International Update

By Jana L. Walker and Christopher Foley, Attorneys, Indian Law Resource Center

UN Human Rights Council

The Human Rights Council works to enhance the promotion and protection of human rights and to investigate human rights violations. During its 38th session in Geneva on June 18–July 6, the Council held its annual day-long discussion on women’s rights. This year’s panels focused on “The impact of violence against women human rights defenders and women’s organizations in digital spaces” and “Advancing women’s rights through access and participation in information and communication technologies.” Importantly, the Council also passed a resolution calling on states to “ensure access to justice and accountability mechanisms for the effective implementation and enforcement of laws aimed at preventing and eliminating all forms of discrimination and violence against women and girls, in all contexts, including by informing women and girls about their rights under relevant laws and by improving legal infrastructure and removing all barriers to access to legal counselling, assistance, and remedies.” This language supports efforts to reauthorize VAWA with the inclusion of new provisions to increase tribal authority over all forms of violence against indigenous women in Indian country and Alaska Native Villages as well as work to secure a permanent source of funding for crime victims through a tribal set-aside in the Victims of Crime Act.

Details and documents from the session are available at

Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

The 11th session of the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples took place in Geneva from July 9–13, 2018. This year the Expert Mechanism released its draft report on the legal principle that indigenous peoples should have the opportunity to give or withhold their “free, prior, and informed consent” to projects or activities impacting their rights. The report specifically calls on national governments to consult with indigenous peoples’ “representative decision-making institutions” (generally, tribal governments) and to take efforts to “understand the specific impacts on indigenous women, children, youth, and those with disabilities” before approving projects. In the United States, the terrible impact of the extractive industries and pipeline projects on the safety of American Indian and Alaska Native women is of great concern. The Expert Mechanism’s report provides new support for efforts to demand that impacts on women’s safety be taken into account during the impact assessment and review process for such projects. The report and other documents from the session are available at