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United Nations and Human Rights

ICC’s vision from our founding years in the 1970s was always to work within the United Nations to advance the human rights of Inuit as well as many other issues. In 1983 ICC was granted “Consultative Status” at the UN under the Economic and Social Council – known as ECOSOC.

In 2000 the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII) was created and the Arctic was recognized as a region providing Inuit and Saami with a seat on the forum. The Permanent Forum is the key UN body dealing with indigenous rights. The Permanent Forum is significant for Inuit and other indigenous peoples globally in that it is the only high-level UN body in which non-State-appointed individuals are members.

In addition, within the United Nations system, the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (EMRIP) replaces the former Working Group on Indigenous Populations. It is part of the UN Human Rights Council, the main human rights body of the UN. The Expert Mechanism provides expertise on the rights of Indigenous Peoples to the Human Rights Council. Annual EMRIP sessions are held in Geneva, usually in July.

It is by working within the United Nations that Inuit have contributed to the lengthy drafting and negotiating process leading towards the adoption of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) in 2007. This historic document is a vital tool for Inuit in the ongoing struggle to protect our human rights, cultural traditions, economic advancement, and political development.

A significant initiative with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has been the adoption of a set of goals – known as the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). They aim to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all as part of a new sustainable development agenda. There is greater inclusion of Indigenous Peoples concerns and fundamental issues in this initiative as opposed to the previous Millennial Development Goals.

The declarations passed by ICC delegates at our General Assemblies every four years provide a guide to how Inuit work within various UN bodies as we work to achieve our goals for our people.