Action needed now to end abuse of world’s indigenous peoples – UN

9 August 2004 – The United Nations today marked the International Day of the World’s Indigenous People with calls to governments, intergovernmental organizations and the international community at-large for urgent action to end the gross human rights abuses, discrimination and marginalization that all too often are still their lot in society.

“For far too long, indigenous peoples’ lands have been taken away, their cultures denigrated or directly attacked, their languages and customs suppressed, their wisdom and traditional knowledge overlooked or exploited, and their sustainable ways of developing natural resources dismissed,” Secretary-General Kofi Annan said.

“Some have even faced the threat of extinction,” he added in a message observing the 10th anniversary of the Day, which also marks the closing year of the International Decade of the World’s Indigenous People proclaimed by the UN General Assembly to raise awareness about the situation of indigenous people.

“Governments, intergovernmental organizations and civil society must work to empower indigenous peoples and ensure their participation in decisions that affect their lives,” he declared.

The Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation of indigenous peoples of the UN Commission on Human Rights, Rodolfo Stavenhagen, voiced deep concern over continuing reports of gross violations against indigenous peoples worldwide.

“Despite the progress made over the past 10 years, at the national and international levels, indigenous peoples the world over continue to be among the most marginalized and dispossessed sectors of society, the victims of perennial prejudice and discrimination,” he declared.

Mr. Stavenhagen noted the “brutal killing” just last week of an indigenous human rights activist in Colombia, Fredy Arias, allegedly by a member of a paramilitary group, and called on the Colombian Government to investigate this and other such violations and bring those responsible to justice without delay.

“Indigenous peoples are also the victims of other types of violations,” he added. “In too many places they lack access to basic services and continue to suffer multiple forms of discrimination elsewhere. I call on Governments to make real progress on their commitment to improve the living and human rights conditions of indigenous peoples. Rhetoric must become a thing of the past; action is what is needed now.”

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