9 August 2018

International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples is commemorated at United Nations Headquarters

9 August 2018 - Within the framework of the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples, a special event took place at United Nations Headquarters in New York. This International Day commemorates the first meeting of the United Nations Working Group on Indigenous Populations that took place in 1982. Over the years, it has served as a reminder of the critical relevance of indigenous peoples and the many challenges they encounter worldwide. The event entitled Indigenous peoples’ migration and movement focused on the problems indigeneous peoples face when moving from rural to urban areas and from one country to another. United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, Liu Zhenmin, said that "over 370 million indigenous peoples live in more than 90 countries across the world, making up 5,000 distinct indigenous groups and speaking over 4,000 languages". 

All of them, he stressed, have very strong connections with their lands but such connections are now fragile due to inequal development, conflict, violence and the impact of climate change. Despite being just the 5% of the world's population, indigenous peoples represent up to 15% of the world's poorest and this is a figure, he mentioned, even higher in some particular countries. While migration offers a wide range of opportunities for indigenous peoples, many times they have to endure poverty, lack of employment and no access whatsoever to the most basic public services, not to mention human trafficking, discrimination and marginalization. "The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development offers opportunities for everyone, including the indigenous peoples", he concluded, outlining the importance of partnerships and the outcome of the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples celebrated in 2014.

Precisely, paragraph 30 of the Declaration adopted by the Conference, encourages stakeholders like "academic institutions to take an active role in promoting and protecting the rights of indigenous peoples". In the same line, Mariam Wallet Aboubakrine, Chair of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, highlighted the resilience of indigenous peoples and the need to enforce applicable International Law standards for the protection of their rights, something echoed by Rubén Escalante, Permanent Representative of El Salvador to the United Nations. The diplomat made emphasis on the cultural identity of indigenous peoples and how this is reaffirmed in some cases when the phenomenon of migration takes place. In that sense, Rosa Montezuma, an indigenous woman who holds the title of Miss Panama 2018, expressed how important was the value of interculturality and the role of the youth to foster it.

During the second half of the event, a panel took place in which representatives from some indigenous communities participated: Amy Juan (Tohono O’odham, United States), Prasert Trakansuphakon (Karen, Thailand), Mariam Wallet Aboubakrine (Tuareg, Mali) and Toa Maldonado (Kichwa, Ecuador). A Q & A took place shortly after.