Indigenous planning is an ongoing project bringing the complex and at times disparate experiences of the global indigeneity into focus. This PhD thesis takes the women’s human rights movement as a topic of interest and specifically looks at the Convention of the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) ratification process in Palau. The research seeks to understand Palau’s opposition to the ratification of the CEDAW and specifically looks at the epistemological concepts driving this resistance. The study therefore seeks to understand the applicability of international human rights in indigenous settings and particularly to provisions of women’s empowered status in Palau’s matrilineal society.
The author has approached this study from an ethnographic research standpoint and with a critical focus that engages an advocacy perspective. Designed as a qualitative study, this research sought stories from Palauan knowledge holders and asks: “How do local cultural values and practices affect the adoption of international treaties promoting equality and human rights?” “What does this case imply about the imposition of Western epistemologies on indigenous societies?”
Cultural values and practices and its positive provisions for indigenous communities has not been addressed fully in international development planning and theory. Consequently, the related work of international human rights instruments has not considered alternative worldviews and ways of doing emerging from indigenous communities. This study seeks to contribute to the wider theoretical and academic debate on the universality of international instruments and their relevance to Indigenous communities and argues for a decentering of these homogenous ideals that have negative implications for indigenous societies.