Apr 12, 2021

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SPEECH: Aotearoa-NZ signs up to the UN-Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

7 min read

Mihi to United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues

(Tauparapara)

Dr Pita SharplesE nga mana whenua, e te iwi Onondaga, na koutou nga karakia i tuku ki te wahi ngaro kia pai ai tatou, tena koutou.

E nga mate, o tena iwi, o tena iwi, haere, haere, haere ki te okiokinga tuturu mo te tangata.

E te whare o nga iwi o te ao, karanga mai, karanga mai. Karanga mai ki tenei waewae tapu (manuhiri) mai i Aotearoa.

E te hunga ora, e nga mangai o nga iwi taketake o te ao, tena koutou katoa.

Kei te mihi atu ki o koutou maunga, ki o koutou awa, ki o koutou whenua, i takea mai ai o koutou tipuna, tae noa mai ki a koutou e huihui nei i tenei ra.

I haere mai au me te ngakau mahaki, ki te whakanui i te Whakaputanga o nga Mana o nga Iwi Taketake. Kua roa te Kawanatanga o Aotearoa e whiriwhiri ana i tenei take, katahi ano ka tau te whakaaro, me tautoko.

No reira kei te mihi atu ki nga rangatira, ki nga iwi, ki nga ropu i oti i a koutou tenei kaupapa o te Whakaputanga, hei whakaae ma nga Kawanatanga o te ao.

To the inherent powers of this land; to the Onondaga people, who have offered spiritual acknowledgement to the unseen world to bless us, greetings to you.

To the spirits of the deceased, of each and every nation, we farewell you to the ultimate resting place of humankind.

To this house of the peoples of the world, please welcome this newcomer from New Zealand.

To the living representatives of indigenous peoples of the world, I salute you all.

I greet your mountains, your rivers, your lands, (the places) where your ancestors originated, including you who are meeting here today.

I come with a humble heart to celebrate the Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The New Zealand Government has long discussed this matter, and has recently decided to support it.

So I salute the leaders and chiefs, the many peoples and groups who established the foundation of the Declaration, for assent by the Governments of the world.


Announcement of New Zealands Support for the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

  1. In September 2007, at the United Nations, 143 countries voted in favour of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. New Zealand was one of four countries that voted against the Declaration.
  2. Today, New Zealand changes its position: we are pleased to express our support for the Declaration.
  3. In keeping with our strong commitment to human rights, and indigenous rights in particular, New Zealand now adds its support to the Declaration both as an affirmation of fundamental rights and in its expression of new and widely supported aspirations.
  4. Maori hold a distinct and special status as the indigenous people, or tangata whenua, of New Zealand. Indigenous rights and indigenous culture are of profound importance to New Zealand and fundamental to our identity as a nation. A unique feature of our constitutional arrangements is the Treaty of Waitangi, signed by representatives of the Crown and Maori in 1840. It is a founding document of New Zealand and marks the beginning of our rich cultural heritage. The Treaty establishes a foundation of partnership, mutual respect, co-operation and good faith between Maori and the Crown. It holds great importance in our laws, our constitutional arrangements and the work of successive governments.
  5. The Declaration contains principles that are consistent with the duties and principles inherent in the Treaty, such as operating in the spirit of partnership and mutual respect. We affirm this objective, and affirm the Governments commitment to build and maintain constructive relationships with M?ori to achieve better results for Maori, which will benefit New Zealand as a whole.
  6. The Declaration is an historic achievement: the result of many years of discussions 22 years in fact and of hard work and perseverance by many people. I acknowledge the long involvement of Maori in the elaboration of the Declaration and the extent of their investment in its development.
  7. The Declaration acknowledges the distinctive and important status of indigenous peoples, their common historical experiences and the universal spirit that underpins its text. The Declaration is an affirmation of accepted international human rights and also expresses new, and non-binding, aspirations.
  8. In moving to support the Declaration, New Zealand both affirms those rights and reaffirms the legal and constitutional frameworks that underpin New Zealands legal system. Those existing frameworks, while they will continue to evolve in accordance with New Zealands domestic circumstances, define the bounds of New Zealands engagement with the aspirational elements of the Declaration.
  9. In particular, where the Declaration sets out aspirations for rights to and restitution of traditionally held land and resources, New Zealand has, through its well-established processes for resolving Treaty claims, developed its own distinct approach.
  10. That approach respects the important relationship Maori, as tangata whenua, have with their lands and resources both currently and historically, and the complementary principles of rangatiratanga and kaitiakitanga that underpin that relationship. It also maintains, and will continue to maintain, the existing legal regimes for the ownership and management of land and natural resources.
  11. New Zealand acknowledges and understands the historic injustices suffered by Maori in relation to their land and resources and is committed to addressing these through the established Treaty settlement process. Many Maori groups have already benefited from the transfer of considerable land, forest and fisheries assets through negotiated Treaty settlements; many more are in the process of negotiations with the Government towards settling their claims. These settlements contribute to the re-establishment of an economic base as a platform for future development. Redress offered in Treaty settlements is, however, constrained by the need to be fair to everyone and by what the country as a whole can afford to pay.
  12. Further, where the Declaration sets out principles for indigenous involvement in decision-making, New Zealand has developed, and will continue to rely upon, its own distinct processes and institutions that afford opportunities to Maori for such involvement. These range from broad guarantees of participation and consultation to particular instances in which a requirement of consent is appropriate.
  13. In those processes and institutions, we acknowledge that our ongoing national dialogue is grounded in the Treaty of Waitangi. We further recognise that Maori have an interest in all policy and legislative matters and acknowledge the determination of Maori that custom, worldviews and cultural heritage should be reflected in the laws and policies of New Zealand. Maori have been, and continue to be, active in developing innovative responses to issues with a strong indigenous perspective and in engaging with successive governments on possible paths forward.
  14. We will continue that conversation within the relationship that the Treaty and New Zealands constitution as a whole affords. Further, we will continue to work in international fora to promote the human rights of indigenous peoples. New Zealand acknowledges the ongoing process of dialogue and debate over the meanings that may be given to the aspirations put forward by the Declaration.
  15. New Zealands support for the Declaration represents an opportunity to acknowledge and restate the special cultural and historical position of Maori as the original inhabitants – the tangata whenua – of New Zealand. It reflects our continuing endeavours to work together to find solutions and underlines the importance of the relationship between Maori and the Crown under the Treaty of Waitangi. Its affirmation of longstanding rights supports and safeguards that ongoing relationship and its proclamation of new aspirations gives us all encouragement and inspiration for the future.
  16. No reira, tena koutou, tena koutou, tena koutou katoa.


Supporting UN Declaration restores NZs mana

This Governments decision to formalise its support for the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples will help to restore New Zealands mana in addressing indigenous rights, according to Maori Affairs Minister Dr Pita Sharples.

Speaking from the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues in New York, where he announced the decision this morning (NZ time), Dr Sharples said the UN Declaration sets standards for all nations to aspire to.

This is a non-binding declaration, which was drafted by indigenous peoples representatives and negotiated with state parties over more than twenty years. It recognises the rights of indigenous peoples to self-determination, to maintain their own languages and cultures, to protect their natural and cultural heritage and manage their own affairs, Dr Sharples said.

The Declaration is entirely consistent with the Treaty of Waitangi, and our statement of support for the Declaration acknowledges the central role of the Treaty in New Zealands past, present and future. However, New Zealand was one of only four countries to vote against the Declaration.

This was a great disappointment to Maori, and called into the question the previous governments commitment to Crown-Maori relationships based on the Treaty of Waitangi. It also undermined New Zealands credibility on human rights in the eyes of the world, he said.

Todays announcement restores our mana and our moral authority to speak in international fora on issues of justice, rights and peace, said Dr Sharples.

It reflects well on the relationship between the National and Maori Parties that this Government has been able to endorse this important declaration. This is a small but significant step towards building better relationships between Maori and the Crown. I hope the same spirit of goodwill can guide us to a resolution of the foreshore and seabed issue, which has also raised concerns at the United Nations.

I want to pay tribute to the 40-plus Maori delegates, among the many other indigenous people, who have travelled the world since 1988 to help draft the Declaration we are supporting today. This is their day to celebrate, he said.

Media contact: Andrew Robb 029- 482 8494 or 04- 817 6772

For live coverage of the opening of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues go to http://www.un.org/webcast/ Channel 4. New Zealands statement is expected at around 0440 NZ time. Dr Sharples is scheduled to attend a press conference at the UN at around 0515 on Channel 2.

3 thoughts on “SPEECH: Aotearoa-NZ signs up to the UN-Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

  1. Declaration triumphant wallpaper for Harawira

    Tai Tokerau MP Hone Harawira wants to see a copy of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples on the wall of every Maori family.

    The Maori Party MP says he will ask Maori Affairs Minister Pita Sharples to if 500,000 copies can be run off for this purpose.

    “You can look at your treaty on the wall and very soon we will have posters of the declaration up on the wall as well. I’ll talk to Pete about getting at least enough to spread around the county so we can look at it and go ‘that's us,’” Mr Harawira says.

    He says like the treaty of Waitangi, the more people use the declaration the more it will become understood in courts and become part of the law.

  2. Human Rights Commission
    Media release

    20 April 2010

    Commission welcomes Govt support for UN Declaration

    The Human Rights Commission welcomes the Government's support for the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, announced by Maori Affairs Minister Pita Sharples at the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues in New York today.

    New Zealand was one of four countries that voted against the adoption of the Declaration in 2007, along with Australia, Canada and the United States. Since then, Australia has changed its position, and Canada has said it will review its stance.

    "This is good news for New Zealand both domestically and internationally," said Chief Human Rights Commissioner Rosslyn Noonan. "New Zealand generally has an excellent reputation for human rights internationally, but has faced criticism for not supporting the Declaration. This change of heart will be greatly welcomed internationally."

    Ms Noonan said that the Declaration provides a useful guide when considering issues involving the human rights of indigenous peoples, and the Declaration should now be considered formally by government when developing law, policy and practice in relation to Maori.

    Race Relations Commissioner Joris de Bres also supported the announcement. He said that the Commission had published a bilingual translation of the Declaration after it was adopted by the United Nations and used it as a framework in developing its recent discussion paper on Human Rights and the Treaty of Waitangi.

    "The two documents complement each other very well, and the Declaration provides international support to the Treaty's emphasis, in its three articles, on responsible government, tino rangatiratanga and equal rights for all," he said.

    Click here for a summary of the Declaration, * for the full text in Maori and English, click here:+

    The Commission’s discussion paper Human Rights and the Treaty of Waitangi is available here:*

    For media inquiries, Gilbert Wong, 09) 306 2660

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