Celebrating the world’s indigenous peoples

Screened at the opening of the annual International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples, the short film Kalimantan’s Craft; Harmony of Culture and Nature, communicated the way peoples’ stories can be, quite literally, woven into traditional arts.

The film also highlighted the challenges faced by indigenous cultures, thereby introducing the theme of the event: Indigenous designs: celebrating stories and cultures, crafting our own future.

While the knowledge and culture of indigenous societies has enriched the world immeasurably, the future for the global population of 370 million is uncertain, and the need to support the aims of indigenous communities is pressing.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon stated: “Let us celebrate and recognize the stories, cultures and unique identities of indigenous peoples around the world. At the same time, let us work to strengthen their rights and support their aspirations.”

Adding to these comments, Sha Zukang, DESA’s Under-Secretary-General, emphasized that “we must not lose sight of the difficulties many indigenous groups around the world still face: extreme poverty, social exclusion and often facing threats to their culture or very existence.”

Despite these difficulties, an optimistic note was also sounded. Mirna Cunningham, the Chairperson of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues recalled that it is the hard work of indigenous artists and artisans that “not only educates the rest of the world, but also revitalizes and strengthens indigenous peoples’ cultures for the generations who will come after us.”

Also looking to the future, Ban Ki-moon urged all Member States to work in cooperation with indigenous groups to prepare for the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples in 2014 and make the principles of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples a reality.

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