21 Apr 2010

US to review stance on UN indigenous declaration

3:02 pm on 21 April 2010

The United States is reviewing its opposition to the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Washington's UN ambassador Susan Rice has announced.

The move came a day after New Zealand signed up to the declaration that was passed by a large majority in the General Assembly in September 2007.

The United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand were the only countries to vote against the declaration when it was adopted. Following a change of government, Australia said last year it had decided to back the text.

The declaration says indigenous peoples "have the right to the lands, territories and resources which they have traditionally owned, occupied, or otherwise used and acquired." Opponents said the phraseology went too far and threatened legal chaos over property rights.

US officials said at the time - when the Bush administration was in office - that the text was unclear and that those who drafted it had failed to seek consensus.

Howeover, addressing a UN forum on indigenous peoples on Tuesday, Ms Rice said the United States had decided to review its position.

She noted that Native American leaders had encouraged President Barack Obama to re-examine the US stance.