Rutherford Fellowship to research indigenous rights

09 October 2017
Claire Charters 02

Associate Professor Claire Charters from the Auckland Law School has been awarded a 2017 Rutherford Discovery Fellowship to investigate the ways indigenous peoples’ rights are constitutionally recognised throughout the world.

Dr Charters (Ngāti Whakaue, Tūwharetoa, Ngā Puhi, Tainui), who specialises in indigenous peoples’ rights in international and constitutional law, is one of ten people honoured with a Rutherford Fellowship for her research entitled Constitutional Transformation to Accommodate Māori in Aotearoa/New Zealand: Lessons from Around the Globe.

Administered by the Royal Society Te Apārangi, a Rutherford Discovery Fellowship supports New Zealand's talented early- to mid- career researchers for a period of five years.

Dr Charters’ distinguished career includes being a Fulbright Graduate Scholar at New York University, before undertaking a PhD at the University of Cambridge. Her doctoral thesis focused on the legitimacy of indigenous peoples’ norms under international law.

She has published and spoken widely on the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, comparative indigenous constitutional rights in New Zealand, Canada and the United States, and tino rangatiratanga and tikanga Māori in New Zealand.

Dr Charters has represented her iwi in treaty negotiations and worked in the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. In addition, she was recently an advisor to the President of the UN General Assembly on enhancing indigenous people’s participation at the United Nations.

In this Fellowship, Dr Charters will evaluate various existing and proposed methods of constitutionally recognising and accommodating indigenous peoples’ rights around the globe, with the aim of informing potential reform in Aotearoa.

Drawing on case studies from as far apart as Bolivia, Mexico and Canada, Australia and the Pacific, and Norway, Finland and Sweden, she will focus on the recognition of indigenous jurisdiction and autonomy, protection of treaty and aboriginal rights, rights to lands, rights to culture and access to political power.

She hopes to provide pragmatic recommendations that will lead to better constitutional recognition of Indigenous peoples in New Zealand and internationally.