April 2024

Palestine, Indigenous Peoples, and the Right to Self-Determination

On Thursday 18 April, QUNO New York staff, alongside colleagues from the NGO Working Group on Israel-Palestine, joined Indigenous Peoples outside the United Nations (UN) Headquarters to uplift the right to self-determination. Led by Indigenous partners from the Amazon, participants linked arms and performed a traditional dance to protest the ongoing denial of rights for both Palestinians and Indigenous Peoples across the world. This action was an important display of solidarity with Palestinians and Indigenous Peoples, both of whom seek to realise the full enjoyment of their inalienable human rights and fundamental freedoms, including the right to self-determination.

This solidarity action took place against the backdrop of the 23rd session of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII)–– an annual gathering of Indigenous Peoples from around the world. This year’s theme focused on the enhancement of Indigenous Peoples’ right to self-determination.

Simultaneously, the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) was debating a draft resolution concerning the State of Palestine’s application to become the 194th Member State of the United Nations. Addressing the Council before the vote, Palestine's Deputy Prime Minister Dr Ziad Abu Amr expressed Palestinians’ long-standing aspiration “to practice our right to self-determination, to live in freedom, security and peace in an independent state.” While the draft resolution was supported by twelve Council members, it was ultimately vetoed by the United States, while the United Kingdom and Switzerland abstained.

Speaking after the vote, Carolyn Rodrigues-Birkett, Permanent Representative of Guyana to the United Nations, noted that while “the Council has largely been sympathetic to the Palestinian cause, this sympathy has not generated enough political will to achieve a comprehensive, just and lasting solution to the Palestinian question” which would allow “the Palestinian people to exercise their right to self-determination”.  

Similarly, while Indigenous Peoples' right to self-determination was affirmed in the 2007 United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), they continue to experience routine human rights violations, high levels of marginalisation and discrimination, curtailed cultural and spiritual freedoms, eviction from ancestral lands, as well as restricted access to education, healthcare, and housing.

While the human rights of Palestinians and Indigenous Peoples have been continually affirmed through countless Declarations and UN Resolutions, the reality on the ground presents a sobering picture of promises unfulfilled. If the UN is to uphold its founding principles of peace, equality and human rights for all, Member States must take concrete steps to ensure implementation, so that both Indigenous Peoples and the Palestinian people can exercise their inalienable human rights, including the right to self-determination. QUNO New York will continue to act in solidarity with all those working towards the realisation of their fundamental rights and freedoms. 

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