International Day of the World's Indigenous Peoples

Remarks by Mr. Wu Hongbo, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs and Coordinator of the Second International Decade of the World's Indigneous People

Distinguished guests,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

Welcome to this special celebration of the 2012 International Day of the World’s Indigenous People. 

This is the first International Day that I have the honour to celebrate in my capacity as Under-Secretary General for Economic and Social Affairs. And, as Coordinator of the Second International Decade of the World’s Indigenous Peoples.

Let me take this opportunity to assure you that as the secretariat on indigenous issues, the Department of Economic and Social Affairs and I personally will continue to make renewed efforts to support the world’s indigenous peoples.

Many advances have been achieved in the implementation of the goals and objectives of the Plan of Action for the Second Decade. Most recently, at the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20), Member States undertook to enhance the welfare of indigenous peoples and their communities, recognizing and supporting their identity, culture and interests.  Member States further pledged to respect indigenous peoples’ cultural heritage, practices and traditional knowledge, preserving and respecting non-market approaches that contribute to the eradication of poverty.

However, we still have a long way to go to meet the full realization of the wishes of the indigenous communities and the goals and objectives of the Plan of Action for the Second Decade. 

These same goals and objectives – and the principles they aspire to – should be turned into real commitments and concrete actions by Governments on the ground, as well as by the UN system at large.

And, this should be done in genuine partnership with indigenous peoples.

Distinguished guests,

The theme of this year’s International Day celebrates indigenous peoples’ forms of expression – of identity, cultural diversity and heritage – through media.

Today also marks the fifth anniversary of the adoption of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

The UN Declaration affirms the right of indigenous peoples to [I quote] “establish their own media in their own languages, and to have access to all forms of non-indigenous media without discrimination”. [End Quote].

The Declaration also calls on States to ensure that cultural diversity is adequately reflected in media.  With this in mind, it is critical that mainstream media open space for indigenous peoples to share their views and perspectives.

Indigenous media preserve traditional knowledge and practices, educate communities, sustain cultural activities and ward off the extinction of indigenous languages.  Indigenous media produced in indigenous languages are expressions of indigenous peoples’ right to self-determination.   Such media are essential for the survival of indigenous culture. This is critical as cultures are inextricably linked to the dignity, spirituality and well-being of indigenous peoples. 

There are many examples that show how indigenous media are a valuable resource. Media can also play an enabling role in supporting indigenous peoples’ development. Social media, the internet and “citizen journalism” have decentralized traditional media, thus giving voice to many.  This brings new opportunities for indigenous peoples to safeguard their interests.  New voices, especially those of indigenous youth, report on their culture, challenges, concerns, and celebrations of daily life. 

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The work of indigenous media and journalists are both encouraged and supported by the UN Declaration and the Second Decade.  Going forward, let us focus on how media – indigenous and non-indigenous – may help realize indigenous peoples’ rights as enshrined in the UN Declaration.

Let us, together, advance the human rights and welfare of indigenous peoples, through media and through protecting and enhancing the power of indigenous voices.

Thank you.