Highlights Vol 24, No. 08 - August 2020

A day to recognize the resilience of indigenous peoples

Indigenous peoples have been heavily impacted by COVID-19. Nevertheless, their response to the global pandemic has shown their resilience in overcoming challenges. Indigenous peoples continue to use unique solutions to tackle the pandemic – as they have for centuries. They are taking action, drawing on their traditional knowledge and practices, such as voluntary isolation, and sealing off their territories.

For example, the Karen people of Thailand have revived their ancient ritual of “Kroh Yee” (village closure) in efforts to fight the spread of COVID-19. In Honduras, several Lenca and Maya Chortí communities have put in place ‘sanitary cordons’ to enclose their villages and to prevent outsiders from entering their territories.

Indigenous peoples are also implementing preventive and protective measures – providing key messages and launching media campaigns in indigenous languages to ensure greater awareness and outreach. These and many other practices are vital to preserve indigenous peoples’ and their communities and cultures, as they continue to be disproportionately impacted by the pandemic.

Indigenous youth in many communities are playing a key role in supporting community decisions, by enforcing restrictions and lockdowns, distributing essentials and health equipment, as well as gathering information on the impact of the pandemic. Elders, who are the guardians of history, traditions, languages and cultures of indigenous peoples are particularly vulnerable, and deserve special attention to prevent an immense bio-cultural loss.

Indigenous women, who are responsible for the health, nutrition and care of their families and communities, are bearing a huge toll in this pandemic. Their main source of income from handicrafts, vegetables and other products, is currently curtailed, as they struggle to provide for their families. Indigenous children – especially those located in remote areas who do not have access to essential distance learning tools such as Internet access and are experiencing a digital divide, will most likely be placed even further behind. Special measures are needed to address the challenges faced by indigenous peoples in different parts of the world, in particular indigenous women and children.

COVID-19 is by far not the only threat to the health and survival of indigenous peoples, who face numerous challenges, including poor access to sanitation, lack of clean water, inadequate medical services, widespread stigma and discrimination in healthcare settings, and land grabbing and encroachment on their lands. Nevertheless, indigenous peoples maintain practices that can serve as inspiration in combatting the COVID-19 pandemic globally, and their collective traditions and strong support systems in their communities can serve as an inspiration to all communities.

The commemoration of the 2020 International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples will offer a glimpse of the challenges and responses faced by indigenous peoples during this pandemic, as well as good practices that can be shared around the world.

For more information: International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples 

Young people take action for global change

The UN has been engaging with young people to solve some of the world’s most pressing challenges since 1999. Yet 2020 might be the year their contribution is needed most, as the world is reeling from the disruption caused by COVID-19. Under the banner “Youth Engagement for Global Action”, this year’s International Youth Day will celebrate the positive action young people offer.

In 1999, the UN General Assembly decided that 12 August shall be celebrated every year as International Youth Day. Since then, this day has engaged hundreds of thousands of young people in addressing some of our world’s most pressing problems.

“Engaging youth globally is essential for the well-being of the entire world. We need your insights and partnership as we work for a better future for all,” said UN Secretary-General António Guterres when addressing youth representatives at the ECOSOC Youth Forum last year. His message holds true today.

Youth engagement for global action
As the United Nations turns 75, and only 10 years remain to make the 2030 Agenda a reality for all, trust in public institutions is eroding. Meanwhile, young people remain underrepresented in institutional political processes with a third of countries not allowing persons under 25 to run for parliament. Further enabling the engagement of youth in political mechanisms can increase the effectiveness and sustainability of policies and can also contribute to the restoration of mutual trust.

Therefore, meaningfully engaging young people in their diversity will be a necessity to effectively address our current and future global challenges, such as COVID-19 and the climate crisis.

The aim of this year’s theme is to highlight the ways in which the engagement of young people is enriching institutions and processes, as well as draw lessons on how their representation and engagement in politics can be enhanced.

How to celebrate International Youth Day
The official commemoration of International Youth Day is hosted by UN DESA’s Division for Inclusive Social Development. The commemoration will take the form of a podcast, hosted by youth and for youth. The podcast will showcase how young people can enrich politics and enact change at all levels. This year’s Toolkit is full of ideas on how you can get involved.

For more information about International Youth Day, please visit this website and follow @UNDESA, @UNDESASocial and @UN4Youth on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

Join the discussion by using #YouthDay

Follow Us