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MRG mourns the passing of legendary indigenous peoples’ rights activist, Rodolfo Stavenhagen

8 November 2016

Longtime MRG Council member, Rodolfo Stavenhagen, passed away on 5 November 2016.

‘Indigenous peoples around the world have lost a great friend, and we have all lost a man of considerable dignity and humanity,’ says Mark Lattimer, MRG’s Executive Director.

Rodolfo was born in Germany in 1932; his family left there in 1936. In 1940, they arrived in Mexico, where he later became a citizen. He received his bachelor’s degree from the University of Chicago, before going on to the National School of Anthropology and History in Mexico City and subsequently to the University of Paris, where he obtained a Ph.D. in sociology in 1965. Rodolfo had already joined the faculty of El Colegio de México (Colmex), where he organised the Centre for Sociological Studies. He remained connected to Colmex throughout his career, continuing as professor emeritus.

Rodolfo became involved in a variety of UN activities in the 1960’s. He moved to Rio de Janeiro in 1962 to become general secretary of the UNESCO-supported Latin American Centre for Research in the Social Sciences. In 1979, he was appointed Assistant Director-General of UNESCO in charge of social sciences and their applications, a position he held until 1982.

Through his research and writing, Rodolfo expressed his strong commitment to indigenous peoples’rights. He served as Mexico’s delegate to the UN Working Group on Indigenous Populations, and as chair of the group of experts that drafted ILO Convention No. 169 on indigenous peoples. In 2001, Rodolfo was appointed the very first UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous peoples. He held that post until 2008.

Rodolfo served on MRG’s Council and its Legal Advisory Committee from 2011 to 2015. MRG staff and Council members join together to express our most sincere condolences to Rodolfo’s family.