New York

09 August 2007

Secretary-General's message on the International Day of the World's Indigenous People

Today, we celebrate the contributions which indigenous peoples make to humanity through their rich civilizations. We also celebrate the partnership that has existed for three decades between indigenous peoples and the United Nations. From that partnership have emerged significant international achievements, including the proclamation of two International Decades of the World's Indigenous People, the establishment of a Special Rapporteur on the human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous people, and a United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues. Today, indigenous peoples have a home at the United Nations.

But today is also a time to remember those indigenous peoples who continue to suffer discrimination, marginalization, extreme poverty and conflict; who face dispossession of their traditional lands and livelihoods, displacement, destruction of their belief systems, culture, language and way of life -- and even the threat of extinction.

Recently, the international community has grown increasingly aware of the need to support indigenous people -- by establishing and promoting international standards; vigilantly upholding respect for their human rights; integrating the international development agenda, including the Millennium Development Goals, in policies, programmes and country-level projects; and reinforcing indigenous peoples' special stewardship on issues related to the environment and climate change.

Our fast-paced world requires us to act with urgency in addressing these issues. As we do, let us be guided by the fundamental principle of indigenous peoples' full and effective participation. Let us give life to “Partnership in action and dignity” -- the theme given by the General Assembly to this Second International Decade of the World's Indigenous People. On this International Day, let this be our motto and inspiration.