Indigenous peoples are inheritors and practitioners of unique cultures and ways of relating to people and the environment. There are an estimated 370 million indigenous people in the world, living across 90 countries, they speak 7,000 languages and represent 5,000 different cultures. Despite their cultural differences, indigenous peoples from around the world share common problems related to the protection of their rights as distinct people.
The International Day of the World’s Indigenous People, which takes place every year on 9th of August, was proclaimed by the General Assembly in December 1994. The date marks the day of the first meeting, in 1982, of the United Nations Working Group on Indigenous Populations of the Sub-Commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights. Indigenous communities already face a host of challenges, and the unfortunate present reality is that the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic are worsening these challenges further still.
This year’s theme is “COVID-19 and indigenous peoples’ resilience”. The virtual commemoration will feature interactive panel discussions on the innovative ways indigenous peoples continue demonstrating resilience and strength in the face of the pandemic while confronting grave threats to their survival. The aim is to highlight how the preservation and promotion of indigenous peoples’ traditional knowledge and practices can be leveraged more fully during this pandemic.
As we fight against the spread of the pandemic, it is more important than ever to safeguard indigenous peoples and their knowledge. Their territories are home to 80 percent of the world’s biodiversity and they can teach us much about how to rebalance our relationship with nature and reduce the risk of future pandemics. Meanwhile, indigenous peoples are seeking their own solutions to this pandemic. They are taking action and using traditional knowledge and practices such as: voluntary isolation, sealing off their territories, as well as preventive measures.
We, at the World Assembly of Youth (WAY), believe that by giving access to opportunities and support as well as enabling 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. Let us work even harder to empower them and support their aspirations.
Together, let us identify and celebrate the priceless and distinctive identities of indigenous peoples around the world. We call upon young people and youth organisations to share their good practices with their peers through interactive virtual events that will focus on building back better and stronger.
Happy International Day of the World’s Indigenous People!