This year’s International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples comes at a critical moment as the world endeavours to meet the Millennium Development Goals, forge a new vision for sustainable development and prepare the groundwork for the adoption of a new legal climate agreement – all by 2015.
Indigenous peoples have a central interest in these objectives – and can act as powerful agents of progress. In order for them to contribute to our common future, we must secure their rights.
The UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples establishes minimum standards for their survival, dignity, well-being and rights. But huge gaps remain between those ideals and the circumstances facing most of the world’s indigenous peoples.
While a number of countries have constitutional and legislative frameworks that recognize indigenous peoples, many others do not, leaving their lives and lands exposed to threats. Historical injustices have all too often resulted in exclusion and poverty. Power structures have and continue to create obstacles to indigenous peoples’ right to self-determination. They are among those who tend to face comparatively higher barriers to progress. The negative effects reverberate beyond indigenous communities, affecting societies as a whole.
The interests of the indigenous peoples must be part of the new development agenda in order for it to succeed.
As we prepare for the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples in September,
I urge all Member States to work in full partnership with indigenous peoples and their representatives to improve their lives and opportunities.
Together, let us recognize and celebrate the valuable and distinctive identities of indigenous peoples around the world. Let us work even harder to empower them and support their aspirations.
On this International Day for the World’s Indigenous Peoples, I call on all partners to join the United Nations in promoting and protecting their rights which are essential for our common future.