New York

10 August 2015

Secretary-General's Remarks at Event to Commemorate the International Day of the World's Indigenous Peoples [As delivered]

I am pleased to be with you to celebrate the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples.

This year the United Nations is celebrating its seventieth anniversary and the decades of work carried out by the international community for the benefit of people around the world.

One important milestone was the adoption by the General Assembly in 2007of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

The Declaration has helped improve the lives and prospects of indigenous peoples, but we must do more in this watershed year for human development. 

The period of the Millennium Development Goals is drawing to a close.

It is being succeeded by a new transformative development agenda for the coming decades.

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development is a concrete plan of action for ending poverty in all its dimensions, irreversibly, everywhere. 

This people’s agenda is designed to advance inclusion and shared prosperity and to preserve our Mother Earth.

No-one must be left behind – especially indigenous peoples.

They count among the world’s most vulnerable and marginalized people.

Yet their history, traditions, languages and knowledge are part of the very bedrock of human heritage.

Indigenous peoples can teach the world about sustainable lifestyles and living in harmony with nature.

On this International Day, we are focusing attention on promoting the health and well-being of the world’s indigenous peoples through the 2030 Agenda.

Indigenous peoples have the right to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health.

That means access to all social and health services.

And it means preserving the right to maintain and pursue traditional health practices and beliefs.

Indigenous peoples face a wide range of challenges to their health and well-being. 

Most are eminently preventable. 

These challenges include inadequate sanitation and housing, lack of prenatal care and widespread violence against women.

Too many indigenous groups endure high rates of diabetes, drug and alcohol abuse, youth suicide and infant mortality. 

They are often among the poorest peoples in their countries and, in many nations, the poverty gap between indigenous and non-indigenous groups is increasing.

In Australia, many Aboriginal communities have a diabetes rate six times higher than the general population.

Twa households in Rwanda are seven times more likely to have poor sanitation and twice as likely to lack safe drinking water.

In Viet Nam, more than 60 per cent of childbirths among ethnic minorities take place without prenatal care.  For the majority population, the figure is 30 per cent.

Among Inuit youth in Canada, suicide rates are among the highest in the world, eleven-times the national average.

In Panama, average infant mortality among indigenous children is more than three times higher than the overall population.

These statistics are unacceptable.

They must be urgently addressed as part of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

But they must be addressed in culturally appropriate ways that meet the needs of indigenous peoples and their conceptions of well-being.

As we launch the 2030 Agenda with its 17 sustainable development goals, in September, we must ensure that the targets are met for all.

Indigenous peoples must not be left behind.

So today, let us recognize the unique contributions that indigenous peoples have given and continue to give to this world – their cultures, languages, traditional knowledge, and their special relationship to the Earth’s resources.

And let us commit to do more and better to enable these communities to thrive by ensuring health and well-being for all indigenous peoples.

Thank you.