UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

New Zealand is committed to improving outcomes for Māori in areas such as health and housing as part of our Declaration obligations. Developing a Declaration plan will measure our progress in addressing indigenous rights and interests.

Minister for Māori Development Willie Jackson announces the next steps in developing a national plan to implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (the Declaration) 1 July 2021

What is the Declaration?

The UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (the Declaration) is a comprehensive international human rights document on the rights of indigenous peoples. It covers a broad range of rights and freedoms, including the right to self-determination, culture and identity, and rights to education, economic development, religious customs, health and language.

Te Puni Kōkiri leads the development of a Declaration Plan, to guide the Government’s progress towards the Declaration’s aspirations and is working closely with the National Iwi Chairs Forum and the Human Rights Commission on the current targeted engagement process.

Latest News

Next steps in action plan for indigenous rights kicks off

Released 14 October 2021
Minister for Māori Development Willie Jackson has today meet with more than 30 national Māori organisations in an online hui, kicking off the process to develop a plan for New Zealand to implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (the Declaration). Read the full story.

Next steps for Declaration plan on indigenous rights

Released 1 July 2021
Minister for Māori Development Willie Jackson has announced the next steps in developing a national plan to implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (the Declaration). Read the full story.

COVID-19 impact on Māori and Te Puni Kōkiri response

Te Puni Kōkiri continues to support hapū, iwi, and Māori organisations, along with work across government to enable a community-led response and recovery from COVID-19.

We built on the partnerships forged during the initial pandemic response to roll out Budget 2020 funding to communities for the rebuild and recovery. 

You can read about the Māori led response and recovery and the COVID-19 Information for Māori.

Next steps for developing Declaration plan on indigenous rights agreed  

Cabinet has approved a two-step process for the development of a plan to implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (the Declaration).

Targeted engagement on how to develop a plan will initially be with key iwi and significant Māori organisations, followed by a wider public consultation on a draft Declaration plan.

The report He Puapua, developed by an independent working group, will be considered amongst a range of other resources as part of this process.

He Puapua represents the working group’s views, not government policy but it is a starting point in a wider conversation with New Zealanders about creating a plan. This discussion is important, and we expect to get many other views as this work progresses.

The Minister for Māori Development will report back to Cabinet at critical points in this process and we expect to present a draft Declaration plan for wider public consultation next year.

Proposed timeframes for developing a Declaration plan:

Proposed timeframes for developing a Declaration plan:

Steps Timeframe
Cabinet approval to undertake targeted engagement June 2021
Design, approve and implement targeted engagement July - February 2022
Report back on feedback from targeted engagement and seek approval of proposed process for drafting Declaration plan March 2022
Drafting Declaration plan April - May 2022
Seek Cabinet approval of draft Declaration plan and proposal for wider public consultation June 2022
Public consultation June - October 2022
Report back to Cabinet for approval of a Declaration Plan December 2022
Release Declaration Plan February 2023

The recent COVID-19 resurgence and uncertainty created by changing alert levels have slightly impacted the approach to engagement and the timeframes initially planned.

Cabinet Papers

In June 2021 Cabinet approved the next steps for developing a Declaration plan.

Cabinet Paper – Next steps for Declaration plan.

In March 2019, Cabinet approved a process to develop a Declaration plan

Cabinet Paper - Developing a Plan on New Zealand’s Progress on the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

Background Information

Why is having a Declaration plan important to New Zealand?

In various international forums, New Zealand is able to highlight areas where we are doing relatively well. However, we also know that there are areas where we have more work to do for Māori if we are to achieve the aspirations that the Declaration envisions.

Although many Government actions on Māori development and wellbeing are consistent with the aspirations of the Declaration, we do not currently have a way to monitor our progress with the Declaration in our business-as-usual work. 

A Declaration plan will provide a clearer narrative about New Zealand’s commitment to the Declaration. It will also be an opportunity to establish greater coherence across Government in delivering beneficial outcomes for Māori and strive for a more equitable and prosperous future for everyone.

A Declaration plan is also an opportunity to work in partnership with Māori and report on how the Government is fulfilling its obligations under Te Tiriti o Waitangi and its corresponding aspirations in the Declaration.

What is meant by a Declaration plan?

We refer to a “plan” for the Declaration because the product of this work will reflect the path we are setting for Māori wellbeing in line with the aspirations of the Declaration.

After New Zealand moved to support the Declaration in 2010, it also committed to undertaking concrete measures to implement the Declaration, cooperating with indigenous peoples through their own representative institutions to develop and implement national action plans, strategies, or other measures, where relevant, to achieve the Declaration’s aspirations.

While there has been some progress in New Zealand on the aspirations of the Declaration since 2010, no decisions were made on how to develop a plan or strategy.

In March 2019, the Minister for Māori Development sought Cabinet agreement to develop a plan that includes time-bound, measurable actions that show how we are making a concerted effort towards achieving the Declaration’s aspirations.

This includes actions that:

  • come from the intersect between government priorities, Māori aspirations and international indigenous rights discourse
  • contribute to enhancing the self-determination of Māori as the indigenous peoples of Aotearoa / New Zealand
  • contribute to improving intergenerational Māori wellbeing
  • demonstrate ambitious actions as opposed to business as usual

The Declaration plan will also need to consider the impact of COVID-19.

When was the Declaration adopted?

The Declaration was adopted on 13 September 2007 as a non-binding, aspirational declaration of the General Assembly of the United Nations.

It records the standards and aspirations of governments and indigenous peoples in achieving harmonious and cooperative relations, pursued in a spirit of partnership and mutual respect.

Its 46 articles cover all areas of human rights and interests as they apply to indigenous peoples.

Key themes include:

  • equality and non-discrimination
  • education, information and labour rights
  • rights around lands, territories and resources
  • rights to cultural, religious, spiritual and linguistic identity, and self-determination.

The Treaty and the Declaration

The New Zealand government announced its support for the Declaration in April 2010 at the United Nations.

In keeping with our commitment to human rights, and indigenous rights in particular, New Zealand’s support for the Declaration must be understood with reference to our existing legal and constitutional circumstances, of which Te Tiriti o Waitangi is an important part.

You can read New Zealand's Statement of support here.

Declaration Working Group releases He Puapua

In 2019, the Minister for Māori Development appointed a technical advisory group, the Declaration Working Group (DWG), to support the provision of advice on the form and content of a Declaration plan and an engagement process with whānau, hapū and iwi.

The DWG was comprised of non-government members (Dr Claire Charters (Chair), Waimirirangi Ormsby, Naomi Solomon, Gary Williams MNZM and Dr Jacinta Ruru) and government officials (Emily Owen, Judith Pryor, Kayla Kingdon-Bebb and Tāmati Olsen).

The DWG provided the Minister with their final report, He Puapua, on 1 November 2019. The DWG’s report drew on the contemporary thinking from academic sources, the Waitangi Tribunal, research reports from non-Government bodies, the views of independent panels, international precedents and constitutional conversations on the future landscape for the Declaration in New Zealand. The DWG’s report does not represent Government policy, but it provides a backdrop to prompt further conversation about the Declaration

The full version of He Puapua is available here - He Puapua.

New Zealand participation in international forums

As the lead agency for the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Te Puni Kōkiri plays an active role in coordinating New Zealand’s participation in international forums. Our key international engagements are with:

  • Special Rapporteurs: these are independent experts mandated by the United Nations (UN) to inquire into specific issues and/or countries within the scope of special procedure mechanisms determined by the UN Human Rights Council.
  • the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples: EMRIP is a United Nations expert body that provides the Human Rights Council with expertise and advice on the rights of indigenous peoples. Annual sessions are traditionally held in Geneva in
  • the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues: the Permanent Forum is an advisory body to the UN Economic and Social Council. Annual sessions of the Permanent Forum are traditionally held in New York in April and provide an opportunity for the members of the Permanent Forum, indigenous peoples, States and non-government organisations to discuss high profile and emerging issues affecting indigenous peoples. The PFII is mandated to discuss indigenous issues related to economic and social development, culture, the environment, education, health and human rights.

Te Puni Kōkiri submissions on indigenous issues

In March 2021, New Zealand provided a submission on self-determination to EMRIP. The submission identified recent examples of progress made and challenges faced in increasing the self‑determination of Māori in Aotearoa.  An overarching message is that Māori are working on what the next steps for the realisation of higher levels of self-determination could look like, and the New Zealand Government is looking to strengthen partnering approaches in supporting this.

You can read the full submission here [PDF 396KB].

The 20th session of Permanent Forum was held in April 2021. New Zealand delivered statements on the issues of peace and justice, climate change, Covid-19 response and recovery, and the decade of indigenous languages. The Minister for Māori Development attended a dialogue with the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (EMRIP) and the Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Resources and publications

The rights of Indigenous peoples: What you need to know

The Human Rights Commission produced, The Rights of Indigenous Peoples: What you need to know’, a guide that cover indigenous rights and the Declaration.

Te Reo Māori version here
English version here

Read the Declaration

Read additional information

British Columbia draft Declaration plan of action

Between June and September 2021, the Canadian province of British Columbia (B.C.) undertook a consultation process and invited indigenous peoples in B.C. to share their feedback on the provincial government’s draft action plan to meet the objectives of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

The draft action plan is now available [PDF 412KB]. Feedback will be used to finalise the action plan which is expected to be released in 2022.

Treaty of Waitangi poster

The Human Rights Commission produced a Treaty of Waitangi poster, which features the text of the Treaty of Waitangi and Te Tiriti o Waitangi with a human rights summary included.

Wider contribution to declaration aspirations

While Te Puni Kōkiri is the lead agency, across New Zealand there are also numerous examples of iwi, hapū, whānau Māori, NGO’s, government agencies and other groups carrying out work that contributes towards recognising and implementing the values of the Declaration in New Zealand. This includes honouring Te Tiriti o Waitangi.

The following documents demonstrate progress towards achieving the Declaration’s aspirations:

Receive updates on the Declaration plan

If you would like to receive updates about the Declaration plan process email: UNDRIP@tpk.govt.nz.



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