International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples
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International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples

On August 9th, the international community is celebrating the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples. This annual celebration has taken place since 1995.

The goal of this international day is to promote the rights of indigenous peoples and to protect their heritage and culture. Communities around the world come together and showcase their millennial traditions. Meanwhile, international organizations hold high-level talks on issues surrounding indigenous peoples.

Why an International Day of World’s Indigenous Peoples?

Currently, there are 370 million indigenous people living in 90 countries around the world. They represent an extremely diverse heritage from a variety of indigenous cultures. Indigenous peoples also hold the key to thousands of languages which are often not kept in written form. Despite this, they are often forced to lose their heritage and culture by decades of assimilation, colonization, and development.

International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples

At the same time, while indigenous peoples only represent 5% of the world’s population, they are among the 15% of those poorest in the world. This is because they face human rights and economic development abuses. The International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples is an opportunity to celebrate their various cultures, seek formal recognition for all, and preserve indigenous peoples’ rights.

History of the International Day

International Day of World’s Indigenous Peoples has been observed since 1995 and was established by the United Nations on December 23rd, 1994. It marks the day of the first meeting of the UN Working Group on Indigenous Populations which is part of the UN’s Sub-Commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights.

The group created this international day of celebration in order to support the preservation of indigenous cultures and to protect indigenous peoples’ rights. In the past, central themes have included “Urgent Need to Preserve Indigenous Languages” in 2007, “Indigenous Peoples and HIV/AIDS” in 2009,”Indigenous Media,” “Empowering Indigenous Voices” in 2012, and “Indigenous Peoples’ Right to Education” in 2016. Last year also commemorated the 10th Anniversary of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Indigenous Peoples’ Migration and Movement

In 2018, the central theme of the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples is “Indigenous Peoples’ Migration and Movement.” Historically, indigenous peoples have been subject to loss of their home territories. Historically, this was most often due to colonization. But today, it is primarily due to industrial and economic development.

While most imagine indigenous peoples as rural tribes, many have resettled, and about 40% now live in urban areas. They have done this to find new economic opportunities or when they have been forcibly uprooted. This year’s central theme will explore the root causes of this migration. It will also focus on the possibility to revitalize indigenous identities after migration. On Wednesday, August 9, the ECOSOC Chamber at the United Nations Headquarters in New York will host a commemorative event for this special day.

What are the NGOs doing?

There are some amazing projects out there to support indigenous peoples. They are often working at the grassroots level, led by the indigenous communities themselves. International examples include the likes of The International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs. This organization focuses on promoting, protecting and defending the rights of indigenous peoples.

On the other hand, Native Planet works to share the voices of indigenous peoples in order to promote and preserve their culture and heritage. Another great example is Culture Survival. Their approach is to defend the rights of indigenous peoples by respecting their culture and providing them tools to defend their identities.

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