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Maori Party Commends Courage of UN

Maori Party Commends Courage of UN

The Maori Party today was rapt to learn the Human Rights Council of the United Nations adopted United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples  after a mammoth twenty-one years of international debate.

“This is a 21st birthday celebration like no other” said Te Ururoa Flavell, Maori Party spokesperson for international affairs.

“This is a very significant advance in ensuring the rights of indigenous people are back on the agenda” said Mr Flavell.  “The universal declaration says indigenous peoples have the right to the full enjoyment, as a collective or as individuals, to all human rights and fundamental freedoms”.

“The declaration also states that indigenous peoples have the right to be free from any kind of discrimination, and importantly, have the right of self-determination.  This is a key development for tangata whenua, and our aspirations to pursue economic, social and cultural development”.

“The celebration has, however, been marred by reports that New Zealand Government officials were prepared to go against the wishes of tangata whenua in the stand of opposition they took to the draft text”.

“We are aware of a large number of concerns about the lack of any consultation with tangata whenua” said Mr Flavell.

“The stock reply we have had from the Minister of Foreign Affairs is, as he said in a reply in the House on 13 December 2005:

“perhaps the best answer is this: in consulting the indigenous people, the Government appointed one as the Minister of Foreign Affairs”.

“The Maori Party does not accept that this is a valid way of presenting the views of tangata whenua on the international stage”.

“Indeed, we say, how dare this Government makes decisions on our behalf, without involving the indigenous people whom are at the centre of this text”.

“And if this Government has talked to more than Mr Peters alone, we will be asking : tell us about your hui, where were they?  Who did you consult? When? How many times? “


 “Tangata whenua have always said that they want the discussions on the text to occur at home” said Mr Flavell. 

The Maori Party has received a significant number of concerns from Maori about the inadequacy of the consultation process.  In light of this the Maori Party has asked questions in the House, and regularly written to Ministers, highlighting the disappointment Maori have expressed around the failure of the Government to consult them, on such an important issue.

“The shame for us at this time” said Mr Flavell, “is that we are aware that New Zealand has been grouped with Canada, USA and Australia as opposing the vote.  The idea that Aotearoa could go on record as having opposed the rights of indigenous people is deeply troubling”.

“We already have a very poor record, internationally, as a consequence of the Foreshore and Seabed Act, and the report of the UN Special Rapporteur earlier this year” said Mr Flavell.  “That report warned that Governments cannot unilaterally extinguish indigenous rights without the free, prior and informed consent of the concerned indigenous peoples”.

“We will be very concerned if this Government has mis-represented the Aotearoa indigenous view” concluded Mr Flavell.  “We will be taking this matter up with Winston Peters, as a matter of some urgency”.

Background Details

·       The United Nations estimates there are some 370 million indigenous peoples living in different parts of the world;

·       The Human Rights Council today (30 June 2006) adopted the Chair's text for the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples by majority vote of HRC members.

·       The declaration won 30 votes in the 47 member council with 12 abstentions, and two votes opposed (3 absent).  Canada and Russia were the only two nations who opposed the declaration.  In ABC News online it stated that “Canada says it was representing the interests of Australia, America and New Zealand”. 

·       In 1985, the Working Group on Indigenous Populations began drafting a declaration on the rights of indigenous peoples.

·       In 1994, the draft was adopted by the UN Sub-Commission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities (now the Sub-Commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights);

·       In 1995, the UN Economic and Social Council endorsed the establishment by the UN Commission on Human Rights of an open-ended inter-sessional Working Group on the Draft Declaration (WGDD) to consider the text submitted by the Sub-Commission;

·       The next step is for the Human Rights Council resolution to be considered at the UN General Assembly to be held in September 2006. 


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