Published: Aug. 23, 2017
U.N. Declaration - September 13, 2007

Indigenous peoples’ representatives and government authorities from around the world, as well as U.N. officials, will convene at the University of Colorado Law School Sept. 13 and 14, 2017, for an event commemorating the tenth anniversary of the adoption of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The event is free and open to the public, but advance registration is required.

“It is an honor and a privilege that Colorado Law was selected by the U.N. to partner with it on this event commemorating, celebrating, and evaluating the adoption of the Declaration,” said Colorado Law Dean S. James Anaya, who participated in the drafting of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (“Declaration”) and then served as U.N. Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

The purpose of the event, co-hosted by Colorado Law, through its American Indian Law Program, and the Secretariat of the U.N. Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, is to look back at the advocacy that resulted in the passage of the Declaration, discuss its the present-day usage, and look forward to implementation and the future.

Notable activities include:

  • a fireside chat between Anaya and Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, current U.N. Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples,
  • presentations by indigenous advocates and high-level government officials who led the negotiations resulting in the Declaration
  • a keynote talk by Native American rights attorney and author Walter Echo-Hawk,
  • a cultural celebration, and
  • interactive workshops that draw on the joint experiences of indigenous peoples from all over the world.

The Declaration was drafted and formally debated for more than 20 years prior to being adopted by the U.N. General Assembly on September 13, 2007.  It emphasizes the rights of indigenous peoples to live in dignity; to maintain and strengthen their own institutions, cultures and traditions; and to pursue their self-determined development.

“The document recognizes that historically, and even today, indigenous peoples have been denied human rights, and it puts in place a number of imperatives to remedy that situation and to encourage governments and others in power to address the human rights concerns of indigenous peoples,” Anaya said. “It’s an extremely important, historic document and an achievement by indigenous peoples and their advocates.”

Still, there is work to be done, said Chandra Roy-Henriksen, chief of the Secretariat of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, Division for Social Policy and Development, U.N. Department of Economic and Social Affairs.

“There has been significant progress since the Declaration was adopted 10 years ago. Some countries have taken concrete measures to recognize the rights and identities of indigenous peoples, and the pluricultural composition of their populations. Yet, progress is uneven, among and between countries and regions. Indigenous peoples continue to face exclusion, marginalization, dispossession and displacement from their lands and territories. We all need to work together—indigenous peoples, member states, the private sector, civil society, academia, and the U.N. system—to find solutions to fully realize the rights of indigenous peoples.”

The Native American Rights Fund (NARF), an event sponsor, has represented the National Congress of American Indians on international indigenous issues since 1999.

“It is important to the Native American Rights Fund to be supporting this celebration because we have been representing the National Congress of American Indians on these international indigenous issues since 1999 and together we played a major role in securing U.S. support for the Declaration in 2010,” John Echohawk, executive director of NARF, said. “We also highly value the working relationship we have had with James Anaya on these issues over the years and with our current partnership with Colorado Law on these issues.”

Registration and a working agenda for the event are available at