New Zealand Leaves Canada and U.S. as Lone Nations Opposed to Indigenous Rights

by Brad Jolly, Partner
Apr 28, 2010

On Monday, April 27, New Zealand announced that it has officially reversed its position on the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. New Zealand's Minister of Maori Affairs, Pita Sharples, announced his government's approval of the Declaration at the opening session of the U.N. Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues. With Australia signing onto the Declaration last year, Canada and the United States remain as the only states in the world who affirmatively voted against the Declaration.

Sharples said that "when voting took place in 2007, Maori - my people - were hugely disappointed that our country had voted against it and since that time many Maori have been working" to reverse New Zealand's position on the Declaration. In a news conference, he added, "I hope that they're relieved and happy that we now have a commitment as a country to the declaration without any conditions being laid down onto it." Sharples said New Zealand's reversal "reflects perhaps the impact of a Maori party that has just developed, and its influence on the government."

Last month, in a speech, the Canadian government said it is taking steps to adopt the Declaration "in a manner fully consistent with Canada's constitution and laws." Canada received extreme criticism for its vote against the Declaration because the nation is know for its undaunting support of human rights. However, it was later revealed that former Australian PM, John Howard of the Liberal-National Coalition, personally lobbied Canadian PM Stephen Harper to oppose the Declaration.

As New Zealand announced its acceptance of the Declaration, according to prepared text of U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice's scheduled address to the Forum obtained by the Associated Press, Rice is expected to announce the United States "will be conducting a formal review of the declaration and the U.S. position on it." While campaigning, President Barack Obama told Indian leaders that he was committed to the adoption of the Declaration, but the United States has shown no indication of changing its position or endorsing the human rights recognized in the Declaration.

© 2010 Brad S. Jolly & Associates, LLC