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Constructing A Right To Communicate: The UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

Abstract

Since its conception forty years ago, efforts to reach a universally acceptable definition of a right to communicate have been unsuccessful, primarily because the debate has been at an abstract philosophical/legal level rather than arising out of the real experience of people struggling to achieve rights addressing their immediate communication needs. As an alternative to the problem of achieving a philosophical/legal definition of a right to communicate, this paper proposes a strategy of constructing a right to communicate through the interpretation of how right to communicate values are embodied in current soft and hard law texts. To illustrate how this can be done, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (DRIP) is used as a case study. An analysis of the DRIP reveals the extent to which it embodies values associated with a right to communicate: universal human rights that recognize cultural diversity; collective and individual rights; encompassing traditional communication rights; right of participation in all aspects of communication; positive rights. The increasing experience people gain with the complex issues arising out of global, interactive communication could generate further texts embodying right to communicate values. The analysis of such texts may reveal that in time everyone does indeed possess a right to communicate.

William F. Birdsall

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