Empowering Indigenous Voices

© UN-Photo© UN-Photo

The International Day of the World's Indigenous People is observed on August 9 each year to promote and protect the rights of the world's indigenous population. This event also recognizes the achievements and contributions by indigenous people to improve world issues such as environmental protection.

In her message on the day dedicated to the World's Indigenous People, Catherine Ashton stated: “Today we celebrate the International Day of the World's Indigenous People. On behalf of the European Union, I join them in celebrating their rich cultural heritage and contribution to the world.”

August 9 was chosen to mark International Day of the World's Indigenous People as this was the date of the first meeting in 1982 of the United Nations Working Group of Indigenous Populations.

On 13 September 2007 the General Assembly adopted the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples emphasizing the rights of the world’s estimated 370 million indigenous people to maintain and strengthen their own institutions, cultures and traditions and to pursue their development in keeping with their own needs and aspirations. It also prohibits discrimination against indigenous peoples and promotes their full and effective participation in all matters that concern them, and their right to remain distinct and to pursue their own visions of economic and social development.

Catherine Ashton said: “The EU has supported from the very beginning the 2007 United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The Declaration is an important instrument for promoting human rights, but its full implementation is key to the actual enjoyment of those rights. The EU has repeatedly called on all states to make this a reality.” 

© UN Photo by Kibae Park

People from different nations are encouraged to participate in observing the day of the World's Indigenous People, to spread the UN's message on this group of people. Activities may include educational forums and classroom activities to gain an appreciation and a better understanding of indigenous peoples.

Indigenous peoples, are ethnic groups who are native to a land or region, especially before the arrival and intrusion of a foreign and possibly dominating culture. They are a group of people whose members share a cultural identity that has been shaped by their geographical region. A variety of names are used in various countries to identify such groups of people, but they generally are regarded as the "original inhabitants" of a territory or region. Their right to self-determination may be materially affected by the later-arriving ethnic groups.

Indigenous peoples may share common problems and issues in dealing with the prevailing, or invading, society. They are generally concerned that the cultures of Indigenous peoples are being lost and that indigenous peoples suffer both discrimination and pressure to assimilate into their surrounding societies. It is also sometimes argued that it is important for the human species as a whole to preserve a wide range of cultural diversity as possible, and that the protection of indigenous cultures is vital to this enterprise.

© UN Photo by Evan Schneider

Catherine Ashton concluded: The EU has a long track record of promoting the human rights of indigenous people in all aspects of our work, from contacts with indigenous representatives to political dialogues and the United Nations, and to giving financial support to civil society projects. But we can always do more: this is why, in the new EU Human Rights Strategy, we have committed to taking a new look at our policy and further developing it in the context of the UN Declaration and in preparation for the 2014 World Conference on Indigenous Peoples.”

© UN Photo by Rick Bajornas

International Day of the World's Indigenous People 2012

The 18th commemoration of the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples will focus on "Indigenous Media, Empowering Indigenous Voices", and aims to highlight the importance of indigenous media – television, radio, film, and social media – and its role in forging indigenous peoples' identities, helping to preserve indigenous peoples’ cultures, challenge stereotypes, communicate with the outside world, and influence the social and political agenda.

A special event be held at UN Headquarters in New York. The event will include an interactive dialogue “Indigenous Media, Empowering Indigenous Voices” and will showcase short clips and videos. The Day will be organized by the Secretariat of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues DSPD/DESA, the United Nations Department of Public Information, and the NGO Committee on the Decade of the World’s Indigenous Peoples.

  © UN Photo by Kibae Park

"On this International Day, I pledge the full support of the UN system to cooperate with indigenous peoples, including their media, to promote the full implementation of the Declaration." - UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon