UNITED NATIONS – New Zealand on Monday announced its support for a U.N. declaration protecting the rights of more than 370 million native peoples worldwide, and the United States is set to announce that it will review its opposition to the declaration.

The declaration affirms the equality of indigenous peoples and their right to maintain their own institutions, cultures and spiritual traditions. It also establishes standards to combat discrimination and marginalization and eliminate human rights violations against them.

When the General Assembly adopted the declaration in September 2007, there were four opponents — the U.S., Canada, Australia and New Zealand — who argued that it was incompatible with their existing laws.

Australia announced its support for the declaration in April 2009, and New Zealand’s Minister of Maori Affairs Pita Sharples announced his government’s approval at Monday’s opening session of the U.N. Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues.

U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice is scheduled to address the forum on Tuesday and will announce that “we will be conducting a formal review of the declaration and the U.S. position on it,” according to an excerpt from her prepared text.

The declaration calls on states to prevent or redress the forced migration of indigenous peoples, the seizure of their land or their forced integration into other cultures. It also grants indigenous groups control over their religious and cultural sites and the right to manage their own education systems, including teaching in their own languages.


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