Principles & Guidelines for the
Protection of the Heritage of Indigenous People
Elaborated by the Special
Rapporteur, Mrs. Erica-Irene Daes, in conformity with resolution
1993/44 and decision 1994/105 of the Sub-Commission on Prevention of
Discrimination and Protection of Minorities of the Commission on
Human Rights, Economic and Social Council, United Nations
(E/CN.4/Sub.2/1995/26, GE. 95-12808 (E), 21 June 1995).
1. The effective protection of the heritage of the indigenous
peoples of the world benefits all humanity. Cultural diversity is
essential to the adaptability and creativity of the human species as
2. To be effective, the protection of indigenous peoples' heritage
should be based broadly on the principle of self-determination, which
includes the right and the duty of indigenous peoples to develop
their own cultures and knowledge systems, and forms of social
3. Indigenous peoples should be recognized as the primary
guardians and interpreters of their cultures, arts and sciences,
whether created in the past, or developed by them in the future.
4. International recognition and respect for indigenous peoples'
own customs, rules and practices for the transmission of their
heritage to future generations is essential to these peoples'
enjoyment of human rights and human dignity.
5. Indigenous peoples' ownership and custody of their heritage
must continue to be collective, permanent and inalienable, as
prescribed by the customs, rules and practices of each people.
6. The discovery, use and teaching of indigenous peoples'
knowledge, arts and cultures is inextricably connected with the
traditional lands and territories of each people. Control over
traditional territories and resources is essential to the continued
transmission of indigenous peoples' heritage to future generations.
and its full protection.
7. To protect their heritage, indigenous peoples must control
their own means of cultural transmission and education. This includes
their right to the continued use and, wherever necessary, the
restoration of their own languages and orthographies.
8. To protect their heritage, indigenous peoples must also
exercise control over all research conducted within their
territories, or which uses their people as subjects of study.
9. The free and informed consent of the traditional owners should
be an essential precondition of any agreements which may be made for
the recording, study, use or display of indigenous peoples' heritage.
10. Any agreements which may be made for the recording, study, use
or display of indigenous peoples' heritage must be revocable, and
ensure that the peoples concerned continue to be the primary
beneficiaries of commercial application.
11. The heritage of indigenous peoples is comprised of all
objects, sites and knowledge the nature or use of which has been
transmitted from generation to generation, and which is regarded as
pertaining to a particular people or its territory. The heritage of
an indigenous people also includes objects, knowledge and literary or
artistic works which may be created in the future based upon its
12. The heritage of indigenous peoples includes all moveable
cultural property as defined by the relevant conventions of UNESCO;
all kinds of literary and artistic works such as music, dance, song,
ceremonies, symbols and designs, narratives and poetry, all kinds of
scientific, agricultural, technical and ecological knowledge,
including cultigens, medicines and the rational use of flora and
fauna; human remains; immovable cultural property such as sacred
sites, sites of historical significance, and burials; and
documentation of indigenous peoples' heritage on film, photographs,
videotape, or audiotape.
13. Every element of an indigenous peoples' heritage has
traditional owners, which may be the whole people, a particular
family or clan, an association or society, or individuals who have
been specially taught or initiated to be its custodians. The
traditional owners of heritage must be determined in accordance with
indigenous peoples' own customs, laws and practices.
Transmission of Heritage
14. Indigenous peoples' heritage should continue to be learned by
the means customarily employed by its traditional owners for
teaching, and each indigenous peoples' rules and practices for the
transmission of heritage and sharing of its use should be
incorporated in the national legal system.
15. In the event of a dispute over the custody or use of any
element of an indigenous peoples' heritage, judicial and
administrative bodies should be guided by the advice of indigenous
elders who are recognized by the indigenous communities or peoples
concerned as having specific knowledge of traditional laws.
16. Governments, international organizations and private
institutions should support the development of educational, research,
and training centres which are controlled by indigenous communities,
and strengthen these communities' capacity to document, protect,
teach, and apply all aspects of their heritage.
17. Governments, international organizations and private
institutions should support the development of regional and global
networks for the exchange of information and experience among
indigenous peoples in the fields of science, culture, education and
the arts, including support for systems of electronic information and
18. Governments, with international cooperation, should provide
the necessary financial resources and institutional support to ensure
that every indigenous child has the opportunity to achieve full
fluency and literacy in his/her own language, as well as an official
Recovery and Restitution of Heritage
19. Governments, with the assistance of competent international
organizations, should assist indigenous peoples and communities in
recovering control and possession of their moveable cultural property
and other heritage.
20. In cooperation with indigenous peoples, UNESCO should
establish a programme to mediate the recovery of moveable cultural
property from across international borders, at the request of the
traditional owners of the property concerned.
21. Human remains and associated funeral objects must be returned
to their descendants and territories in a culturally appropriate
manner, as determined by the indigenous peoples concerned.
Documentation may be retained displayed or otherwise used only in
such form and manner as may be agreed upon with the peoples
22. Moveable cultural property should be returned wherever
possible to its traditional owners, particularly if shown to be of
significant cultural, religious or historical value to them. Moveable
cultural property should only be retained by universities, museums,
private institutions or individuals in accordance with the terms of a
recorded agreement with the traditional owners for the sharing of the
custody and interpretation of the property.
23. Under no circumstances should objects or any other elements of
an indigenous peoples' heritage be publicly displayed, except in a
manner deemed appropriate by the peoples concerned.
24. In the case of objects or other elements of heritage which
were removed or recorded in the past, the traditional owners of which
can no longer be identified precisely, the traditional owners are
presumed to be the entire people associated with the territory from
which these objects were removed or recordings were made.
National Programmes and Legislation
25. National laws should guarantee that indigenous peoples can
obtain prompt, effective and affordable judicial or administrative
action in their own languages to prevent, punish and obtain full
restitution and just compensation for the acquisition, documentation
or use of their heritage without proper authorization of the
26. National laws should deny to any person or corporation the
right to obtain patent, copyright or other legal protection for any
element of indigenous peoples' heritage without adequate
documentation of the free and informed consent of the traditional
owners to an arrangement for the sharing of ownership, control, use
27. National laws should ensure the labeling and correct
attribution of indigenous peoples' artistic, literary and cultural
works whenever they are offered for public display or sale.
Attribution should be in the form of a trademark or an appellation of
origin, authorized by the peoples or communities concerned.
28. National laws for the protection of indigenous peoples'
heritage should be adopted following consultations with the peoples
concerned, in particular the traditional owners and teachers of
religious, sacred and spiritual knowledge, and, wherever possible,
should have the informed consent of the peoples concerned.
29. National laws should ensure that the use of traditional
languages in education, arts and the mass media is respected and, to
the extent possible, promoted and strengthened.
30. Governments should provide indigenous communities with
financial and institutional support for the control of local
education, through community-managed programmes, and with use of
traditional pedagogy and languages.
31. Governments should take immediate steps, in cooperation with
the indigenous peoples concerned, to identify sacred and ceremonial
sites, including burials, healing places, and traditional places of
teaching, and to protect them from unauthorized entry or use.
Researchers and Scholarly Institutions
32. All researchers and scholarly institutions should take
immediate steps to provide indigenous peoples and communities with
comprehensive inventories of the cultural property, and documentation
of indigenous peoples' heritage, which they may have in their
33. Researchers and scholarly institutions should return all
elements of indigenous peoples' heritage to the traditional owners
upon demand, or obtain formal agreements with the traditional owners
for the shared custody, use and interpretation of their heritage.
34. Researchers and scholarly institutions should decline any
offers for the donation or sale of elements of indigenous peoples'
heritage, without first contacting the peoples or communities
directly concerned and ascertaining the wishes of the traditional
35. Researchers and scholarly institutions must refrain from
engaging in any study of previously undescribed species or cultivated
varieties of plants, animals or microbes, or naturally occurring
pharmaceuticals, without first obtaining satisfactory documentation
that the specimens were acquired with the consent of the traditional
36. Researchers must not publish information obtained from
indigenous peoples or the results of research conducted on flora,
fauna, microbes or materials discovered through the assistance of
indigenous peoples, without identifying the traditional owners and
obtaining their consent to publication.
37. Researchers should agree to an immediate moratorium on the
Human Genome Diversity Project. Further research on the specific
genotypes of indigenous peoples should be suspended unless and until
broadly and publicly supported by indigenous peoples to the
satisfaction of United Nations human rights bodies.
38. Researchers and scholarly institutions should make every
possible effort to increase indigenous peoples' access to all forms
of medical, scientific and technical education, and participation in
all research activities which may affect them or be of benefit to
39. Professional associations of scientists, engineers and
scholars, in collaboration with indigenous peoples, should sponsor
seminars and disseminate publications to promote ethical conduct in
conformity with these guidelines and discipline members who act in
Business and Industry
40. In dealings with indigenous peoples, business and industry
should respect the same guidelines as researchers and scholarly
41. Business and industry should agree to an immediate moratorium
on making contracts with indigenous peoples for the rights to
discover, record and use previously undescribed species or cultivated
varieties plants, animals or microbes, or naturally occurring
pharmaceuticals. No further contracts should be negotiated until
indigenous peoples and communities themselves are capable of
supervising and collaborating in the research process.
42. Business and industry should refrain from offering incentives
to any individuals to claim traditional rights of ownership or
leadership within an indigenous community, in violation of their
trust within the community and the laws of the indigenous peoples
43. Business and industry should refrain from employing scientists
or scholars to acquire and record traditional knowledge or other
heritage of indigenous peoples in violation of these guidelines.
44. Business and industry should contribute financially and
otherwise to the development of educational and research institutions
controlled by indigenous peoples and communities.
45. All forms of tourism based on indigenous peoples' heritage
must be restricted to activities which have the approval of the
peoples and communities concerned, and which are conducted under
their supervision and control.
Artists, Writers and Performers
46. Artists, writers and performers should refrain from
incorporating elements derived from indigenous heritage into their
works without the informed consent of the traditional owners.
47. Artists, writers and performers should support the full
artistic and cultural development of indigenous peoples, and
encourage public support for the development and greater recognition
of indigenous artists, writers and performers.
48. Artists, writers and performers should contribute, through
their individual works and professional organizations, to the greater
public understanding and respect for the indigenous heritage
associated with the country in which they live.
Public Information and Education
49. The mass media in all countries should take effective measures
to promote understanding of and respect for indigenous peoples'
heritage, in particular through special broadcasts and public-service
programmes prepared in collaboration with indigenous peoples.
50. Journalists should respect the privacy of indigenous peoples,
in particular concerning traditional religious, cultural and
ceremonial activities, and refrain from exploiting or
sensationalizing indigenous peoples' heritage.
51. Journalists should actively assist indigenous peoples in
exposing any activities, public or private, which destroy or degrade
indigenous peoples' heritage.
52. Educators should ensure that school curricula and textbooks
teach understanding and respect for indigenous peoples' heritage and
history and recognize the contribution of indigenous peoples to
creativity and cultural diversity.
53. The Secretary-General should ensure that the task of
coordinating international cooperation in this field is entrusted to
appropriate organs and specialized agencies of the United Nations,
with adequate means of implementation.
54. In cooperation with indigenous peoples. the United Nations
should bring these principles and guidelines to the attention of all
Member States through, inter alia, international, regional and
national seminars and publications, with a view to promoting the
strengthening of national legislation and international conventions
in this field.
55. The United Nations should publish a comprehensive annual
report, based upon information from all available sources, including
indigenous peoples themselves, on the problems experienced and
solutions adopted in the protection of indigenous peoples' heritage
in all countries.
56. Indigenous peoples and their representative organizations
should enjoy direct access to all intergovernmental negotiations in
the field of intellectual property rights, to share their views on
the measures needed to protect their heritage through international
57. In collaboration with indigenous peoples and Governments
concerned, the United Nations should develop a confidential list of
sacred and ceremonial sites that require special measures for their
protection and conservation, and provide financial and technical
assistance to indigenous peoples for these purposes.
58. In collaboration with indigenous peoples and Governments
concerned, the United Nations should establish a trust fund with a
mandate to act as a global agent for the recovery of compensation for
the unconsented or inappropriate use of indigenous peoples' heritage,
and to assist indigenous peoples in developing the institutional
capacity to defend their own heritage.
59. United Nations operational agencies, as well as the
international financial institutions and regional and bilateral
development assistance programmes, should give priority to providing
financial and technical support to indigenous communities for
capacity-building and exchanges of experience focused on local
control of research and education.
60. The United Nations should consider the possibility of drafting
a convention to establish international jurisdiction for the recovery
of indigenous peoples' heritage across national frontiers, before the
end of the International Decade of the World's Indigenous People.