in: Oxford Research Encyclopedia of International Studies
Indigenous rights have been gaining traction in international law since World War II, as the indigenous peoples, previously classified under the scope of domestic law, have propelled their cause into the global arena. Indigenous societies are vastly heterogeneous, but they possess some common features, such as lack of statehood, economic and political marginalization, and cultural and racial discrimination. Scholars generally agree that one of the most important goals of the international indigenous movement is to advance indigenous rights under international law. Hence, there have since been several international institutions that seek to address indigenous rights. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) in 1948 is the first international document that recognizes the need to protect indigenous groups, though there are also actors and organizations specializing in the field, such as the Working Group on Indigenous Populations (WGIP). However, the majority of the indigenous rights scholarship only examines the policy on indigenous rights, rather than the broader contexts of indigenous rights or the rise of indigenous rights as a phenomenon. Therefore, if the ultimate political goal of the indigenous rights scholarship is to better the conditions of indigenous peoples, the study of the efficacy of international legal prescription of indigenous rights is imperative. Otherwise, the considerable efforts put forth by both the academic community and the international indigenous movement could only remain symbolic.