Amnesty International is launching a campaign to promote and protect the rights of indigenous peoples. The effort corresponds with the U.N. International Day of the World's Indigenous Peoples.

Amnesty International says the estimated 370 million indigenous peoples around the world continue to endure widespread discrimination, impoverishment and ill-health. It says their unique cultural identities are threatened, their lands are confiscated and they are subject to armed violence.

Amnesty argues the failure to respect and uphold indigenous peoples' rights to land and other economic, social and cultural rights is at the heart of conflicts that often lead to political killings and forms of abuse.

An Amnesty expert on indigenous rights, Joshua Cooper, says the aim of the campaign is to put pressure on governments to adopt the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

"To put key pressure on certain governments that have really been obstructive, and actually try to take away even the legal rights that have been recognized under international law from indigenous peoples,? Mr. Cooper said. ?And, on that front, we are going to try and work over the next five months on key dates to put pressure on governments."

The campaign goes until the end of the year to correspond with the end of the International Decade of Indigenous Peoples. Mr. Cooper says Canada, the United States, Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and Japan are mainly responsible for holding up the final draft of the U.N. declaration.

In 1977, governments and indigenous peoples first started work on a declaration to set standards for the promotion and protection of the rights of indigenous peoples. The U.N. Sub-Commission on Human Rights adopted the draft declaration in 1994. Since then, little progress has been made in agreeing on the final wording of the text.

Les Malezer, who is from Australia and Co-Chair of the Foundation for Aboriginal and Islander Research Action, says the stand-off must be resolved by early next year when the U.N. Human Rights Commission reviews progress. If little or nothing has been achieved by then, he says, it is possible the commission might stop the process.

"Only two of the 45 articles have received any form of endorsement, and those articles simply say - one of them says, all indigenous individuals have the right to a nationality, and the other one says that indigenous women have the same rights as indigenous men. Now, as you can imagine, that is not a great breakthrough in human rights, and certainly no breakthrough for human rights for indigenous peoples,? Mr. Malezer said.

Amnesty International says its campaign's success will hinge in large measure on mobilizing citizens to pressure their governments to respect the rights of indigenous peoples.