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International Day of the World's Indigenous People

Peace Movement Aotearoa
8 August 2008

International Day of the World's Indigenous People

Saturday, 9 August, is the International Day of the World's Indigenous People (IDWIP). IDWIP is observed every year on 9 August by the international community, in recognition of the first meeting of the United Nations Working Group on Indigenous Populations in Geneva in 1982. There are three sections in this message:

• this year's message from the United Nations Secretary-General,
• the joint United Nations Statement, and
• where you can get more information.

Due to unforeseen circumstances, our action alert on the government's reprehensible position on the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which was planned for publication on the Day, will not now be available until later in the month - if you are receiving a forwarded copy of this message and would like a copy of the action alert when it is published, please contact Peace Movement Aotearoa email pma@xtra.co.nz and we will send it to you. This message is available online at http://www.converge.org.nz/pma/idwip08.htm

· United Nations Secretary-General’s Message for IDWIP 2008

"In 1994, the United Nations General Assembly proclaimed 9 August the International Day of the World’s Indigenous People. There were many reasons for this decision, but the fundamental motivation was the Assembly’s recognition of the need to place the United Nations clearly and strongly behind the promotion and protection of the rights of indigenous peoples, in order to put an end to their marginalization, their extreme poverty, the expropriation of their traditional lands and the other grave human rights abuses they have faced and continue to encounter. Indeed, the suffering of indigenous peoples includes some of the darkest episodes in human history.

Important as it was, proclamation of the Day was only a prelude to a greater milestone: last fall’s adoption by the General Assembly of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The Declaration is a visionary step towards addressing the human rights of indigenous peoples. It sets out a framework on which States can build or rebuild their relationships with indigenous peoples. The result of more than two decades of negotiations, it provides a momentous opportunity for States and indigenous peoples to strengthen their relationships, promote reconciliation and ensure that the past is not repeated. I encourage Member States and indigenous peoples to come together in a spirit of mutual respect and make use of the Declaration as the living document it is, so that it has a real and positive effect throughout the world.

As 2008 is the International Year of Languages, this International Day is also an opportunity to recognize the silent crisis confronting many of the world’s languages, the overwhelming majority of which are indigenous peoples’ languages. The loss of these languages would not only weaken the world’s cultural diversity, but also our collective knowledge as a human race. I call on States, indigenous peoples, the United Nations system and all relevant actors to take immediate steps to protect and promote endangered languages and to ensure the safe passage of this shared heritage to future generations." - Ban Ki-moon, United Nations Secretary General.

· Joint United Nations Statement for IDWIP 2008

"This year’s International Day of the World's Indigenous People, celebrated on 9 August, is the first to take place following the landmark adoption of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples by the General Assembly in September 2007.

The Declaration, which was the culmination of more than two decades of tireless campaigning by indigenous peoples - the drafting was started in 1985 - marked a significant development in the protection of their human rights.

The Declaration, approved by an overwhelming majority of UN Member States, lays down minimum standards for the survival, dignity and well-being of the world’s estimated 5,000 indigenous groups (comprising as many as 370 million individuals). It seeks to address the historical injustices they have faced by re-affirming their right to be different, and to live peacefully on their own lands. It also represents a significant contribution to the guiding principles of justice and dignity championed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which celebrates its 60th anniversary this year.

However, the adoption of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples - important though it is - will not in itself change the everyday lives of the men, women and children whose rights it champions. For this we need the political commitment of states, international cooperation, and the support and good will of the public at large, to create and implement a range of intensely practical programmes, designed and undertaken in consultation with indigenous peoples themselves.

The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights - the principal UN body responsible for the promotion and protection of human rights - and the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous people, are committed to working together towards the realization of the rights contained in the Declaration, so that increasing numbers of the world’s indigenous peoples can truly live in dignity and peace." - Kyung-wha Kang, Acting United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, and S. James Anaya, Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms of Indigenous People.

· Where you can get more information

Information about the Day, links to more statements, the United Nations programme of events, resources, and lots more, is available on the UN International Day of the World's Indigenous People site at http://www.un.org/events/indigenous/2008/index.shtml


ENDS

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