Indigenous Peoples Rights beyond Article 46: conversation with Global Leaders

A Statement delivered by our executive director, Carson Kiburo during UNPFII Twentieth Session: 19-30 April 2021 Habitat Pro Side Event: Indigenous Peoples Rights beyond Article 46: A conversation with Global Leaders.

Greetings to all dear indigenous relations residing in all the sacred lands! Well, when I first got the invitation from Manuel Ibanez, I got intrigued, yet I knew this is a conscious discussion that we must have! 

So, I asked myself; what is the link to all the affirmations with the sort of “disclaimer” language in Article 46 of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples – juxtaposing in the spirit of the entire declaration.


First of all, we have to look back at the history of the Indigenous Peoples Movement — and I had to study a little bit ― ask knowledge holders and leaders who were involved in the drafting.  

In the spirit of self-determination, ILO Convention No. 169 creates two classes of people. The history of the long fight to establish these instruments meant that there was going to be gaps. There were tugs-of-war while drafting and even sometimes reviewing ILO Conventions; and that was the roadmap to achieving The Declaration, a journey of nearly 20 years.

That is why the member states of the UN explore these lacunas in Article 46; creating misunderstanding where there’s none! You see, we cannot cherry-pick a few provisions of the declaration to suit a certain narrative. The most crucial elements in understanding Indigenous Peoples rights at the core is self-determination.

Our self-determination rights are intertwined with our lands, territories and natural resources. Its power comes with provisions of Free, Prior and Informed Consent. And that’s the power to determine our technologies, cultural education, customary laws and even sustain our age-old food sovereignty as a people.

We have to remind all stakeholders that the basic minimum is the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. A classic example of self-determination of Indigenous Peoples; and to contextualize this year’s permanent forum theme of Peace, justice and strong institutions: the role of indigenous peoples in implementing Sustainable Development Goal 16”, promoting peaceful coexistence, you have to look at the Maori and Sami. You can see sharing, participation and beneficial partnerships.

This means that we are not dividing the territory of any state; we just want to participate and self-determine our future.

[I see the UN Declaration like I see the world. Holistically. Everything is connected to one another. All the articles are dependent on each other. They are related to each other. I read the Declaration as one interrelated document. That is why I am not afraid of Article 46.]

Article 46, doesn’t injure our rights, I would say, it is the floor of our rights. Sort of a basic minimum. The Declaration helps both member states and indigenous peoples to attain the United Nations sustainable development goals, and just to reiterate, Indigenous peoples, offer the best solutions in the restoration of mother nature and help deal with the most urgent emergency of our time – climate action!

Indigenous Peoples Rights beyond Article 46: conversation with Global Leaders

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