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UN Working Group on the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
22 November 2000
Mäori Legal Service, Press Release
Lawyers from the Mäori Legal Service attending the United Nations working group have attacked New Zealand's position on the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Tracey Whare and Taki Anaru are currently attending the working group to discuss the Declaration this week in Geneva.
The governments negotiating position was that any Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples must be consistent with New Zealand laws and policies.
The Mäori Legal Service response to this position was that such "an approach to human rights standard setting is inconsistent with international practice and would reduce the Declaration to cosmetic window dressing."
They further stated that "many governments were not prepared to abide by standards that they have ratified and adopted in other international instruments." They said that such double standards were "discriminatory and racist".
Earlier in the day New Zealand was forced to make an embarrassing apology to Canada after a letter from the Secretary of Foreign Affairs and Trade to the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade was leaked to the Mäori delegates whot hen dissiminated it to other Indigenous Peoples. In the letter New Zealand said that Canada was prepared to negotiate the text of the Declaration without the participation of Indigenous Peoples. Canada immediately stated that the New Zealand letter was "a total mischaracterisation" of its position. Later in the day Roger Farrell, the New Zealand permanent representative to the United Nations stated "we regret any misunderstanding that our report has caused in the light of Canada's firm commitment to achieving a Declaration...".
Indigenous delegations have made good use of the New Zealand letter and included it in their interventions (statements) to the United Nations working group.