Many successes have been achieved at the international level for the recognition of the rights of indigenous peoples. We highlight some of the most important achievements to which NCIV has made significant contributions.
UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP)
On 13 September 2007, an absolute milestone in indigenous peoples' search for justice was marked by the adoption of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples by the United Nations General Assembly. The adoption came after more than two decades of negotiations within the United Nations human rights system. Throughout these years, NCIV, via the Human Rights Fund for Indigenous Peoples, has contributed significantly to the effective participation of indigenous representatives in these negotiations. While as a General Assembly Declaration it is not a legally binding instrument under international law, according to a UN press release, it does "represent the dynamic development of international legal norms and it reflects the commitment of the UN's member states to move in certain directions.” It is an important step forward towards the full recognition and implementation of the rights of indigenous peoples.
The Declaration contains a large number of rights which are vital to the survival, dignity and well-being of indigenous peoples, and to protecting their strong cultural and spiritual relationship to their environments. Some of the main provisions include:
- Right to self-determination: to be able to be in control of their own way of life and development, indigenous peoples have the right to self-determination. This is their most fundamental right to freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development. This right, however, has to be balanced with a provision on the territorial integrity of states. This creates a framework for negotiating just and fair agreements between indigenous peoples and states on their coexistence.
- Rights to land, territories and natural resources: for the survival of indigenous peoples it is essential to be able to collectively own their lands, territories and natural resources. This is the basis for their very means of existence and their social, cultural and spiritual well-being.
- Right to culture and development: indigenous peoples have the right to have access to technical and financial assistance from States and through international cooperation for their development, based on their rights and with respect for their own cultural values, traditions and institutions.
Watch the video of Tonya Frichner here about the importance of UNDRIP to indigenous peoples:
ILO Convention 169In 1989 the International Labour Organization (ILO) adopted its Indigenous and Tribal Peoples Convention (No. 169). This Convention is the only international instrument that is in force that addresses indigenous peoples specifically. The Convention has 32 operative articles and is based on two fundamental concepts: consultation and participation. It is premised on the belief that Indigenous and tribal peoples should have the right to be consulted when legislative and administrative measures which may affect them are being considered; that they should have the right to participate at all levels of decision-making concerning them; and that they should have the right to decide their own development priorities. The Convention has been criticized for not fully embodying the Indigenous point of view. Yet, despite its arguable shortcomings, most indigenous leaders and organizations see the Convention as an important step towards an improvement of their human rights situation and are eager for governments to ratify it. In 2008, Chile ratified ILO Convention No. 169, thus raising the number of countries that have made legally-binding commitments to the Convention to 20. The Dutch government ratified this Convention in 1998 after a successful lobby of NCIV. Countries that have ratified the Convention are subject to supervision by the ILO with regards to its implementation.
Convention on Biological Diversity
In the field of environmental rights, a major milestone was the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED), held in 1992, which specifically recognized indigenous peoples’ contribution to the world’s biological diversity in Chapter 26 of its Agenda 21. Under Agenda 21, their knowledge, innovations and practices are to be protected in Article 8(j) of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and a United Nations Working Group has been established to address the implementation of this article. Under the CBD further fora have also been developed in which issues of key concern to indigenous peoples regarding environment are addressed, such as the Working Group on Access and Benefit-Sharing of Genetic Resources and the Working Group on Protected Areas. Through the Environmental Rights Fund for Indigenous Peoples (ERFIP) and through partnership with the Indigenous Women's Biodiversity Network (IWBN), NCIV has been supporting the effective participation of indigenous representatives in the Conferences of the Parties to the CBD and its related relevant Working Groups from 2002 until 2008.
 The ILO's Indigenous and Tribal Populations Convention, 1957 (No. 107) pre-dates Convention 169, but is no longer open for ratification. However, this Convention is still in force for a number of countries that have ratified it and not yet ratified Convention No. 169.