New York

23 September 2014

Deputy Secretary-General's closing remarks at the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples

I bring you warm greetings from United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who has been closely following this historic World Conference on Indigenous Peoples.

The United Nations is proud to work closely with all of you and with indigenous peoples and other partners around the world to secure their rights and to address their concerns.

Let us remember the first three words of the UN Charter “We the Peoples”. Indeed, the United Nations is an inter-governmental organization. But we must never forget who we are here to serve and cooperate with, the peoples of the world.

This Conference builds on work and results since the adoption of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples seven years ago.

That Declaration is our foundation and guiding star.  The Conference Outcome Document is our inspiration and path ahead.  Working together, indigenous peoples and Member States have identified important priorities and necessary actions on land, resources, justice systems, education, health and development.

Human rights are at the core of our efforts.  I am especially pleased that the Outcome Document focuses on indigenous women, youth and persons with disabilities. I commend all of you for your tireless work and for finalising this visionary text. 

I once worked for late Swedish Prime Minister Olof Palme who said that a country should be judged by how well it treats its most vulnerable and exposed peoples. We must always keep this in mind.

Today we celebrate the achievements of this unprecedented Conference.

But we also remember that globally, indigenous peoples continue to lag behind on education, health, employment and, sadly, even life expectancy.

The Secretary-General and I intend to deal with these problems by building on the momentum you have generated already, which we can all sense in this room.   We want to engage indigenous peoples more actively across the United Nations system.

The United Nations is now in the middle of identifying our global development priorities beyond 2015.  It is essential that the issues of indigenous peoples’ are part of the new agenda.  It should support their broader aspirations for sustainable development, in line with their rights and priorities.

The future we want values and preserves diversity.  The future we want requires more equitable and sustainable use of the world’s resources. We need to make peace with nature. The future we want is one where all indigenous peoples realize their human rights.

The World Conference on Indigenous Peoples shows what we can do when we unite as Member States of the United Nations, but also as “We the Peoples” in the words of the Charter.

Now it is our collective responsibility – Member States, Indigenous Peoples, UN agencies, funds and programmes, civil society and others – to transform the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples into reality.  This requires determination, tenacity, political will, appropriate legal framework, and human and institutional capacities.
When we act in this spirit, we will generate global progress toward a more sustainable future and a Life of Dignity for All.

Remember, nobody can do everything, but everybody can do something.

Thank you.