The Search for Legal Remedies
Edited by Randall S. Abate and Elizabeth Ann Kronk
Chapter 3: Introduction to indigenous peoples’ status and rights under international human rights law
The international system has undergone significant changes during the past 50 years with respect to the status and rights of indigenous peoples. Indigenous peoples have emerged as subjects of international law capable of contributing to international lawmaking processes aimed at defining indigenous identity and the formulation of rights. This momentous participation of indigenous peoples in international lawmaking has served as a catalyst for the evolution of a distinctive jurisprudence regarding indigenous peoples. This jurisprudence, which elaborates on indigenous peoples’ rights to self-determination, cultural integrity and control over ancestral lands and resources, provides a platform for indigenous peoples to challenge the affronts of state development. One of the significant consequences of state development to indigenous peoples is environmental degradation, and, in particular, the environmental degradation resulting from climate change. While indigenous peoples have arguably been successful in promoting the recognition of their increased status and rights under international law, they nevertheless remain vulnerable to the potentially devastating consequences of climate change. At their most catastrophic level, such consequences include the complete destruction of an indigenous community’s identity and distinct way of life.
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