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From High Hopes to Disillusionment: Indigenous Peoples' Struggle to (re)Gain Their Right to Self-determination

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This article will examine three international processes wherein the right to self-determination of indigenous peoples has been taken up: the process whereby the United Nations (UN) General Assembly adopted the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UN Declaration), the intention to negotiate a Nordic Saami Convention (Draft Convention) and the practice of the Human Rights Committee (HRC) in monitoring the observance of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (Covenant). All of these processes have enunciated indigenous peoples' right to self-determination, but any claim to such a right has met with resistance from the states, with the reasons for such resistance examined here. The aim is to study why it is so difficult to insert indigenous peoples into international law as category and, in particular, to have states accept their right to self-determination. In the conclusions, it is useful to ask whether the problems experienced in promoting the right to self-determination of indigenous peoples are mere setbacks or whether they contain elements that might inform the international movement of indigenous peoples more generally.

Affiliations: 1: LL.D., research professor, director, Northern Institute for Environmental and Minority Law, Arctic Centre, University of Lapland

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