First wahine Māori appointed to United Nations Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

21 April 2022

Dr Valmaine Toki

As the first Māori and the first New Zealander to be appointed by the President of the Human Rights Council to the UN’s Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (EMRIP), Dr Toki (Ngāti Rehua, Ngātiwai, Ngāpuhi) is well on her way to playing her part on the global stage to support the recognition of Indigenous rights.

This appointment builds on the previous two terms she served as an Expert Member on the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues.

Dr Toki, Professor in Law at the University of Waikato, acknowledged the many Indigenous advocates before her who have made significant and invaluable contributions, such as Dr Moana Jackson and Wiremu Ratana who paved the way.

Dr Toki says advocating for the meaningful recognition of rights for Indigenous peoples is one that Indigenous peoples have been fighting forever. “Being part of EMRIP affords me an ear to the hurdles and challenges my Indigenous brothers and sisters face. I am hoping to raise the platform of our Pasifika people and provide an opportunity to understand and promote their rights.”

Dr Toki says Indigenous peoples comprise the most poor and the most marginalised, and she relishes the opportunity to address the myriad challenges facing Indigenous communities in the Pacific, particularly that of climate change and associated environmental issues.

EMRIP meets annually in Geneva, and Dr Toki’s appointment will likely see her being invited to specific country visits to understand the struggles Indigenous people face as well as staying abreast of how states implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, the most comprehensive international instrument on the rights of Indigenous peoples.

“I’m an Indigenous wahine, so these issues have been continually on my mind. As a former member of the UN Permanent Forum this work is a continuation of that.

“Perhaps we are making small steps in the right direction, but nothing should prevent us from asserting our fundamental rights such as our language, our culture, our tikanga.”

Dr Toki is one of seven members on EMRIP.

This research aligns with the following United Nations Sustainable Development Goals:

Decent Work and Economic Growth Reduced Inequalities Partnerships for the goals

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