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UN Expert Urges South Africa & NZ - Ratify ILO 169

UN Expert Urges South Africa And New Zealand To Ratify ILO 169 Immediately

The UN's top expert on indigenous rights has called on the governments of South Africa and New Zealand to ratify ILO Convention 169 on indigenous and tribal peoples' rights. Dr Rodolfo Stavenhagen, the UN special rapporteur on indigenous peoples visited both countries, and recently released reports on them. ILO Convention 169 is the only legally binding international instrument which upholds tribal peoples' rights to the collective ownership of their lands.

The UN report reveals that the most pressing concern of all the indigenous communities in South Africa is 'securing their land base' in order to practice their economies such as pastoralism and hunter-gathering. It notes that 'forced dispossession' of indigenous peoples off their lands has pushed them from self reliance into dependency and poverty.

The situation of the Khomani Bushmen, who were expelled from the Kalahari Gemsbok Park under the apartheid regime, is highlighted. They require priority attention as they are 'probably among the poorest and most marginalized indigenous communities in the country'.

In New Zealand, the report acknowledges that one of the most urgent human rights concerns for the Maori tribes relates to land issues, and reveals that 94 per cent of Maori ancestral land has been taken from them by a variety of historical processes. It urges the government of New Zealand to continue 'to support efforts to achieve a United Nations declaration on the rights of indigenous peoples by consensus, including the right to self-determination'.

Stephen Corry, director of Survival said today, 'Many tribal peoples will cease to exist if their collective human rights are not recognised. Survival joins the UN's special rapporteur in urging governments to uphold this fundamental right by ratifying ILO Convention 169 now.'

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