The New Zealand Government remains committed to ensuring the fulfillment of the rights of indigenous people. That commitment was reflected in New Zealand’s statement of support for the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which was made by the Minister of Maori Affairs, Hon Pita Sharples, at the opening of this year’s Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues.
In keeping with New Zealand’s strong commitment to human rights, and indigenous rights in particular, the New Zealand Government welcomed the opportunity to express its support for the Declaration both as an affirmation of fundamental rights and, in its expression of new principles, as an important statement of widely supported aspirations. New Zealand’s statement of support reaffirmed the legal and constitutional frameworks that underpin New Zealand’s legal system, noting that those existing frameworks define the bounds of New Zealand’s engagement with the aspirational elements of the Declaration. New Zealand was also pleased with the appointment this year of New Zealander Ms Valmaine Toki to the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues.
At the centre of the relationship between the Government and Maori is the Treaty of Waitangi. The New Zealand Government is committed to resolving outstanding historical grievances under the Treaty of Waitangi and has set the goal of completing this work by 2014. The treaty settlements process has been supported by increased resources and funding.
Another significant event this year was the visit of Professor James Anaya, Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous People, to New Zealand. We appreciated Professor Anaya’s willingness to meet with Ministers, Maori tribes and non-governmental organizations and his ability to engage on a wide range of issues. The visit was an opportunity for us to take stock of where progress has been made in improving the relationship between the Government and Maori and to recognize where more needs to be done. We look forward to receiving Professor Anaya’s final report.
This year informative and valuable discussions took place on the issue of prior informed consent at the meeting of the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous People. On this matter, New Zealand has developed, and will continue to rely upon, its own distinct processes and institutions that afford opportunities to Māori for such involvement. These range from broad guarantees of participation and consultation to particular instances in which a requirement of consent is appropriate.
In both the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous People and the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, we look forward to sharing best practices and lessons learnt with States, indigenous groups and non-governmental organizations. These fora provide an important opportunity for States and indigenous people to come together to consolidate past work and determine the way forward. In this regard, we were particularly pleased that this year’s resolution on ‘Human rights and indigenous peoples’, which was led by Mexico and Guatemala, decided to hold an annual interactive dialogue with the members of EMRIP at the Human Rights Council. Also, we welcomed the decision in that same resolution to hold a panel on the role of languages and cultures in the promotion and protection of the well-being and identity of indigenous peoples.