Virtual Conference Commemorates Anniversary of the UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, IPLP Program

Nov. 22, 2021

University of Arizona Law Celebrates 20 Years of Indigenous Advocacy

20 Years of Advocacy Event Graphic

More than 100 virtual attendees tuned into 20 Years of Indigenous Advocacy: A Celebration of the 20th Anniversary of the UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, a two-day event hosted by the University of Arizona College of Law’s Indigenous Peoples Law and Policy (IPLP) program in October. The conference commemorated the anniversary of the creation of the mandate that established the UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNSRRIP) and the IPLP program.   

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Both the sitting UNSRRIP, Lecturer in Law and Associate Director for the IPLP Human Rights Clinical Programs, José Francisco Calí Tzay, and the former UNSRRIP and IPLP faculty co-chair S. James Anaya spoke at the event, emphasizing the unique relationship the IPLP program has developed with each mandate holder. “It’s hard to believe it’s been 20 years since the formation of the mandate,” noted Anaya. “It was a real groundbreaking initiative by Indigenous peoples.”  

The conference was a historic gathering of Indigenous human rights advocates and activists who were instrumental in establishing the mandate, the drafting and approval of the UN Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and those on the front lines advancing the mandate and Indigenous peoples’ human rights globally. A series of panels brought experts together to discuss the historical significance behind the mandate’s creation as well as assess the challenges of implementation and what the future might hold for the mandate.  

“It was truly an honor to host such a remarkable group of Indigenous human rights advocates and scholars for our 20 Years of Indigenous Advocacy conference. To hear from the movement leaders who were directly involved in the creation of the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples mandate and who are still on the front lines of Indigenous human rights advocacy was a unique and exhilarating experience,” said Robert A. Williams, Regents Professor, E. Thomas Sullivan Professor of Law and IPLP Program Faculty Co-Chair, who helped organize the conference and moderate the panels. “We left the conference with a bold agenda on how to further advance Indigenous human rights advocacy into the 21st century.”   

Panelists included:

  • Victor Hugo Godoy Morales, former Permanent Representative of Guatemala to the Organization of American States
  • Mario Ibarra, Indigenous rights advocate, Mapuche Chile
  • Grand Chief Wilton Littlechild, Grand Chief of the Confederacy of Treaty Six First Nations and former member of Canadian Parliament
  • Christine Evans, Human Rights Officer, Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR)
  • Andrea Carmen, Executive Director, International Indian Treaty Council
  • Paul Kanyinke Sena, Director of Indigenous Peoples of Africa Coordinating Committee
  • Luis Rodriguez-Pinero Royo, Human Rights Officer, Business and Human Rights, OHCHR
  • Valmaine Toki, Professor of Law, University of Waikato, Te Piringa Faculty of Law, prior Expert Member on the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues
  • Nick Tilsen, President and CEO, NDN Collective
  • Dr. Elifuraha Laltaika, Law Lecturer and Director of Research and Consultancy Tumaini University Makumira and Fellow in Residence, University of Stellenbosch, former United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII) member
  • Dr. Myrna Kay Cunningham, President of the Board, Fondo para el Desarrollo de los Pueblos Indígenas de América Latina y El Caribe (FILAC), former UNPFII chair
  • Armstrong Wiggins, Director, Indian Law Resource Center, Washington DC Office 

In association with the event, the Daniel F. Cracchiolo Law Library created, “20 Years of Indigenous Advocacy: Indigenous Law Since Time Immemorial” an interactive exhibit to commemorate the 20-year anniversary of the UN mandate and IPLP program. Available physically and digitally, this exhibit was curated by Law Library Archivist Jaime Valenzuela and law library Fellows, Jen Bedier and Francesco Fasano. The online exhibit can still be accessed via the Law Library Special Collections page.