Message on the International Day of the World's Indigenous Peoples, 9 August 2010


United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon: UNIS/SGSM/207 –

Date of publication: 
4 August 2010

VIENNA, 9 August (UN Information Service) – The world’s indigenous peoples have preserved a vast amount of humanity’s cultural history. Indigenous peoples speak a majority of the world’s languages, and have inherited and passed on a wealth of knowledge, artistic forms and religious and cultural traditions. On this International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples, we reaffirm our commitment to their wellbeing.

The landmark United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, adopted by the General Assembly in 2007, lays out a framework for governments to use in strengthening relationships with indigenous peoples and protecting their human rights. Since then, we have seen more governments working to redress social and economic injustices, through legislation and other means, and indigenous peoples’ issues have become more prominent on the international agenda than ever before.

But we must do even more. Indigenous peoples still experience racism, poor health and disproportionate poverty. In many societies, their languages, religions and cultural traditions are stigmatised and shunned. The first-ever UN report on the State of the World’s Indigenous Peoples in January 2010 set out some alarming statistics. In some countries, indigenous peoples are 600 times more likely to contract tuberculosis than the general population. In others, an indigenous child can expect to die twenty years before his or her non-indigenous compatriots.

The theme of this year’s Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples is indigenous filmmakers, who give us windows into their communities, cultures and history. Their work connects us to belief systems and philosophies; it captures both the daily life and the spirit of indigenous communities. As we celebrate these contributions, I call on Governments and civil society to fulfil their commitment to advancing the status of indigenous peoples everywhere.

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“No room for complacency, indigenous peoples continue to suffer,” says UN human rights chief

The following statement has been issued by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, to mark the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples (9 August 2010)

GENEVA — “We have cause to celebrate the progress made in turning human rights into a reality for indigenous peoples, but this International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples is also an occasion to recall that there is no room for complacency. The continuing violations of the rights of indigenous peoples, in all regions of the world, deserve our utmost attention and action.

The gap between the principles of UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples* and the reality remains wide, as indigenous peoples continue to suffer discrimination, marginalisation in such fields as health and education, extreme poverty, disregard for their environmental concerns, displacement from their traditional lands and exclusion from effective participation in decision-making processes. It is particularly disconcerting that those who work to correct these wrongs are, all too often, persecuted for their human rights advocacy.

In a number of countries, new tools have been created to give voice to indigenous peoples in decision-making and to stamp out human rights violations. We are also encouraged by the fact that support for the Declaration keeps expanding, including in the countries that originally voted against this remarkable document.

However, we should redouble our efforts to build a true ‘Partnership in action and dignity’ — the theme given by the General Assembly to the Second International Decade of the World’s Indigenous People — as we work together towards full application of the rights affirmed in the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples for the survival, dignity and well-being of indigenous peoples of the world.

We need to bring the rights and dignity of those who are suffering most to the centre of our efforts. This requires changes in practices, but we also need improved laws and institutions, without which advances are not sustainable.

On this International Day, let us reaffirm our commitment to translate the words of the Declaration into effective action. Keeping this promise is our obligation.”

(*) Check the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples:

Learn more about the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay:

Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights – Media Unit
Xabier Celaya, Information Officer: + 41 22 917 9383 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting              + 41 22 917 9383      end_of_the_skype_highlighting / xcelaya [at] ohchr [dot] org