UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

New Zealand  aspires to be the first country in the world to develop and implement a declaration plan to measure our progress in addressing indigenous rights and interests.

Māori Development Minister Nanaia Mahuta meets with indigenous Mapuche people of Chile at a pou gifting and naming ceremony in Chile, March 2019. Photo Credit: Catalina Le-Bert.

What is the Declaration?

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.

Latest News

New Zealand reports to UN Special Rapporteur on COVID-19 indigenous response

A report on the impact of COVID-19 on the rights of indigenous peoples was submitted by Te Puni Kōkiri to the United Nations Special Rapporteur on 22 December 2020 to share the experience for Māori.

Special Rapporteurs 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.

Agencies were given the opportunity to provide information on their activities, engagement and responses for Māori during the pandemic, which contributed towards the drafting of this report.

A key theme within the report was the critical role that Māori took in response to COVID-19, highlighting specific examples where Māori communities drove their own initiatives to help front-foot the response. The report also touches on the Governments response, how Māori were impacted by the pandemic and the ongoing recovery.

Overall, the report sheds a positive light on the collective partnership between Māori communities, Māori organisations and the New Zealand Government. In doing so, we hope this improved partnership can carry on to positively impact whānau, hapū and iwi in the future.

You can read the full report here.


United Nations discuss impact of COVID-19 on indigenous people

Te Puni Kōkiri delivered a statement on the Government’s COVID-19 response for Māori at the annual United Nations Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (EMRIP) event online.

We are lead agency for the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The theme for EMRIP’s 13th annual session was “The impact of COVID-19 on the rights of indigenous peoples under the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples."

EMRIP is one of three United Nations expert bodies that focus specifically on the rights of indigenous peoples. It has seven independent experts appointed by the UN Human Rights Council to provide advice and expertise on indigenous peoples’ rights.

You can learn more about the Pacific and Asia regional meeting Te Puni Kōkiri participated in on 1 December 2020 here.

Declaration Working Group releases He Puapua

The Minister for Māori Development appointed a technical advisory group, the DWG (Declaration Working Group), 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 was highly insightful and provided a positive starting point to guide our thinking and will be used as part of the work programme to develop a Declaration plan.

In April 2020, the Minister thanked the DWG for producing their report, acknowledge that the focus of the Government and its agencies was on the COVID-19 response and recovery and reiterated the Government’s commitment to this work programme. The DWG Chair provided a further copy of He Puapua to officials in October 2020, which included minor edit and format changes.

That same month Minister Mahuta agreed to partially release ‘He Puapua’.

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.

Strong Māori representation in new Cabinet line up

New Zealand has a historically high number of Māori ministers sitting around the Cabinet table following the 200 general election won by the Labour party.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced Ministerial positions and responsibilities awarded to Labour MP’s, with 5 Māori Ministers inside of cabinet, and two outside of cabinet. 

The appointment of New Zealand’s first female indigenous Foreign Affairs Minister – Hon Nanaia Mahuta, gained international attention. She will represent one of the most diverse parliaments in the world.

Māori Ministers secured 25% of all Cabinet seats at the decision-making table and 22 key portfolios which they collectively sit across in the new Cabinet line-up. This ensures a strong Māori voice at the decision-making table, to protect the health of whānau, and help drive New Zealand’s economic recovery. The representation of Māori Ministers acknowledges Māori leadership and the additional value it brings to the country.

Wider contribution to UNDRIP 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:

Te Puni Kōkiri work programmes that align with Declaration

Working on a Declaration plan has key connections with the following Te Puni Kōkiri priorities or work programmes:

  1. Māori economic resilience work programme: the Declaration will provide a lens to ensure that the response to COVID-19 and recovery efforts engage with Māori communities to bolster their resilience and capacity to respond in ways that better reflect Māori values, interests and decision-making.
  2. Te Pae Tawhiti - Wai 262: designing and implementing initiatives in partnership with Māori is a key element of Wai 262 and aligns with the Declaration work.
  3. Te Whare o te Reo Mauriora and Māori Media Sector Shift: one of the objectives of the programme is to increase access to Māori-related content. This aligns with the Declaration which requires State-owned media to reflect indigenous cultural diversity.

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.

New Zealand is often seen as a leader in indigenous rights, and a Declaration plan will show how the rubber is hitting the road by bringing greater transparency to the story that we tell internationally about our progress.

A Declaration plan will demonstrate and guide the government’s ongoing progress towards the Declaration’s aspirations.

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.

Resources and publications


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



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.

Cabinet Paper

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

Updates on the Declaration plan

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

Like our Facebook page for updates. 

Media Releases

NZ Government makes progress on UN Rights Declaration.


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