UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples: Self-Determination and Territorial Integrity

ARTICLE BY PAUL JOFFE

International law makes clear that all peoples have the right of self-determination.2 This is affirmed in the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (“UN Declaration”). International treaty bodies have repeatedly concluded this.

There has been some suggestion that the principle of territorial integrity has been expanded in article 46(1) so as to undermine Indigenous peoples’ rights. Others claim that the right of self determination in article 3 of the UN Declaration is not the same right as the one in international law. Such positions are not accurate. The principle of territorial integrity already exists in international law and cannot be validly expanded upon by the UN Declaration.

The following analysis concludes that the international law principle of “equal rights and self determination of peoples” applies to Indigenous peoples globally – as does the right of self determination in international law. States that fail to fully recognize this principle and right cannot invoke the principle of territorial integrity. There cannot be any discriminatory qualifications or conditions.

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