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.

Last updated: Rāpare, 20 Whiringa ā-nuku, 2022 | Thursday, 20 October 2022

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.

Cabinet Papers

In April 2022 Cabinet received the Māori targeted engagement feedback and agreed the process for drafting a Declaration plan

Cabinet paper - Update on the development of the Declaration Plan


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.

Receive updates on the Declaration plan

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