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Raising Awareness & Protecting Rights

The International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples is observed on 9 August each year to raise awareness and to protect the rights of the world’s Indigenous populations. This event also acknowledges the achievements and contributions of Indigenous people. This recognition is celebrated around the world and marks the date of the United Nations’ 1982 inaugural session of the Working Group on Indigenous Populations.

Cultural Identity

The expression Indigenous peoples is commonly used to identify ethnic groups who are native to a land or region, especially before the arrival and intrusion of a foreign culture and people. They may include distinct groups of people whose members share a cultural identity that has been shaped by geographical region. A variety of names are used in various countries to identify such groups, but they generally are regarded as the original inhabitants of a territory or region. Their right to self-determination has been affected by colonizing ethnic groups.
Despite the diversity of Indigenous peoples, they often share common problems and issues in dealing with the prevailing, or invading, society. These concern the cultures of Indigenous peoples that are being reduced or lost, including that Indigenous peoples suffer both discrimination and pressure to assimilate into their surrounding societies. These trends are counter to the importance for the human species as a whole to preserve as wide a range of cultural diversity as possible, and therefore the support and protection of Indigenous cultures is vital to this enterprise.

Global Representation

More than 70 per cent of the world’s population is living in countries with rising income and wealth inequality, including Indigenous peoples who already face high rates of poverty and acute socio-economic disadvantages. There are over 470 million Indigenous people in some 90 countries, living in all regions of the world. While they constitute about 6 per cent of the world’s population, they are 15 percent of the world’s poor. Most indicators of well-being show that Indigenous peoples suffer disproportionately compared to non-Indigenous peoples. Moreover, many Indigenous peoples still come under the ultimate authority of central governments who exercise control over their lands, territories, and resources.

Rethinking Social Contracts

In our current era, and especially now for the many Indigenous peoples overwhelmingly impacted by COVID-19 worldwide, plans to build back better and adjust outdated social contracts need to strengthen listening to their voices, needs, and concerns; obtaining their free, prior, and informed consent; and incorporating their collective and individual rights, for example those described in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Getting Connected

The general public is invited to the UN’s 2021 commemoration of the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples which will focus on the theme “Leaving no one behind: Indigenous peoples and the call for a new social contract” to be held on Monday, 9 August from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. (PST).

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