Indigenous Rights in the Arctic and the UN Human Rights Council: A Special Relationship?

Dr Martin Mennecke

The UN Human Rights Council is the UN’s primary body to focus on promoting and protecting human rights all over the globe. In this context, the Council is also equipped with a number of special instruments to address indigenous rights issues, including a Special Rapporteur and an Expert Mechanism.


This paper will explore to what extent the Council deals with indigenous rights issues through its regular, non-specialised processes. Particular attention will be paid to the work of special rapporteurs not focusing on indigenous rights issues and the Universal Periodic Review.


The underlying question is to what extent the Human Rights Council addresses Arctic indigenous rights issues outside the fora that are specifically designated to do so. This question also applies to the work of the Arctic countries at the Council. This seems particularly timely, as Denmark for the first time has been elected onto the Human Rights Council – after having pledged, inter alia, to work on indigenous rights issues. The paper will build on the record of the Council as well as interviews with relevant government officials, indigenous leaders and UN officials.


Dr. Martin Mennecke is Associate Professor of International Law at the University of Southern Denmark where he from 2017-2018 headed a special research unit on the Arctic and international law. His research priorities include the prevention of human rights violations, the United Nations and transitional justice issues. Having lived and worked in Greenland, he has a particular interest in the role of international law in the Arctic. Since 2005, Mennecke also acts as academic adviser to the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs and attends frequently official meetings at the United Nations, the International Criminal Court and the International Whaling Commission.

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