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NZ's arguments win at the United Nations

Rt Hon Winston Peters
Minister of Foreign Affairs

6 December 2006

NZ's arguments win at the United Nations

Foreign Minister Winston Peters has welcomed the United Nations' rejection of the draft declaration on the rights of indigenous peoples.

"This is an good outcome. The text was fundamentally flawed. It was inconsistent with international law, and established a patronising and unworkable international standard that took little account of contemporary realities," Mr Peters said.

"After 11 years of negotiations – in which we played a leading role – failed to reach a consensus, the Chair produced his own text, which would have been impossible to implement even for countries like New Zealand that have the best of intentions and a strong record on indigenous rights.

"The Chair's text was forced to the vote and narrowly adopted by the Human Rights Council earlier this year, despite a lack of genuine agreement on it, and that the fact that many countries that actively supported it not having indigenous peoples, and some supporters indicating that they had little intention of implementing it.

"New Zealand opposed the adoption and called for further work on it, so we are pleased that the text failed to win final endorsement when it was considered by the UN General Assembly in New York.

"By that stage, it was clear to other countries that the declaration was not
workable across differing national situations. As a result, 83 countries voted in favour of deferring the declaration for further consultation, and no-one voting against it.

"The UN has taken the only sensible step in deciding that this document must be re-examined. It was wrong that the world's 400 million indigenous peoples should be treated to a second rate declaration on their rights, that governments could either not implement or simply ignore.

"The General Assembly's decision shows New Zealand got it right. Regrettably, it also reveals that some countries are disingenuous in how they regard their own indigenous peoples.

"The government was criticised by the likes of the Maori Party and the Greens for taking this principled position, but the critics were poorly informed.

"We now have the chance to fix the text so that it has the potential to make a real difference for those indigenous people who most need it. We want a text that has the capacity to build harmonious and enduring relationships between
indigenous and non-indigenous citizens. And we want a text that looks forwards and not backwards," Mr Peters said.


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