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States must support leadership roles of Indigenous Youth: UN expert

International Day of World’s Indigenous Peoples - 9 August 2023

08 August 2023

GENEVA (8 August 2023) – The importance of ensuring meaningful decision-making for Indigenous Peoples is reliant on their youth, especially young Indigenous women and girls’ leadership and empowerment, a UN expert said today. Ahead of the International Day of World’s Indigenous Peoples, UN Special Rapporteur on the rights of Indigenous Peoples, Cali Tzay urged States to take affirmative action to guarantee their full public and political participation as a crucial element for the realisation of Indigenous People’s right to self-determination. He issued the following statement: 

“Indigenous youth are particularly impacted by threats to their rights, livelihoods, and culture, including intergenerational impacts of the negative legacies of colonialism and disproportionate underrepresentation in formal decision-making, affecting even more young Indigenous women and girls. Racism and racial discrimination, stereotypes, and the lack of financial resources, support or engagement by public institutions and private entities remain persistent challenges for meaningful participation of Indigenous youth in decisions affecting them.

As we strive to address climate change and proceed to green transition, it is essential to adopt a human rights-based approach that upholds and integrates fundamental human rights principles, including the rights of Indigenous Peoples into the process. Indigenous youth should have a strong voice in “green transition” projects to address the social and environmental interventions and safeguards needed to protect the rights and livelihoods of Indigenous Peoples when economies shift to sustainable development practices to combat climate change and biodiversity loss.

Indigenous youth – especially young women and girls – are active change agents in society and champions of sustainability. Their scientific knowledge has a key role to play in safeguarding ecosystems, combating climate change and ensuring environmental justice and equity.”


Mr. Francisco Cali Tzay, was appointed Special Rapporteur on the rights of Indigenous Peoples in March 2020 and took up the role on 1 May 2020. A Mayan Cakchiquel from Guatemala, he has represented indigenous peoples at the United Nations since the early 1980s, addressing human rights violations against indigenous peoples in Guatemala and around the world.  

Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures’ experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity. 

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