Opening Session of the Eighteenth Session of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues

Distinguished Chairperson,Members of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues,Honourable Elders,Distinguished Representatives of Member States, Indigenous Organizations, UN system entities, intergovernmental organizations and civil society,Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am pleased to deliver the following remarks on behalf of United Nations Under-Secretary-General Mr. Liu Zhenmin.

It gives me great pleasure to address the opening of the 18th session of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues.  I wish to extend a very warm welcome to all of you.

The annual sessions of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues are among the best-attended meetings of the United Nations. This is the global space for Indigenous Peoples, Member States, the United Nations system and other partners to come together in a common effort and commitment to advance the rights of indigenous peoples around the world.

This year’s special theme is “Traditional knowledge: Generation, transmission and protection”.  This is in recognition of the unique value of indigenous peoples’ traditional knowledge, and its tremendous potential to address some of the most significant challenges we face today:
  • achieving sustainable development,
  • mitigating climate change,
  • managing conservation areas, and
  • advancing the development of new technology and medicines, based on traditional knowledge and practices.
Distinguished representatives,

Indigenous cultures enrich the world’s cultural diversity. The United Nations General Assembly proclaimed 2019 as the International Year of Indigenous Languages. Our goal is to promote and protect indigenous languages for future generations. Languages are fundamental for the continuation and transmission of indigenous peoples’ culture and knowledge systems.

Yet, despite their immense value, indigenous languages continue to disappear at an alarming rate. The loss of indigenous languages signifies the loss of traditional knowledge as well as the loss of cultural diversity. Teaching children in their languages and traditional ways maintains communities’ cultures, reduces school drop-out rates, and leads to economic growth. It also ensures that the linguistic diversity that is our common heritage, is strengthened and remains vibrant for our children and their children.

This will also contribute to achieving the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which has a specific reference to access to education for indigenous children (Target 4.5).

Ladies and gentlemen,

We all understand the urgency of implementation. Actions speak louder than words.

As a direct result of the partnership of Indigenous Peoples, Member States and the United Nations system, we have made much progress since indigenous peoples first came to the United Nations.  We have the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, three mechanisms specific to indigenous peoples - the Permanent Forum, the Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples – and the United Nations system-wide action plan on the rights of indigenous peoples.  These achievements play an important role in integrating indigenous peoples’ issues throughout the United Nations system and engaging Member States in this work.

The 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals make explicit references to indigenous peoples. They also highlight principles that indigenous peoples have advocated for, such as clean water, sustainability and reducing inequalities.  The Declaration provides a framework to incorporate indigenous peoples into equitable, participatory and people-centred sustainable development.

The Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, the outcome document of the 2014 World Conference on Indigenous Peoples, the 2030 Agenda and the Paris Agreement are important milestones.  They provide an opportunity for indigenous peoples, Member States and other stakeholders to move towards a single objective - the survival, dignity and well-being of indigenous peoples of the world.

Ladies and gentlemen,Distinguished delegates,Distinguished Chairperson and Members of the Forum,

I thank the Member States that have generously contributed to the Trust Fund on Indigenous Issues in 2018. It is through this Trust Fund that we support the substantive work of the Forum and the implementation of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

There is much work to be done. Indigenous peoples continue to suffer disproportionately from poverty, discrimination, poor healthcare and lack of access to culturally appropriate education. With concerted efforts we can make a difference.

You can count on DESA for continuing our engagement and commitment to the rights of indigenous peoples. I wish you a successful session.

Thank you.
File date: 
Monday, April 22, 2019
Mr. Liu