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Indigenous peoples are inheritors and practitioners of unique cultures and ways of relating to people and the environment. They have retained social, cultural, economic and political characteristics that are distinct from those of the dominant societies in which they live. Despite their cultural differences, indigenous peoples from around the world share common problems related to the protection of their rights as distinct peoples.

August 9 is the International Day of the World’s Indigenous People, which takes place every year. It was proclaimed by the General Assembly in December 1994. 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.

As a result of the loss of their lands, territories, and resources due to the development and other pressures, many indigenous peoples migrate to urban areas in search of better prospects of life, education, and employment. They also migrate between countries to escape conflict, persecution and climate change impacts. Despite the widespread assumption that indigenous peoples live overwhelmingly in rural territories, urban areas are now home to a significant proportion of indigenous populations. In Latin America, around 40 percent of all indigenous peoples live in urban areas even 80 percent in some countries of the region. In most cases, indigenous peoples who migrate find better employment opportunities and improve their economic situation but alienate themselves from their traditional lands and customs. Additionally, indigenous migrants face a myriad of challenges, including lack of access to public services and additional layers of discrimination.

The theme for this year is “Indigenous peoples’ migration and movement”. The focus is on the current situation of indigenous territories, the root causes of migration, trans-border movement, and displacement, with a specific focus on indigenous peoples living in urban areas and across international borders. The observance will explore the challenges and ways forward to revitalize indigenous peoples’ identities and encourage the protection of their rights in or outside their traditional territories.

The World Assembly of Youth (WAY) observe the International Day of the World’s Indigenous People, we work to support national governance systems to be more effective in addressing discrimination and structural inequalities that can affect indigenous peoples. We, at WAY, believe that by giving access to opportunities and support as well as enabling an environment where indigenous peoples are empowered, they will be able to develop their full potential to lead dignified lives in harmony with their world vision and traditional values. WAY always insists on making indigenous youth a priority by having all necessary recommendations flowing from the permanent forum to promote better integration and coordination of their issues, including youth issues, across the globe.

Together, let us identify and celebrate the priceless and distinctive identities of indigenous peoples around the world. Let us work even harder to empower them and support their aspirations.