Contextualising the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People (UNDRIP) within non-settler colonial states: A case study of African countries.

Authors: PRISCILLA APRONTI*, Queen's University
Topics: Indigenous Peoples, Africa, Human Rights
Keywords: Key words: UNDRIP, Indigenous, Non-settler states, Africa, Colonial institutions, African Commission
Session Type: Lightning Paper
Day: 4/7/2019
Start / End Time: 3:55 PM / 5:35 PM
Room: Washington 6, Marriott, Exhibition Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Since the ratification of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) in 2007, a lot of optimism and discussion on the implications of the UNDRIP on existing governance, economic and legal structures in signatory states, mostly settler states, has been generated. It, however, seems that non-settler states particularly Africa have been left out of the conversation as very little consensus has been reached around the contextualisation and applicability of the UNDRIP to the continent. This has largely been attributed to the complexities with defining Africa’s indigenous people as most African’s consider themselves indigenous to the African continent. In response, the African Commission (AC) through it’s Working Group of Experts on Indigenous Populations/Communities moves away from the argument of autochthony to a ‘modern analytical approach’ that defines indigeneity as self-identification, strong connection to and reliance on the land and experience of dispossession. This study, however, argues that aside taking a deficiency approach by linking and limiting indigeneity to negative experiences, the AC fails to engage with and challenge the fundamental colonial governance structures, systems and policies that creates experiences of dispossession and marginalisation in both settler and non-settler states. Thus, by focusing on people rather than institutions, policies and practices, the AC risks materialising the fears of African states that led to 3 abstentions and 15 absence during the final voting on the UNDRIP in 2007.

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