Special Topic – The UN and UNDRIP

The United Nations is an international organization composed of 193 countries, which attempts to maintain international peace and security, protect human rights, deliver humanitarian aid, promote international development, and uphold international law. They have offices all over the world, including the North American headquarters in New York City. Some of the more recognizable initiatives and documents they have put forth include UNDRIP, the Sustainable Development Goals, and the Paris and Kyoto agreements. Canada is a founding nation of the United Nations, and is involved in various UN missions.

However, what true power does the UN have over the Canadian government? Basically, nations have to follow International Law, but they are not required to follow resolutions. Resolutions and declarations are not something that require action. However, it looks bad for one or two nations if the rest of the world is abiding by a declaration. In that sense, is the UN a neocolonial body?

The term neocolonial refers to “relating to or characterized by the use of economic, political, cultural, or other pressures to control or influence other countries” (Oxford English Dictionary, 2022)

So in a way, yes. The UN can both assert direct and peer pressure on a country to follow international law or a declaration.

Examples of UN declarations include:

  • The Declaration on Human Rights Education and Training
  • The Declaration on Measures to Eliminate International Terrorism

While UNDRIP is a document that expresses the rights of Indigenous peoples worldwide, it was delivered through a neocolonial body. The UN currently does not recognize Indigenous Nations as sovereign nations, so they do not have a seat at the table.

We highly recommend reading through the declaration. It is useful to have on hand when teaching about decolonization and the rights of Indigenous peoples since it applies to people all over the world.


Government of Canada. (n.d.). Canada and the United Nations. https://www.international.gc.ca/world-monde/international_relations-relations_internationales/un-onu/index.aspx?lang=eng

Oxford English Dictionary. (2022). “neocolonialism, n.” OED Online, Oxford University Press. Retrieved from www.oed.com/view/Entry/126019

United Nations. (2008, March). Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. United Nations. Available at https://www.un.org/esa/socdev/unpfii/documents/DRIPS_en.pdf

United Nations. (n.d.). Our work. https://www.un.org/en/our-work



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Decolonizing the Engineering Curriculum Copyright © 2022 by Pamela Wolf, Ben Harris, Nika Martinussen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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