In case you missed it Vol 24, No. 09 - September 2020

Paying tribute to the resilience of indigenous peoples

Around the world, there are approximately 476 million indigenous peoples. Their culture of cooperation and trust has prepared them to confront the COVID-19 pandemic in a resilient  manner. On 10 August, representatives of indigenous peoples, governments and the UN system came together to pay tribute to their resilience in a virtual event to commemorate the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples.

“Indigenous peoples are crucial partners in fighting the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Mr. Liu Zhenmin, Under-Secretary-General of UN-DESA, in his opening remarks. “We must work with indigenous peoples and their communities to build resilience to the health and socio-economic effects of the pandemic”.

During the event held under the theme “COVID-19 and Indigenous Peoples’ resilience” Ms. Chandra Roy-Henriksen, Chief of the Indigenous Peoples and Development Branch/Secretariat of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues in UN DESA, led a panel discussion, where speakers from diverse indigenous regions highlighted the impact the pandemic has had on communities and shared solutions.

As highlighted by the speakers, among the challenges indigenous peoples face is a lack of adequate health facilities; an already-existing digital divide, further disrupting education during the pandemic; loss of income and livelihoods; paucity of disaggregated data; lack of safe drinking water; and continued incursions on indigenous lands and territories without consent.

Contrasting these hardships, speakers also shared some inspiring practices. Mr. Gam Shimray, Secretary General of the Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact, described “creative methods” including the food exchange system set up between northern rural and southern urban Thailand.

Ms. Danielle Bourque-Bearskin, a Public Health Nurse with Indigenous Services Canada, described how indigenous peoples had “responded excellently by taking a very strong approach to quarantine the community”.

Elsewhere, technology has been deployed to provide health information in indigenous languages, including videos targeting indigenous elders. The Sami people in Finland, for example, have mobilized social media to spread accurate information regarding preventative measures.

The inspiring practices shared during the virtual event demonstrated how indigenous peoples continue to counter hazards with resilience and resolve. As noted by Basiru Issa, from the Network of Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities in Central Africa, “indigenous peoples can contribute in the fight against COVID-19 through their traditional knowledge”, and provide inspiration for resilience for all.

Watch a recording of the event on the Facebook page of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues here.

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

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