Indigenous | International

Wahine Māori named UN EMRIP chair to further indigenous rights

Photo / National Iwi Chairs Forum

Law professor Dr Valmaine Toki (Ngāti Rehua, Ngāti Wai, and Ngāpuhi) has been appointed a leading role in the United Nations advancing the rights of indigenous peoples.

Her role as chair of the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples was announced this week during the 17th session of the UN Expert Mechanism, a subsidiary of the Human Rights Council with over 700 indigenous participants.

During her mihi at the conference in Geneva, Toki thanked her colleagues for supporting her appointment.

“As you know the mandate of the Expert Mechanism is to give advice to the Human Rights Council and to assist member states and indigenous peoples to realise the end of the declaration on the rights of indigenous peoples.”

Toki currently works at the Faculty of Law (Te Piringa) at the University of Waikato and was the first New Zealander and Māori appointed to the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues.

She has been an active member of EMRIP since 2022 and contributes to the international advancement of indigenous rights through her work at the university.

Her colleague Professor Margaret Mutu said having Dr Toki appointed as chair, “a wahine Māori from Aotearoa, with significant expertise in indigenous rights and law is a cause for celebration”.

“It is ironic that, while Māori expertise and leadership are acknowledged on the international stage, the New Zealand coalition government and political climate has taken our relationship with the state and progress on Indigenous, human and climate rights back more than 40 years.”

Mutu said she looks forward to working with Valmaine in her new role and hopes EMRIP will come to Aotearoa for a formal follow-up country visit this year.

Toki’s area of research and writing is within the area of indigenous legal systems and the recognition of indigenous rights.