10 August 2001


NEW YORK, 9 August (UN Headquarters) -- The following is the text of today’s statement by the High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson to mark the International Day of the World’s Indigenous People:

The appointment of a Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous people is the most recent development in a landmark year in United Nations actions to promote and protect the human rights of indigenous peoples around the world. In July, at the Geneva observance of the International Day of the World’s Indigenous People, High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson called attention to the appointment of Rodolfo Stavenhagen of Mexico to the new position, for an initial three-year period. "This year will, I think, be remembered as a watershed in indigenous affairs at the United Nations," she stated.

The mandate of the Special Rapporteur is threefold:

-- To gather, request, receive and exchange information from all relevant sources, including governments and indigenous people, and their communities and organizations, on violations of their human rights and fundamental freedoms;

-- To formulate recommendations and proposals on measures and activities to prevent and remedy violations of the human rights of indigenous people; and

-- To work closely with other special rapporteurs, special representatives, working groups and other independent experts reporting to the human rights bodies.

In addition, he is asked to take a gender perspective into account and to pay special attention to discrimination against indigenous women; to pay special attention to the violations of the rights of indigenous children; and to give consideration to both the recommendations of the Working Group on Indigenous Populations and to the upcoming World Conference against Racism in Durban, South Africa.

Mr. Stavenhagen has extensive qualifications for the position. The author of many books on sociology, ethnic conflicts, development and human rights in general and indigenous rights in particular, he is currently a research professor at El Colegio de México. He was founding president of the Mexican Academy for Human Rights and a member for 10 years of the Council of the National Commission on Human Rights. Currently, he is a member of the Commission on the Monitoring and Follow-up of the San Andrés Peace Accords between the federal Government and the Zapatista National Liberation Army. He has been visiting professor at Harvard and Stanford Universities, and elsewhere. On occasion, he writes for Mexican newspapers on social, cultural and political affairs.

The International Day for the World’s Indigenous People is being observed at United Nations Headquarters in New York on 9-10 August, with ceremonial events, performances, and two days of consultations on the newly established Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues.

For more information, please contact Ellen McGuffie at the Department of Public Information, telephone: (212) 963-0499, fax: (212) 963-1186, e-mail:

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Durban, South Africa
31 August - 7 September 2001