Indigenous youth: activism for equal rights

On 9 May, representatives of the world’s many indigenous communities gathered in New York for one of the most powerful platforms for dialogue on topics that affect indigenous peoples the most: the 15th session of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues.

We asked Dali Angel, co-chair of the Global Indigenous Youth Caucus, about the specific issues that young indigenous people deal with in today”s society and how they are organizing themselves to get their voices heard.

Youth and indigenous peoples are both relatively vulnerable groups in society. What are some of the main concerns for indigenous youth nowadays?

“There are several concerns for indigenous youth worldwide, each in their own context and all equally important. Some of the concerns we have heard in various national/international forums and meetings are related to the access and the ability to remain in the educational system, the need for an educational system that incorporates our cultural, linguistic and social needs and the recovery of indigenous peoples’ historical memory, traditions, culture and traditional knowledge.

Another concern is the continued impunity for acts of violence against indigenous youth by the police or other law enforcement agencies. Most of the time these perpetrators are not prosecuted by the authorities or brought to justice.

Finally, there is a lack of protection of indigenous peoples’ human rights and a need for culturally appropriate reparations, as well as a lack of protection for indigenous resistance movements, experiencing harassment, displacement, criminalization and militarization of their territories.”

The theme for this year’s forum on indigenous peoples is ”Conflict, Peace and Resolution”. What role does indigenous youth play when it comes to conflict resolution in today’s world?

“The role of indigenous youth varies depending on the type of conflict and the region they are in. However, I feel that indigenous youth are agents of social transformation and together with the support and guidance of our elders, we should aim to resume traditional and communal forms of organization that existed before the conflict.

To achieve this, indigenous youth who have been victims of violence should have access to medical care, psychological support and legal assistance. Actions should be coordinated with indigenous peoples, to provide culturally appropriate and effective services.”

Partnership is one of the 5 key elements of the 2030 Agenda for sustainable development. In what way does indigenous youth organize themselves to work together with non-indigenous youth groups and, on a larger scale, with policymakers, to get their concerns heard?

“It is important to highlight indigenous youth organizational processes at the community level to create greater visibility. In our particular case, as a network of indigenous youth, we have been able to create links and share experiences with non-indigenous youth rights activists, and created a space to share strategies and mechanisms for advocacy. We have also successfully collaborated with various feminist youth publications that have provided greater visibility for our demands and priorities.

Through UNDP’s online platform, ”Youth Voices” (Juventud con Voz LAC), we have gained valuable and educational exchanges with other non-indigenous youth and were able to highlight our issues through international advocacy. Despite various obstacles and challenges, we were able to follow up on consultation processes of the 2030 Agenda and made links with other political actors and invited them to learn more about our own process.”

The international community saw the official adoption of the climate agreement last week. How do you see the future engagement of indigenous youth in the implementation of this agreement?

“As indigenous youth, we will continue to organize ourselves in line with the collective processes of our ancestors in defense of our lands, territories, transmission of our traditional knowledge and historical memory. We will continue our intergenerational dialogue and raise our voices against any injustice and violation of our individual and collective rights.”