United Nations Special Rapporteur on Indigenous People
The United Nations appoints independent experts of high moral character and recognized competence in the field of human rights to serve as special rapporteurs. One such position is the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous people.
The position of Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights and funda-mental freedoms of indigenous people was created by the Commission on Human Rights in 2001. Dr. Rodolfo Stavenhagen served as the first Special Rapporteur, from 2001-2008, and Professor S. James Anaya was appointed Special Rapporteur in 2008.
Human Rights Council resolutions direct the Special Rapporteur to "examine ways and means of overcoming existing obstacles to the full and effective protection of the human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous people, in conformity with his/her mandate, and to identify, exchange and promote best practices". The Special Rapporteur is also authorized to
gather, request, receive and exchange information and communications
from all relevant sources, including Governments, indigenous people and
their communities and organizations, on alleged violations of their human
rights and fundamental freedoms” and to “formulate recommendations and proposals on appropriate measures and activities to prevent and remedy
In carrying out these different activities, the Special Rapporteur is also requested to work "in close cooperation with the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues and to participate in its annual session;" to “develop a regular cooperative dialogue with all relevant actors;" to pay "special attention to the situation of indigenous children and women;" to consider "relevant recommendations of the world conferences and treaty bodies on matters regarding his/her mandate;" and to “submit a report on the implementation of his/her mandate to the Council in accordance with its annual programme of work.” The Special Rapporteur is also requested to attend and to contribute to the annual meeting of the Human Rights Council’s Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
In fulfilling his mandate, the Special Rapporteur looks to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as well as other international instruments relevant to the advancement of the rights of indigenous peoples. The other international instruments include specific Conventions of the UN (e.g. on the Rights of the Child, on Civil and Political Rights and and on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination) as well as Covenants 107 and 169 of the International Labour Organization.
The Special Rapporteur reports to the United Nations and deals with issues of concern to indigenous peoples in a number of different ways. Annual reports are made to the UN General Assembly when it meets in regular session, as well as to the Human Rights Council. In addition to summarizing the rapporteur’s activities during the year these reports also address specific concerns or subjects affecting indigenous peoples.
Country reports are prepared by the rapporteur and presented to the Human Rights Council evaluating the situation of indigenous peoples in various locales and addressing potential remedies or responses to those situations based upon international human rights standards. These reports are based upon country visits made by the rapporteur as well as upon any additional research conducted by him or his office.
Communication reports are issued by the rapporteur which summarize the communica-tions received from indigenous peoples, NGO’s or other sources, and the responses made by the rapporteur – which may have included a country visit to the state involved. In some cases, the report will also contain the rapporteur’s evaluation of the situation and any pertinent recom-mendations.
Finally, special reports focusing on “specific topics, themes or situations” are prepared and published by the rapportuer as they arise. These reports may include detailed analyses of the matter at hand, as well as recommendations for dealing with it.
- S. James Anaya, International Human Rights and Indigenous Peoples (Aspen Publ. 2009)
- Office of High Commissioner for Human Rights website http://www2.ohchr.org/english/issues/indigenous/rapporteur/framework.htm
- U.N. Special Rapporteur S. James Anaya website http://unsr.jamesanaya.org