Soft Law and Indigenous Peoples’ Rights

We must acknowledge from the outset that soft law, in particular the UNDRIP, has had an enormous impact in the remarkable development of indigenous peoples’ rights over the last two decades. A priority of the global indigenous movement had always been the elaboration of a declaration^0 given the relatively negative experience of the two existing ILO conventions on indigenous peoples. The adoption of ILO Convention 169 in 1989, replacing ILO Convention No. 107 (1957),51 was a relevant step forward for the recognition of indigenous rightsTh but states have been very reluctant to ratify it.[1] [2] The choice of a soft law document such as the UNDRIP therefore ‘guaranteed the adoption of an instrument of universal scope that all indigenous peoples may use to foster their rights’,54 circumventing the obstacle posed by the poor number of ILO conventions ratifications.

  • [1] As of Dec. 2015, twenty-two states have ratified ILO Convention No. 169 (Argentina,Plurinational State of Bolivia, Brazil, Central African Republic, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica,Denmark, Dominica, Ecuador, Fiji, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nepal, Netherlands, Nicaragua,Norway, Paraguay, Peru, Spain, and Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela), .
  • [2] M. Barelli, ‘The Role of Soft Law in the International Legal System: The Case of the UnitedNations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples’, International and Comparative LawQuarterly vol. 58 (2009): 965.
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