Today is International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples and the spotlight is being shone on forced migration.
This year’s theme focuses on the current situation of indigenous territories, the root causes of migration, trans-border movement and displacement, with a specific focus on indigenous peoples living in urban areas and across international borders.
The observance will explore the challenges and ways forward to revitalise indigenous peoples’ identities and encourage the protection of their rights in or outside their traditional territories.
In his message to mark the day UN Secretary-General António Guterres focused on the factors pushing indigenous people to migrate “within their countries and across international borders” despite their “profound spiritual connection to their lands and resources”.
Mr Guterres noted that “some are subject to displacement or relocation without their free, prior and informed consent”, adding that “others are escaping violence and conflict or the ravages of climate change and environmental degradation” and that many migrate in search of better prospects and employment for themselves and their families.
He stated that while migration is an opportunity, “it also carries inherent risks” citing the unsafe and unsanitary conditions many end up living in, especially in urban areas.
Referring to the Global Compact for migration, which UN Member States have committed to adopt later this year, Mr Guterres said “this will establish an international framework for regional and global cooperation” and “provide a platform to maximize the benefits of migration and support vulnerable migrant groups, including indigenous peoples”.
He called for the full realisation of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, “including the rights to self-determination and to traditional lands, territories and resources”.
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HPF’s executive director Sione Tu’itahi reflected on the significance of the day especially in light of one of the underlying themes of the 23rd IUHPE World Conference on Health Promotion in Rotorua from April 7-11 which was Indigenous knowledge on health promotion.
The conference will provide a valuable platform for the sharing of this knowledge, he said.
“Indigenous knowledge enunciates that humanity and its environment are one…Indigenous knowledge on health promotion and sustainable development can offer solutions to our global challenges today,” said Mr Tu’itahi.
In a joint statement marking the day a group of UN experts say it is crucial that the rights of indigenous peoples are realised when they migrate or are displaced from their lands.
States around the world must take effective action to guarantee the human rights of indigenous people,” say the experts.
“In many parts of the world, indigenous peoples have become migrants because they are fleeing economic deprivation, forced displacement, environmental disasters including climate change impacts, social and political unrest, and militarisation. Indigenous peoples have shown remarkable resilience and determination in these extreme situations.”
There are an estimated 370 million indigenous people in the world, living across 90 countries. They make up less than five per cent of the world’s population, but account for 15 per cent of the poorest. They speak an overwhelming majority of the world’s estimated 7000 languages and represent 5000 different cultures. Read more.