"Plain language" version of the Declaration
From the IWGIA Website:
[Note: This version was created in 2004 by the
Aboriginal and Torres
Strait Islander Commission (ATSIC). It does not exactly follow the
official version but may help clarify the content.
The Preamble lists some of the reasons, which led the United Nations to
develop a declaration on indigenous peoples' rights.
The Declaration sets out the rights of indigenous peoples. The language of
"peoples" is important. Indigenous peoples do not want to be treated simply as
numerical "populations". They want recognition of their rights as distinct
peoples, including the right to self-determination, and the right to control
development of their societies.
Rejection of the view that some peoples are better than others as racist and
Recognition that indigenous peoples have been deprived of their human rights
and freedoms and that this has led to their colonisation and the taking of their
Recognition of the urgent need to respect the rights of indigenous peoples,
particularly their rights to their land and resources.
Recognition that indigenous peoples are getting together to end discrimination
Recognition that respect for indigenous peoples' knowledge can contribute to
fair and lasting development and better management of the environment.
Part I. - Fundamental Rights
Article 1: Human Rights
Indigenous peoples have the right to all the human rights and freedoms
recognised in international law.
Article 2: Equality
Indigenous peoples are equal to all other peoples. They must be free from
Article 3: Self-determination
Indigenous peoples have the right of self-determination.
This means they can choose their political status and the way they want to
Article 4: Distinct Characteristics
Indigenous peoples have the right to keep and develop their distinct
characteristics and systems of law.
They also have the right, if they want, to take part in the life of the rest of
Article 5: Citizenship
Every indigenous person has the right to be a citizen of a country.
Part I sets out some very fundamental rights of indigenous peoples. It states
that indigenous peoples have the same rights as other peoples and must be
treated like everybody else. Part I recognises that indigenous peoples have the
right of self-determination and the right to keep their distinct
There is much disagreement over what self-determination means. Indigenous
peoples base their claims to self-determination on the fact that they were the
first peoples in their territories. Self-determination means the right of
indigenous peoples to choose their political status and to make decision about
their own development. Self-determination can take a variety of forms.
Some governments reject the right of indigenous peoples to self-determination or
try to limit its scope. They are fearful of independence movements and the
possibility of national disintegration.
Indigenous representatives at the UN consider this view to be racist and
discriminatory. They point to the fact that the UN Charter and the main human
rights instruments state self-determination as a right of all peoples.
Part II. Life and Security
Article 6: existence
Indigenous peoples have the right to live in freedom, peace and security.
They must be free from genocide and other acts of violence.
Their children must not be removed from their families and communities, for any
reason at all.
Article 7: Cultural integrity
Indigenous peoples shall be free from cultural genocide.
Governments shall prevent:
a) actions which take away their distinct cultures and identities;
b) the taking of their land and resources;
c) their removal from their land;
d) measures of assimilation;
e) propaganda against them.
Article 8: Identity
Indigenous peoples have the right to their distinct identities.
This includes the right to identify themselves as indigenous.
Article 9: Communities and Nations
Indigenous peoples have the right to belong to indigenous communities and
nations, in accordance with their traditions and customs.
Article 10: Removal and Relocations
Indigenous peoples shall not be removed from their land by force.
They shall not be relocated without their agreement. Where they agree, they
should be given compensation and the possibility to return.
Article 11: Time of War
Indigenous peoples shall have protection in time of war.
Governments shall respect international law and must not:
a) force indigenous people to enter the army, particularly if they have to fight
against other indigenous people;
b) allow indigenous children to join the army;
c) force indigenous people to leave their land;
d) force indigenous people to work for the army under discriminatory conditions.
Part II sets out the right of indigenous peoples to exist as distinct peoples.
Indigenous peoples are to be free from genocide and their children must not be
removed from their culture and identity.
They have the right to stay on their land and must be specially protected in
time of war.
Genocide means the physical destruction of a people, including through the
removal of children.
Cultural genocide refers to the destruction of a people's culture.
Part III. Culture, Religion and Language
Article 12: Culture
Indigenous peoples have the right to their cultural traditions and customs.
This includes aspects of their culture such as sacred sites, designs,
ceremonies, technologies and performances.
Their cultural property shall be returned to them, if it was taken without their
Article 13: Spiritual and Religious Traditions
Indigenous peoples have the right to their spiritual and religious
traditions, their customs and their ceremonies.
They have the right to their sacred sites, ceremonial objects and the remains of
Governments shall assist indigenous peoples to preserve and protect their sacred
Article 14: Language
Indigenous peoples have the right to their histories, languages, oral
traditions, stories, writings and their own names for people and places.
Governments shall ensure that in courts and other proceedings indigenous peoples
can understand and be understood through interpreters and other appropriate
Part IV. Education, Media and Employment
Article 15: Education
Indigenous children have the right to the same education as all other children.
Indigenous peoples also have the right to their own schools and to provide
education in their own languages.
Indigenous children who do not live in indigenous communities shall be able to
learn their own culture and language.
Article 16: Information
All forms of education and public information shall reflect the dignity and
diversity of indigenous cultures, traditions and aspirations.
In consultation with indigenous peoples, governments shall take measures to
promote tolerance and good relations between indigenous and other peoples.
Article 17: Media
Indigenous peoples have the right to their own media in their own languages.
They shall also have equal access to non-indigenous media. Government-owned
media must reflect indigenous culture.
Article 18: Employment
Indigenous peoples have rights under international labour law and under
Indigenous peoples must not be discriminated against in matters connected with
Part IV sets out the rights of indigenous peoples in the areas of education, the
media and employment. Indigenous children have the right to education, including
education in their own languages and culture. They have the right to use
mainstream media, as well as to establish their own media. They have the right
to be treated fairly in all matters relating to employment.
Part V. Participation and Development
Article 19: Decision-Making
Indigenous peoples have the right to participate in decisions that affect them.
They can choose their own representatives and use their own decision-making
Article 20: Law and Policy-Making
Indigenous peoples have the right to participate in law and policy-making
that affects them.
Governments must obtain the consent of indigenous peoples before adopting these
laws and policies.
Article 21: Economic Activities
Indigenous peoples have the right to their own economic and social systems and
to pursue their own traditional and other activities.
Where indigenous peoples have been deprived of their means of subsistence, they
are entitled to compensation.
Article 22: Special Measures
Indigenous peoples have the right to special measures to improve their
economic and social conditions.
This includes in the areas of employment, education, housing, health and social
Article 23: Economic and Social Development
Indigenous peoples have the right to determine priorities and strategies for
They should determine health, housing and other economic and social programs
and, as far as possible, deliver these programs through their own organisations.
Article 24: Health
Indigenous peoples have the right to their traditional medicines and health
practices. The plants, animals and minerals used in medicines shall be
Indigenous peoples shall have access to all medical institutions and health
services without discrimination.
Part V sets out the rights of indigenous peoples to participate in decisions and
developments which affect them. Indigenous peoples must participate in, and give
their consent to, decisions on law-making that affect them. They have the right
to their own economic activities and to special measures to improve their
economic and social conditions.
Part VI. Land and Resources
Article 25: Distinctive Relationship
Indigenous peoples have the right to keep and strengthen their distinctive
spiritual relationship with their land and waters.
Article 26: Ownership
Indigenous peoples have the right to own and control the use of their land,
waters and other resources.
Indigenous laws and customs shall be recognised.
Article 27: Restitution
Indigenous peoples have the right to return of land and resources taken without
Where this is not possible, they shall receive just compensation in the form of
land and resources.
Article 28: Environment
Indigenous peoples shall receive assistance in order to restore and protect
the environment of their land and resources.
Army activities shall not take place on the land of indigenous peoples without
Hazardous material shall not be stored or disposed of on the land of indigenous
peoples. Governments shall take measures to assist indigenous peoples whose
health has been affected by such material.
Article 29: Cultural and Intellectual Property
Indigenous peoples have the right to own and control their cultural and
They have the right to special measures to control and develop their sciences,
technologies, seeds, medicines, knowledge of flora and fauna, oral traditions,
designs, art and performances.
Article 30: Resource Development
Indigenous peoples have the right to determine strategies for the development of
their land and resources.
Governments must obtain the consent of indigenous peoples before giving approval
to activities affecting their land and resources, particularly the development
of mineral, water and other resources.
Just compensation must be paid for such activities.
Part VI sets out the right of indigenous peoples to their land. They have the
right to maintain their distinctive spiritual relationship with their land,
waters and resources. They have the right to own and develop their land, waters
and resources, and to return of land taken without their consent. Their
environment and their cultural and intellectual property must be protected.
Indigenous peoples have the right to control development of their land.
There is high demand for indigenous artwork and cultural artefacts. Through
theft and unauthorised use and sale, indigenous peoples have been robbed of
their cultural heritage. Therefore, indigenous peoples are seeking protection of
their "cultural property". This includes sites, human remains, oral traditions,
designs, arts and ceremonies.
Indigenous knowledge is a valuable resource. However, the profits are rarely
shared with indigenous peoples. Therefore, indigenous peoples are seeking
protection of their "intellectual property". This means indigenous knowledge in
areas such as medicinal plants, agricultural biodiversity and environmental
Part VII. Self-Government and Indigenous Laws
Article 31: Self-Government
As a form of self-determination, indigenous peoples have the right to
self-government in relation to their own affairs.
These include culture, religion, education, media, health, housing, employment,
social security, economic activities, land and resources management, environment
and entry by non-members.
Article 32: Indigenous Citizenship
Indigenous peoples have the right to determine who are their own citizens.
They have the right to decide upon the structures and membership of their
Article 33: Indigenous Laws and Customs
Indigenous peoples have the right to their own legal customs and traditions,
as long as they accord with international human rights law.
Article 34: Responsibilities
Indigenous peoples can decide the responsibilities of individuals to their
Article 35: Borders
Indigenous peoples separated by international borders have the right to
maintain relations and undertake activities with one another.
Article 36: Treaties and Agreements
Governments shall respect treaties and agreements entered into with
Disputes should be resolved by international bodies.
Part VII sets out guidelines for situations in which indigenous peoples exercise
their right of self -determination through self-government. It recognises the
right of indigenous peoples to determine their citizenship, to their own laws
and customs, to relations with other peoples across borders, and to treaties and
agreements with governments.
Treaties and agreements
In the past, many indigenous peoples have reached treaties and agreements with
governments. For indigenous peoples, treaties have great spiritual meaning, and
provide recognition of their status as self-governing peoples and their right to
Indigenous peoples have struggled for the recognition of their treaty rights in
domestic and international law. Treaty rights can also be a way to regain
control over indigenous land and resources.
Part VIII. Implementation
Article 37: National Law
In consultation with indigenous peoples, governments shall take measures to give
effect to this Declaration. This includes making the rights recognised in the
Declaration into national law so that they can be enforced by indigenous
Article 38: Financial Assistance
Indigenous peoples have the right to financial and other assistance from
governments and international organisations in order to exercise the rights
recognised in this Declaration.
Article 39: Disputes
Governments shall establish fair procedures for resolution of disputes with
indigenous peoples. These procedures must take account of indigenous customs and
Article 40: United Nations
The United Nations and other international organisations shall provide
financial and other assistance in order to give effect to the rights recognised
in this Declaration.
Article 41: Special International Body
The United Nations shall create a special international body in order to
give effect to this Declaration. Indigenous peoples shall participate directly
in this body.
Part VIII sets out what governments and the United Nations must do in order to
put the Declaration into practise.
Part IX. Understanding the Declaration
Article 42: Minimum Standards
This Declaration contains only minimum standards for indigenous peoples.
Article 43: Men and Women
The rights recognised in this Declaration apply equally to indigenous men and
Article 44: Other Indigenous Rights
Nothing in this Declaration affects other rights indigenous peoples
presently hold or may get in the future.
Article 45: United Nations Charter
Nothing in this Declaration allows any action against the Charter of the United
Part IX provides some guidance as to how to understand the Declaration.