The United Nations has decided to create the first permanent forum on indigenous rights that will give the world’s Aboriginal peoples their first high-level representation in the UN system.

UN officials called the decision historic, noting that indigenous people have been seeking reprsentation on the international level since they first approached the League of Nations in the early part of the 20th century.

Grand Chief Ted Moses and Matthew Coon Come, the National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations, were on hand the day of the decision.

Indigenous leaders have been campaigning for a UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People to affirm indigenous peoples’ right to self-determination and land. Their campaign has run into strong opposition from the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

The forum will be a subsidiary body of the UN Economic and Social Council, one of the main organs of the United Nations after the Security Council and General Assembly.

It will consist of 16 representatives. Half will be nominated by governments and half by the president of ECOSOC after consulting with indigenous peoples.

Indigenous peoples, governments and other organizations will be allowed to participate in the forum’s deliberations as observers.