Law Professor elected as Chair of United Nations Indigenous rights body

Professor Megan Davis, UNSW Balnaves Chair in Constitutional Law and Pro Vice-Chancellor Indigenous, is the new Chair of the United Nations Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous People.

During the 14th annual session of the United Nations (UN) Expert Mechanism, Professor Megan Davis – a Cobble Cobble woman from the Barrungam Nation – received the vote of her international colleagues to become the new Chair.

The appointment comes in Prof. Davis’ second term as an expert member of the UN body.

“It’s an incredible honour to be elected Chair by my esteemed colleagues. The work of the Expert Mechanism is important for the rights of Indigenous peoples across the world,” Prof. Davis said.

“Our work involves providing expert advice to the UN Human Rights Council and to assist member states and Indigenous peoples to achieve the goals of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has put pressure on, and in many cases directly impeded, the rights of Indigenous peoples globally.

“It is more important than ever that member states, international bodies, and the private sector protect the rights of Indigenous peoples.”

The UN Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous people, established by the Human Rights Council in 2007, has expert members from across the globe. The Human Rights Council is the UN’s main human rights body.

The Expert Mechanism includes seven independent experts. The Human Rights Council appoints and selects the expert members based on “competence and experience in the rights of Indigenous Peoples”.

“Since the moment I first began work at the UN, as a junior lawyer, I have seen the importance of international cooperation and coalitions to defend the rights of Indigenous people,” Prof. Davis said.

“The adoption of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples by the UN General Assembly was an important step. But its goals need to be realised and honoured by member states.

“We tackle complex issues and on the ground situations for both the Human Rights Council and member states, which are only further heightened under the pressure of a pandemic that has an especially acute impact on Indigenous peoples.”

As Chair, Prof. Davis will continue to lead the Expert Mechanism’s work including conducting studies to advance the promotion and protection of Indigenous peoples’ rights.

Prof. Davis was first elected as an expert member in 2017, before being re-elected for a second term in 2019. Prior to this appointment, Prof. Davis was Chair and Expert Member of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (2011 to 2016).

The 14th session of the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples is underway and runs to 16 July 2021.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the session is virtual.

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