International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples
Alice Lesepen is of the Rendille peoples of Marsabit County in Kenya. After high school, she became involved in community, social, and development work as a volunteer. Her main objective was to promote women’s empowerment and the rights of indigenous women and girls by advocating for the indigenous people’s rights to their lands and territories, as well as the respect of indigenous women and girls’ rights. Photo: UN Women/Ryan Brown.
By resolution 49/214 of 23 December 1994, the United Nations General Assembly decided that the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples shall be observed on 9 August every year. The date marks the day of the first meeting, in 1982, of the UN Working Group on Indigenous Populations of the Sub-Commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights.
In 1990, the UN General Assembly proclaimed 1993 the International Year of the World’s Indigenous Peoples (A/RES/45/164 A/RES/47/75). Later, the General Assembly established two International Decades of the World’s Indigenous Peoples: the first 1995 – 2004 (resolution 48/163), and the second 2005 – 2014 (resolution 59/174), with the goal of strengthening international cooperation for solving problems faced by indigenous peoples in areas such as human rights, the environment, development, education, health, economic and social development.
As requested in the outcome document of the 2014 World Conference on Indigenous Peoples, a UN System-Wide Action Plan on the rights of indigenous peoples was developed by the Inter-Agency Support Group on Indigenous Issues in 2015, in consultations with indigenous peoples, UN Members States, UN agencies and other stakeholders. It aims to ensure a coherent approach to achieving the ends of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, including through improved support to Member States and indigenous peoples.
Little girls from a local hill tribe laugh on a swing set in Sapa, Viet Nam. According to data from the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) Report about 72 million children of primary school age in the developing world were not in school in 2005; 57% of them, girls. Photo UN Photo/Kibae.
Indigenous peoples have a profound spiritual connection to their lands and resources. Yet, increasingly, indigenous persons are migrating within their countries and across international borders. The reasons are complex and varied. Some are subject to displacement or relocation without their free, prior and informed consent. Others are escaping violence and conflict or the ravages of climate change and environmental degradation. Many migrate in search of better prospects and employment for themselves and their families.
Migration is an opportunity, but it also carries inherent risks. Many indigenous migrants find themselves living in unsafe and insanitary conditions in urban areas. Indigenous women and girls experience disproportionately high rates of trafficking and other forms of violence. Indigenous youth are faced with complex questions regarding their identity and values.
In some countries, indigenous peoples’ territories are divided by international borders. Cooperation across these borders is important to safeguard their identity, occupations and traditional practices.
Later this year, Member States are expected to adopt a Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration. This will establish an international framework for regional and global cooperation. It will provide a platform to maximize the benefits of migration and support vulnerable migrant groups, including indigenous peoples. It is essential that the rights and identities of indigenous peoples are protected.
On this annual observance, let us commit to fully realizing the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, including the rights to self-determination and to traditional lands, territories and resources. And, wherever they live, let us ensure that indigenous peoples enjoy recognition for their contributions and the opportunity to thrive and prosper in peace on a healthy planet.