Article VII.        Right to Cultural integrity  

        1.     Indigenous peoples have the right to their cultural integrity, and their historical and archeological heritage, which are important both for their survival as well as for the identity of their members.  

        2.     Indigenous peoples are entitled to restitution in respect of the property of which they have been dispossessed, and where that is not possible, compensation on a basis not less favorable than the standard of international law.  

        3.     The states shall recognize and respect indigenous ways of life, customs, traditions, forms of social, economic and political organization, institutions, practices, beliefs and values, use of dress, and languages.



1.          Draft United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UN 1994)  

Article 12: "Indigenous peoples have the right to practice and revitalize their cultural traditions and customs. This includes the right to maintain, protect and develop the past, present and future manifestations of their cultures, such as archaeological and historical sites, artefacts, designs, ceremonies, technologies and visual and performing arts and literature, as well as the right to the restitution of cultural, intellectual, religious and spiritual property taken without their free and informed consent or in violation of their laws, traditions and customs."  

Article 27: "Indigenous peoples have the right to the restitution of the lands, territories and resources which they have traditionally owned or otherwise occupied or used, and which have been confiscated, occupied, used or damaged without their free and informed consent. Where this is not possible, they have the right to just and fair compensation. Unless otherwise freely agreed upon by the peoples concerned, compensation shall take the form of lands, territories and resources equal in quality, size and legal status."  

2.        C 169, Convention on Indigenous and Tribal People (ILO Convention 1989)  

Article 5: "In applying the provisions of this Convention:


(a)        the social, cultural, religious and spiritual values and practices of these peoples shall be recognized and protected, and due account shall be taken of the nature of the problems which face them both as groups and as individuals;


(b)        the integrity of the values, practices and institutions of these peoples shall be respected;


(c)        policies aimed at mitigating the difficulties experienced by these peoples in facing new conditions of life and work shall be adopted, with the participation and co-operation of the peoples affected."


Article 13(1): "In applying the provisions of this Part of the Convention governments shall respect the special importance for the cultures and spiritual values of the peoples concerned of their relationship with the lands or territories, or both as applicable, which they occupy or otherwise use, and in particular the collective aspects of this relationship."


Article 14


1.         "The rights of ownership and possession of the peoples concerned over the lands which they traditionally occupy shall be recognized. In addition, measures shall be taken in appropriate cases to safeguard the right of the peoples concerned to use lands not exclusively occupied by them, but to which they have traditionally had access for their subsistence and traditional activities. Particular attention shall be paid to the situation of nomadic peoples and shifting cultivators in this respect.


2.         Governments shall take steps as necessary to identify the lands which the peoples concerned traditionally occupy, and to guarantee effective protection of their rights of ownership and possession.  

3.         Adequate procedures shall be established within the national legal system to resolve land claims by the peoples concerned."  

            3.        International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (UN 1966) 

Article 15(1): “The States Parties to the present Covenant recognize the right of everyone to (a) to take part in the cultural life.”

Article 15(2): “The steps to be taken by the States Parties to the present Covenant to achieve the full realization of this right shall include those necessary for the conservation, the development and the diffusion of science and culture.”  

4.        International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (UN 1966)  

Article 27: “In those States in which ethnic, religious or linguistic minorities exist, persons belonging to such minorities shall not be denied the right in community with the other members of their group, to enjoy their own culture, to profess and practice their own religion, or to use their own language.”  

5.        International Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination (UN 1965)  

Article 5: “States Parties undertake to prohibit and to eliminate racial discrimination in all its forms and to guarantee the right of everyone (e)(vi): to equal participation in cultural activities.”  

6.        Convention on the Rights of the Child (UN 1989)  

Article 30: “In those States in which...persons of indigenous origin exist, a child who is indigenous shall not be denied the right, in community with other members of his or her group, to enjoy his or her own culture, to profess and practice his or her own religions, or to use his or her own language."  

7.        Universal Declaration of Human Rights, December 10, 1948, U.N. G.A. Res. 217 (III 1948)  

Article 27: “Everyone has the right freely to participate in the cultural life of the community.”  

8.        Charter of Civil Society (CARICOM)  

Article X: Cultural Diversity


"The State recognizes that:


(a)        each culture has a dignity and a value which shall be respected and that every person has the right to preserve and to develop his or her culture;


(b)        every person has the right to participate in the cultural life of his or her choice."


Article XI: Rights of Indigenous Peoples  

"The State recognizes the contribution of the indigenous peoples to the development process and undertake to continue to protect their historical rights and respect the culture and way of life of these peoples."  

9.        Treaty on Central American Social Integration, signed by the governments of Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Panama, Cerro Verde, Republic of El Salvador (March 30, 1995)  

"Capítulo II. Article 6: "Principles: The States Parties to the present Treaty will act in accordance with the following principles (e) Conservation and revival of the region's cultural pluralism and ethnic diversity in the framework of respect for human rights."  

10.      Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic Religious or Linguistic Minorities (UN 1990)  

Article 1: (1)"States shall protect the existence and the national or ethnic, cultural, religious and linguistic identity of minorities within their respective territories and shall encourage conditions for the promotion of that identity. (2) States shall adopt appropriate legislative and other measures to achieve those ends.”  

11.      Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, "General Recommendation XXIII (51) Concerning Indigenous Peoples" (August  1997)  

"The Committee calls in particular upon States parties to:


a. Recognize and respect indigenous distinct culture, history, language and way of life as an enrichment of the State's cultural identity and to promote its preservation.  

e. Ensure that indigenous communities can exercise their rights to practice and revitalize their cultural traditions and customs, to preserve and to practice their languages."  

12.      African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (Banjul Charter 1981)  

Article 17(2) “Every individual may freely take part in the cultural life of his community. (3) The promotion and protection of morals and traditional values recognized by the community shall be the duty of the State.”  

13.      Alliance for Sustainable Development documents signed by the Presidents of Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Panama and a Representative of the Prime Minister of Belize, at the Central American Ecological Summit for Sustainable Development in Managua, Nicaragua, (October 12, 1994)  

Principles of the Alliance for Sustainable Development:


"The following are the seven fundamental principles that we the citizens of Central America have adopted in our pursuit of sustainable development.  They will be reflected in all the policies, programs and activities promoted by our countries, individually or collectively, and by civil society, inasmuch as they are the basis of objectives and commitments of common interest.


5. Respect for Cultural Plurality and Ethnic Diversity:  To different degrees, the countries of Central America are ethnically and culturally diverse societies that constitute a great wealth that must be preserved. Conditions must be such that, within a framework of freedom, all expressions of culture can be developed, particularly the cultures of indigenous people, who have descended from cultures that were subjugated during the conquest and colonization periods. The right to a cultural identity is a basic human right and the key to coexistence and national unity.


Annex 1: Specific Objectives of the Alliance:


Political Objectives: 7. To support different types of community organizations that preserve national identity so as to foster cultural plurality and ethnic diversity.


Cultural Objectives:  2. To reinforce the development of a national identity that values cultural and ethnic diversity.  3. To promote, protect and make sound use of the cultural and natural wealth of the region.  4. To foster means of cultural expression that promote a sound relationship with the environment.  6. To champion the restitution and return of cultural assets that have been illegally removed from the region.


Annex II: Commitments of the Alliance:


-Cultural Commitments: We pledge to make culture the noblest expression of our national and regional identity, within the framework of the Central American Integration System, reflecting the ethnic and cultural plurality of our peoples, and with a current view of the changes taking place throughout the world."


Cultural Heritage - We hereby instruct the ministers of culture, or the pertinent authorities in the countries, to submit within a period of six months, draft agreements on the following topics to the respective ministries of foreign affairs:


-Central American Agreement on the Protection of its Cultural Heritage"  

14.      Ominayak, Chief of the Lubicon Lake Band v. Canada (Communication No. 167/1984, Report of the Human Rights Committee 1990)  

“The Human Rights Committee construed the cultural rights guarantees of article 27 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights to extend to "economic and social activities" upon which the Lubicon Lake Band of Cree Indians relied as a group.  Thus the committee found that Canada had violated its obligations under article 27 when it allowed the provincial government of Alberta to grant leases for oil and gas exploration and for timber development within the aboriginal territory of the Band.  The committee acknowledged that the Band's survival as a distinct cultural community was bound up with the sustenance that it derived from the land.”  

15.      Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, Annual Report 1985. Case Nº 7615 (Brazil)  

“In viewing a series of incursions into Yanomami ancestral lands as a threat not only to the Yanomami's physical well-being but also to their culture and traditions, the commission stated that, "international law in its present state...recognizes the right of ethnic groups to special protection on their use of their own language, for the practice of their own religion, and in general, for all those characteristics necessary for the preservation of their cultural identity."  


16.      Argentina  

                    - Ley No. 426 de 1984 (Provincia de Formosa)  

Artículo 1: "Esta Ley tiene por objeto la preservación social y cultural de las comunidades aborígenes, la defensa de su patrimonio y sus tradiciones”.  

                    - Constitución de la  Nación Argentina (1994)  

Capítulo Cuarto, Atribuciones del Congreso


Artículo 17: "Reconocer la preexistencia étnica y cultural de los pueblos indígenas argentinos”.


Artículo 75(19): "Dictar leyes que protejan la identidad y pluralidad cultural, la libre creación y circulación de las obras del autor; el patrimonio artístico y los espacios culturales y audiovisuales”.  

17.      Brazil  

                   Constitución de la República Federativa de Brasil  

Art. 231: “Sao reconhecido aos índios sua organizacão social, costumes, línguas, crencas e tradicoes..."  


Artículo 215 (1) El Estado protegerá las manifestaciones de las culturales populares, indígenas y afro-brasileñas y los otros grupos participantes en el proceso de civilización nacional. (2) La ley dispondrá sobre la fijación de fechas conmemorativas de alta significación para los diferentes segmentos éticos nacionales.  

18.      Canada  

                   - Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples  

                    Vol. 4 Recommendations 4.7.1  

“The Commission recommends that Aboriginal cultural identity be supported and enhanced in urban areas.”  

                   Vol. 2 Recommendations 2.41  

“The Crown has an obligation to protect rights concerning lands and resources that underlie Aboriginal economies and the cultural and spiritual life of Aboriginal peoples.”  


“Federal, provincial and territorial governments, through negotiation, provide Aboriginal nations with lands that are sufficient in size and quality to foster Aboriginal economic self-reliance and cultural and political autonomy.”  

          Vol. 3 Recommendations, 3.5.4  

“Aboriginal, provincial and territorial governments act promptly to reach agreements for mutual recognition of programs provided by their respective educational institutions so as to facilitate the transfer of students between educational systems while protecting the integrity of cultural dimensions of Aboriginal education.”    

                   Vol. 2 Recommendations  

“Aboriginal peoples are not racial groups; rather they are organic political and cultural entities.”  

                   Vol. 2 Recommendations, 17  

“The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms applies to Aboriginal governments and regulates relations with individuals falling within their jurisdiction. However, under section 25, the Charter must be given a flexible interpretation that takes account of the distinctive philosophies, traditions and cultural practices of Aboriginal peoples.”  

                   - Nunavut Agreement  


“The Council shall assist Inuit to define and promote their social and cultural development goals and objectives and shall encourage Government to design and implement social and cultural development policies and programs appropriate to Inuit.”  


“In recognition of the spiritual, cultural and religious importance of certain areas in the Nunavut Settlement Area to Inuit, Inuit have special rights and interests in these areas as defined by this Article.”  


                    “This Article:  

(a)        recognizes that Inuit are best able to define who is an Inuk for the purposes of this Agreement;


(b)        guarantees that the Inuit of the Nunavut Settlement Area will be recognized

according to their own understanding of themselves, and that Inuit shall determine who is an Inuk for the purposes of this Agreement, and entitled to be enrolled under the Agreement;


(c)        establishes a process that is just and equitable for determining who is an Inuk for the purposes of this Agreement, and entitled to be enrolled under the Agreement.”  



- Nisga’a Agreement


Par 41-43


“Nisga'a citizens have the right to practice the Nisga'a culture, and to use the Nisga'a language, in a manner consistent with this Agreement.”


“Nisga'a Lisims Government may make laws to preserve, promote, and develop Nisga'a culture and Nisga'a language, including laws to authorize or accredit the use, reproduction, and representation of Nisga'a cultural symbols and practices, and the teaching of Nisga'a language”.  

“In the event of an inconsistency or conflict between a Nisga'a law under paragraph 41 and a federal or provincial law, the Nisga'a law prevails to the extent of the inconsistency or conflict.”  

          Chapter 17, Cultural Artifacts and Heritage  

“The Parties recognize the integral role of Nisga'a artifacts in the continuation of Nisga'a culture, values, and traditions. Nisga'a Government will develop processes to manage heritage sites on Nisga'a Lands in order to preserve the heritage values associated with those sites from proposed land and resource activities that may affect those sites.”  

19.       Colombia  

                    Constitución Política de Colombia  

Artículo 7: "El Estado reconoce y protege la diversidad étnica y cultural de la nación colombiana"  

Artículo 68: "...Los integrantes de los étnicos tendrán derecho a una formación que respete y desarrolle su identidad cultural..."


Artículo 72: "El patrimonio cultural de la Nación está bajo la protección del Estado. El patrimonio arqueológico y otros bienes culturales que conforman la identidad nacional, pertenecen a la Nación y son inalienables, inembargables e imprescriptibles. La ley establecerá los mecanismos para readquirirlos cuando se encuentren en manos de particulares y reglamentará los derechos especiales que pudieran tener los grupos étnicos asentados en territorios de riqueza arqueológica”.


Artículo 55 Transitorio: "Dentro de los dos años siguientes a la entrada en vigencia de la presente Constitución, el Congreso expedirá, previo estudio por parte de una comisión especial que el Gobierno creará para tal efecto, una ley que les reconozca a las comunidades negras que han venido ocupando tierras baldías en las zonas rurales ribereñas de los ríos de la Cuenca del Pacífico, de acuerdo con sus prácticas tradicionales de producción, el derecho a la propiedad colectiva sobre las áreas que habrá de demarcar la misma ley.


En la comisión especial de que trata el inciso anterior tendrán participación en cada caso representantes elegidos por las comunidades involucradas.


La propiedad así reconocida sólo será enajenable en los términos que señale la ley.


La misma ley establecerá mecanismos para la protección de la identidad cultural y los derechos de estas comunidades, y para el fomento de su desarrollo económico y social.


Paragrafo 1º.- Lo dispuesto en el presente artículo podrá aplicarse a otras zonas del país que presenten similares condiciones, por el mismo procedimiento y previos estudio y concepto favorable de la comisión especial aquí prevista.


Paragrafo 2º.- Si al vencimiento del término señalado en este artículo el Congreso no hubiere expedido la ley a la que él se refiere, el Gobierno procederá a hacerlo dentro de los seis meses siguientes, mediante norma con fuerza de ley”.  

                    - Decreto No. 715 de 1992  

Artículo 4: "Para el desarrollo de su objeto, el Comité [Nacional de Derechos Indígenas] ejercerá las siguientes funciones: (2) Velar por el derecho a la vida, a la integridad física y por los derechos culturales, económicas y sociales de las comunidades indígenas y sus miembros”.  

20.       Chile  

                    - Ley 19.253 de 1993  

Artículo 7: El Estado reconoce el derecho de los indígenas a mantener y desarrollar sus propias manifestaciones culturales, en todo lo que no se oponga a la moral, a las buenas costumbres y al orden público.  El Estado tiene el deber de promover las culturas indígenas, las que forman parte del patrimonio de la Nación chilena.  

Artículo 28: El reconocimiento, respeto y protección de las culturas e idiomas indígenas contemplará: e) La obligatoriedad del Registro Civil de anotar los nombres y apellidos de las personas indígenas en la forma como lo expresen sus padres y con las normas de transcripción fonética que ellos indiquen, y f) La promoción de las expresiones artísticas y culturales y la protección del patrimonio arquitectónico, arqueológico, cultural e histórico indígena. Para el cumplimiento de lo señalado en el inciso anterior, la Corporación, en coordinación con el Ministerio de Educación, promoverá planes y programas de fomento de las culturas indígenas. Se deberá considerar convenios con organismos públicos o privados de carácter nacional, regional o comunal, que tengan objetivos coincidentes con los señalados en este artículo.  Asimismo deberá involucrarse para el cumplimiento de dichas finalidades a los gobiernos regionales y municipalidades.  

21.      Ecuador  

- Constitución Política del Estado Ecuatoriano  

Artículo 23: “Sin perjuicio de los derechos establecidos en esta Constitución y en los instrumentos internacionales vigentes, el Estado reconocerá y garantizará a las personas los siguientes: (22) El derecho a participar enla vida cultural de la comunidad”.  

Artículo 62: “La cultura es patrimonio del pueblo y constituye elemento esencial de su identidad.  El Estado promoverá y estimulará la cultura, la creación, la formación artística y la investigación científica. Establecerá políticas permanentes para la conservación, restauración, protección y respeto del patrimonio cultural tangible e intangible, de la riqueza artística, histórica, lingüística y arqueológica de la nación, así como del conjunto de valores y manifestaciones diversas que configuran la identidad nacional, pluricultural y multiétnica.  El Estado fomentará la interculturalidad, inspirará sus políticas e integrará sus instituciones según los principios de equidad e igualdad de las culturas”.


Artículo 84: “El Estado reconocerá y garantizará a los pueblos indígenas, de conformidad con esta Constitución y la ley, el respeto al orden público y a los derechos humanos, los siguientes derechos colectivos a los pueblos indígenas: ... (15) Conservar y desarrollar sus formas tradicionales de convivencia y organización social, de generación y ejercicio de la autoridad”.  

                   - Anteproyecto Ley de Nacionalidades Indígenas del Ecuador (1988)  

Artículo 6:  "EI Estado ecuatoriano reconoce el derecho de los pueblos indígenas a rescatar, mantener y promover su cultura; garantizará por ello y promoverá la vigencia de sus propias formas sociales, costumbres, usos, lengua y formas de pensamiento”.  

22.      Guatemala  

                    Constitución Política de la República de Guatemala  

Artículo 57: ”Derecho a la cultura. Toda persona tiene derecho a participar libremente de la vida cultural y artística de la comunidad, así como a beneficiarse del progreso científico y tecnológico de la nación”.  

Artículo 58: “Identidad Cultural. Se reconoce el derecho de las personas y de las comunidades a su identidad cultural de acuerdo a sus valores, su lengua y sus costumbres”.  

Artículo 66: “Protección a grupos étnicos. Guatemala está formada por diversos grupos étnicos entre los que figura los grupos indígenas de ascendencia maya.  EI Estado reconoce, respeta y promueve sus formas de vida, costumbres, tradiciones, formas de organización social, el uso del traje indígena en hombre y mujeres, idiomas y dialectos”.  

                   - Agreement on Identity and Rights of Indigenous Peoples


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