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Global efforts to advance indigenous rights

There are more than 370 million indigenous peoples in some 90 countries in the world today, accounting for 15 percent of the world’s poor and one-third of the 900 million people living in extreme poverty. Indigenous people tend to experience low levels of education, increased health problems, higher crime rates and human rights abuses.

Indigenous children displaced by conflict in Colombia © UN Photo/Mark GartenTo promote and protect their rights, the UN launched, during the recent meeting of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, a joint initiative called United Nations Indigenous Peoples Partnership (UNIPP).

 “Indigenous peoples suffered centuries of oppression, and continue to lose their lands, their languages and their resources at an alarming rate,” said UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, urging all countries to support the initiative. 

“Despite these obstacles, they make an enormous contribution to our world, including through their spiritual relationship with the earth.  By helping indigenous peoples regain their rights, we will also protect our shared environment for the benefit of all,” he added.

The initiative is a joint effort of the UN Human Rights office, the United Nations Development Programme, the United Nations Children’s Fund and the International Labour Organisation. Indigenous peoples will be involved in UNIPP’s policy-making.

UNIPP will support programmes aimed at securing the rights of indigenous peoples. It will focus on strengthening their institutions and ability to fully participate in governance processes, including conflict prevention in relation to ancestral land and use of natural resources.

It will contribute to the implementation of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, adopted in 2007, the International Labour Organisation’s Convention Concerning Indigenous and Tribal Peoples of 1989, and other human rights instruments relevant to the rights of indigenous peoples.
 “UNIPP is an opportunity for UN partners to bring their respective expertise under one umbrella, and intensify their efforts to ‘deliver as one’,” said UN Deputy Secretary-General, Asha-Rose Migiro, during the launch.
The Chair of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, Mirna Cunninghan, said the partnership was an important step in the efforts of indigenous peoples everywhere to fully realize their human rights.

“We look forward to our continued work with the UN so that the voiceless will be heard and that we can bring about dignity and respect for the diversity of our cultures, traditions, histories and aspirations,” she said.

Denmark announced a contribution of 1.5 million US dollars to the initiative for the period 2011 – 2012.

“This contribution…is a clear illustration of the great priority that Denmark attaches to the promotion and protection of indigenous peoples’ rights and to the confidence we place in the ability of UNIPP to help advance this cause,” said the Ambassador of Denmark to the United Nations, Carsten Staur.

Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights, Ivan Šimonović, said there were already good examples that UNIPP could build on. He cited the work of the UN Resident Coordinator in Nicaragua in creating a consultative mechanism of indigenous peoples and afro-descendants to jointly identify strategic areas for intervention. 

“UNIPP presents us with great potential to deliver as one UN for the realization of the rights of indigenous peoples.  Let us use it,” he concluded.

26 May 2011