Definition and Rights of Indigenous Peoples: The Case of Ethiopia

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Addis Ababa University


In the last three decades, indigenous peoples worldwide have been successful in bringing about legal changes in favor of their human rights and specific situation. However, there are still controversies regarding the definition of the subjects to whom these legal changes have been brought in favor of. Despite the non-recognition of indigenous peoples as defined under international law, in Ethiopian legislation, significant opportunities do exist for the protection of these peoples within existing legal frameworks in the country. Although, in order to ensure that the rights of indigenous peoples are properly enforced, having a clear idea of which groups are indigenous is increasingly important. A definition or guidelines for definition gives all parties a common understanding of the objects of the instrument and the application becomes safer and more predictable. This paper will reflect the need of flexibility and base the analysis of definition of indigenous peoples on the criteria used in the definitions as well as give impasses on specific rights given to indigenous peoples in Ethiopia. By developing a theoretical framework based on the criteria for definition, the similarities in the definitions and guidelines for definitions can be illustrated – without overlooking the separate context in which they operate. This will hopefully contribute to developing “indigenous peoples” as a concept in international human rights law, and disclose some of the misunderstandings and political objectives in discussions on definition in the different instruments. A case study used on the indigenous people in Ethiopia, which was useful to illustrate the findings in each chapter.



changes in favor of their human rights