Catherine Delahunty

Declaration of Indigenous Rights Down Under

by Catherine Delahunty

On Tuesday I got to ask my first proper Question in the House. Unsurprisingly Hone Harawira asked more or less the same question. Will the Government follow the lead of Australia and change their position to support the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People?

The Prime Minister did a good imitation of saying nothing definite and implying that the Declaration was more or less just an aspirational text. He said they would watch to see what caveats’ the Aussies put on supporting the Declaration before they made a decision.

It may be that the Declaration is highly symbolic rather than an internal programme of action for Aotearoa/New Zealand, but the greatest symbolism is in who refuses to sign it.

It does raise the issue of why is the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People is being called aspirational!? Are the rights of women, people with disabilities, children etc merely aspirational or does this only apply to the Declaration on indigenous rights? If so why ??

As of this week only USA, Canada and Aotearoa/New Zealand are refusing to support the Declaration. 144 countries have signed on to it and 11 have abstained while Australia has decided to show some support. The Green Party wants to know what the new Government here intends to do on this issue. After today’s display of prevarication I am not holding my breath. The key issue is that the UN Declaration acknowledges the collective self determination of indigenous peoples, which seems to have scared the hell out of both Labour and National.

Normally we would never advocate following Australia on issues of cultural justice, their record speaks for itself in all its genocidal brutality, but at least the Rudd Government has made a positive move. The UN Declaration has flaws and weaknesses but it does take a stand for indigenous collectivive self determination across the earth. 

We will just keep on asking our Prime Minister to join the ethical majority at the United Nations on this issue. After all his Government is in a Confidence and Supply agreement with a tangata whenua political party, doesn’t he owe them the recognition of their human rights?

Published in Justice & Democracy | Society & Culture by Catherine Delahunty on Thu, April 2nd, 2009   

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