Advancing the rights of indigenous peoples

UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UN Photo/Paulo Filgueiras)

“Indigenous cultures are threatened with extinction. Millions of indigenous peoples continue to lose their lands…their rights…and their resources. They make up one-third of the world’s one billion rural poor. And they are among the most vulnerable and marginalized of any group,” said UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today.

Marking the opening of the 10th Session of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues in New York, the Secretary-General’s statement was given following a beautiful joik performed by Ole Johan Eira representing the Sámi people, and a welcome by the traditional Chief of the Onondaga Nation, Todadaho Sid Hill.

Under-Secretary-General of DESA Sha Zukang also stated: “Protecting and guaranteeing the rights of indigenous peoples has proved to be a significant challenge over the last decade. However, unlike any other time in history, the issue is now on the global radar.”

Mr. Sha also spoke in his capacity as the Secretary-General of Rio+20, highlighting the important role indigenous peoples play when it comes to sustainable development: “Rio+20 is a tremendous opportunity for indigenous peoples to share their wisdom with all of us. Indigenous peoples have a unique understanding of Mother Earth as a living entity, where all beings are interconnected and interdependent.”

This session will be led by newly elected Chair Ms. Mirna Cunningham and continue until 27 May. It will review the implementation of recommendations on economic and social development; the environment; and free, prior and informed consent and also include a dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Prof. James Anaya.

“We must end the oppression, and we must ensure that indigenous peoples are always heard. Raise your voices here at this Forum and beyond. I will urge the world to listen,” said Ban Ki-moon as he concluded his remarks.

For more information, see DESA News feature article on “Strengthening the voice of indigenous people”

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