(Message from Mr. Sha Zukang, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs and Coordinator of the Second International Decade of the World's Indigenous People)
I would like to begin by thanking the NGO Committee on the UN International Decade of the World’s Indigenous Peoples and its Chairperson, Mr. Roberto Múcaro Borrero – our partners in organizing this special event. DESA is delighted to work with you.
Our gratitude goes also to the Secretary-General and the Deputy Secretary-General for their stimulating words on this International Day of the World’s Indigenous People.
We have much to celebrate today. One year ago, I stood here before you sharing the hope that the General Assembly would adopt the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. A few weeks later, on 13 September 2007, the General Assembly – by adopting the Declaration – ushered in a new era of cooperation between the international community and indigenous peoples all over the world.
The Declaration is crucially important as an international human rights instrument. Moreover, the Declaration is a manifestation of reconciliation between indigenous peoples and states – and a mechanism for carrying that reconciliation forward. Indeed, 2008 has already witnessed concrete measures towards reconciliation in several countries.
The Declaration also has substantial implications for the United Nations system and its engagement with indigenous peoples, calling on us to promote respect for its provisions and their full application. A great deal of progress has been made at the international level during the last decade, including the establishment of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues. It is crucial that we now devote our concerted efforts to supporting the implementation of the Declaration’s principles at the country level.
The normative and operational work of the United Nations system, in both human rights and development, are enriched by the five key objectives of the Second International Decade of the World’s Indigenous People: to promote non-discrimination; to achieve the full and effective participation of indigenous peoples in decisions affecting them; to redefine development policies to respect the cultural and linguistic diversity of indigenous peoples; to adopt targeted policies, programmes, projects and budgets with particular emphasis on indigenous women, children and youth; and to strengthen monitoring mechanisms and accountability.
I am delighted by adoption this year of the United Nations Development Group Guidelines on Indigenous Peoples’ Issues. The implementation of these UNDG Guidelines will greatly facilitate and improve the UN system’s engagement with indigenous peoples at the country level and its country-level support for Member States on indigenous issues.
I am convinced that if we are to have a significant impact in addressing the difficult situation of indigenous peoples, action at the country level must be a top priority. As Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, and as Coordinator of the Second International Decade of the World’s Indigenous People, I am fully committed to supporting this work.
Let me close by recalling the purpose of this International Day: to celebrate, to remember, to support and to strengthen partnerships with indigenous peoples everywhere.