International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples,
Indigenous Children and Youth
Message from H.E. Jan Kavan, President of the United Nations General
9 August 2003
year the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples
calls for a special celebration as it is dedicated to the indigenous
children and youth. They are the repositories of the traditional
knowledge and wisdom gathered by their forefathers over centuries.
Their welfare and nurturing matters as they will in turn nurture,
maintain and pass on their rich cultural heritage to their progeny.
are 370 million known indigenous peoples in 70 countries. A majority
of the 6000 languages and cultures correspond to the indigenous
peoples of the world. They contribute the rare and precious colours
and patterns in the tapestry of the human species. The indigenous
peoples also constitute the biodiversity in the human race. Their
presence is a manifestation of peaceful co-existence in harmony
with nature, the environment and other communities. They have
acquired a deep understanding of the workings of ecological balances
and thus have contributed to the sum total of human knowledge
have been long and patient in their struggle to gain recognition
for their survival in our modernizing and materialistic world.
When the League of Nations met in 1924, Chief Deskaheh of the
Council of Six Nations of the Iraquois of the USA was there to
plead for the recognition of the rights and aspirations of his
people. After years of disappointment a real impetus was gained
through the Martinez Cabo Study (1981-1984) which was eloquent
in its appeal to the international community to support the cause
of the indigenous peoples.
we all know the formative years of a child are crucial to his/her
development and prospects. The children and youth of the indigenous
peoples are especially vulnerable as their communities have been
isolated, marginalized and excluded from the main stream of national
life. They have to overcome the language and cultural barriers
to be accepted and to have access to education, health care, and
a presence in the economic and political life of the countries
they inhabit. The UN System ( ILO, UNICEF, UNDP) together with
civil society advocacy groups have worked ceaselessly to further
the welfare and visibility of the indigenous peoples and youth.
Last year the UN established a Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues
in New York under the auspices of ECOSOC. This Forum is dedicated
to promote the recognition and the rights of the indigenous peoples
which are enshrined explicitly and implicitly in the various universal
declarations on human rights and conventions.
urge Member States to honour the diversity of their populations
and provide specific support to the vulnerable indigineous communities.
We pay hommage to all those who have supported the cause of the
indigenous peoples. Their efforts have borne fruit and this issue
now has a place in the international global agenda. Let us pledge
to work together for their integration into the mainstream of
our national activities.