoples in International Law (January 15, 2007). American Indian Law Review, Vol. 31, No. 2, Symposium: Lands, Liberties, andLegacies: Indigenous Peoples and International Law (2006/2007), pp. 375-399, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3315949 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3315949

Elena Cirkovic (Contact Author)

Aarhus University ( email )

Nordre Ringgade 1
DK-8000 Aarhus C, 8000
Denmark

University of Lapland ( email )

Rovaniemi, Lapland
Finland

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - MIT Media Laboratory ( email )

20 Ames St.
Cambridge, MA 02139-4307
United States

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