Indigenous peoples are the caretakers of some of the world’s most diverse territories. However, in many countries, they face discrimination and conflict on a daily basis. They make up some five per cent of the world’s population – but represent one-third of the world’s poorest.
Speaking at the opening of the annual forum on indigenous peoples in New York on 19 April, 2009, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called for “all Governments, indigenous peoples, the United Nations system and all other partners to ensure that the vision behind the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples becomes a reality for all.”
Mr. Ban reminded delegates that, “In that landmark document, UN Member States and indigenous peoples sought to reconcile with their painful histories and resolved to move forward together towards human rights, justice and development for all.”
He also reminded delegates that, “Apart from the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, other notable achievements include the establishment of this Permanent Forum, the mandate of the Special Rapporteur, and the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.”
“Indigenous cultures, languages and ways of life are under constant threat from climate change, armed conflict, lack of educational opportunities and discrimination”, the Secretary-General added.
He urged Member States to promote development while respecting the values and traditions of indigenous peoples. Addressing the congregation, he affirmed that the United Nations “will continue to support and protect your human rights and fundamental freedoms, and your right to pursue social and economic development.”
Each year the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII) meets for 10 days at UN Headquarters in New York. The 9th session of the Forum will run from 19-30 April 2010.
The special theme of this year’s session is “Indigenous Peoples: development with culture and identity; articles 3 and 32 of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples”.
The regional focus during the ninth session will be on North America. The Forum also plans on hosting a separate panel on “Forests and Indigenous Peoples” and a special in-depth discussion with the Governments of Paraguay and Bolivia.
This year, some 2,000 indigenous representatives are estimated to take part in the two-week meeting, which include Member States, UN agencies and civil society groups.