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Realisation of the right of indigenous peoples to natural resources under international law through the emerging right to autonomy

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For most indigenous communities, communal lands and natural resources have fundamental spiritual, social, cultural, economic and political significance that is integrally linked to both their identity and continued survival. Denial of the inherent and inalienable rights to their traditional land and natural resources is often at the root of human rights violations, giving rise to intra-state tensions and laying the foundation for emerging and ongoing conflicts. Full enjoyment of their land rights, including access to and control over the lands and their natural resources, would imbue indigenous peoples with the economic independence they need to preserve their distinct cultures and determine their futures. Immediate resolution of this issue is critical to ensuring that indigenous peoples are able to enjoy the rights to which they are entitled, and to enhance stability at the national level. It is suggested that one possible means is through the strategic reconceptualisation of self-determination. More specifically, the implementation of alternative manifestations of this right, particularly the effective realisation of the emerging right to autonomy, recognised in the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, would enable indigenous peoples to have effective, de facto control over all aspects of their political, social, cultural and economic survival.

Keywords: Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples; indigenous rights; international human rights law; right to autonomy; right to natural resources

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Independent Human Rights Consultant, Torino, Italy

Publication date: 2012-01-01

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