According to the United Nations, there are approximately 400 million Indigenous people worldwide, making up more than 5,000 distinct tribes. Together they are one of the largest minority groups in the world, spanning over 90 countries. While Indigenous Peoples total only about 6% of the world’s population, they represent 90% of the cultural diversity.
Indigenous peoples are descended from ethnic groups which lived in the country or in a geographical area, to which the country belongs, at the time of conquest or colonisation or the establishment of present day state boundaries and who have retained some or all of their own social, economic, cultural and political institutions. By virtue of their special relationship with land and water, indigenous peoples require different rights compared with other minorities to develop their identity and culture. In international law, the regulatory framework for indigenous peoples is more far-reaching than that for other minority groups in a country.
The UN Declaration on protecting the rights of indigenous people recognizes the importance of the cultural diversity and individual and collective human rights of indigenous peoples. The main aim of the instrument is to encourage “harmonious and cooperative relations between States and indigenous peoples based on principles of justice, democracy, and respect for human rights, non-discrimination and good faith. It also expressly recognizes the right of indigenous peoples to self-determination in the political and legal spheres, as well as in terms of their social, cultural and economic development, “retaining their rights to participate fully, if they so choose, in the political, economic, social and cultural life of the State.
Among its most important provisions, it recognizes the right of indigenous peoples to participate in decisions regarding issues that affect their rights, lives and destinies, and requires states to hold consultations and cooperate in good faith with the relevant indigenous peoples in order to obtain their free, prior and informed consent before adopting or applying any legislative or administrative measures that might affect them. The Non-Aligned Movement has whole heartedly supported the aforementioned efforts and UN declaration pertaining to the rights of indigenous people. NAM has stressed the importance for all UN mechanisms dealing with the issues relating to the rights of indigenous peoples to undertake their respective work in accordance with the UN Charter, relevant international human rights instruments, including the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) as well as with their respective mandates.
The movement has been appreciative of the adoption of the Human Rights Council resolution 6/36 of 14 December 2007 that established the expert mechanism on the rights of indigenous peoples to provide the Council with thematic expertise on the rights of indigenous peoples.
In accordance with the stand of NAM, many member states have pursued programmes in accordance with UN framework to protect the cause of indigenous population in the country. In Philippines, an integrated community development program is being pursued to face the challenges that confront the indigenous community.
Awareness and advocacy programs are assisting in building self-reliance and the empowerment of indigenous people in regard to improved livelihoods and health, strengthening peace building and leadership and establishing community based disaster management strategies. The National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs) of Malaysia and Indonesia have both completed national inquiries examining the land rights of indigenous peoples in their respective countries and are actively lobbying for implementation of the recommendations made by those inquiries.
NAM has reiterated its support for the need to promote the economic, political and cultural rights of the indigenous peoples and their commitment to give special attention to the efforts made at the national and multilateral levels in order to improve their living conditions through civil participation.
Likewise, as examined in the above country specific cases, in face of the need to protect and preserve the traditional knowledge of indigenous people undue appropriation and use of the traditional indigenous knowledge, NAM Member States have agreed to promote the defence of the bio-cultural collective heritage to allow indigenous peoples to have appropriate legal instruments on intellectual property so that their traditional knowledge is protected against unauthorized or inappropriate use by third parties.