As the United Nations is celebrating its 70th anniversary, the world reflects upon the seven decades of development that have changed the livelihoods of communities across the globe. For the world’s indigenous populations, the United Nations has proved to be a powerful platform for dialogue and securing their rights.
Although indigenous populations represent a remarkable diverse group of people that make up more than 5 percent of the world’s population, they have struggled to find their place in society for centuries. In 1945, when the United Nations was established, indigenous peoples were among the most disadvantaged groups in the world.
Throughout history, they have been the custodians of our planet’s natural resources and biological diversity. Yet, their importance and their unique concerns were largely ignored.
For most of the 20th century, indigenous peoples recognized that they had to take their concerns to the international community, but it was slow to respond at first. However, indigenous peoples slowly gained momentum in advocating for their rights at the United Nations.
Dedicated to recognizing the rights of indigenous peoples, the United Nations created a space for dialogue about some of the most pressing issues for indigenous populations: land rights, protection of languages, health, participation in decision making and their recognition as peoples, culminating in the adoption of Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples by the General Assembly in 2007.
With the adoption of the Declaration, the international community recognizes the invaluable knowledge and history of indigenous cultures, and strives to protect their unique languages, cultural practices and knowledge of practices for the sustainable management of natural resources. It also aims to improve political representation, economic development and access to social services.
Today, there are some 370 million indigenous people, living in over 90 countries. With the support of UN DESA, The Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues continues to provide a global platform to promote the rights of indigenous peoples now and for future generation.