Insights from Cameroon: Five years after the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (Respond to this article at


  • Michaela Pelican

    1. The author is Assistant Professor of Anthropology at the University of Cologne. She has worked on ethnicity and the indigenous rights movement in Cameroon for the past decade, and has followed her interlocutors to the United Nations, to Europe, the US, and via the internet and social media sites. Her email is
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In September 2007, after 23 years of negotiation between nation states and indigenous peoples' organizations, the United Nations (UN) General Assembly finally adopted the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Among its most significant assertions were indigenous peoples' rights to self-determination; to lands, territories, and natural resources; and to free, prior, and informed consent. Activists and organizations concerned with human and minority rights saw the adoption of the declaration as an important step toward the improvement of the precarious situation of many minority groups. Today, five years have passed since the declaration's adoption. What difference has it made? Have the activists' expectations materialized? How has the declaration been implemented? Which are the responses of governmental and civil society actors? Drawing on institutional developments at the United Nations as well as the case of Cameroon and the Mbororo as a national minority group, I aim to provide some answers to these questions.