Although some countries have begun to address their “heinous legacy” of discrimination against indigenous peoples, UN Secretary-General António Guterres said on Monday that further action is needed.
In a message commemorating the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called for an end to the “grievous disparities” that these communities face.
He stated that Indigenous peoples all around the world continue to be marginalised, discriminated against, and excluded.
These vast discrepancies are reinforced by a deeply held aversion to recognising and respecting indigenous peoples’ rights, dignity, and freedoms, which is rooted in colonialism and patriarchy.
More than 476 million indigenous people live in 90 countries around the world, accounting for just over 6% of the global population.
They share a special bond with their homelands and represent a wide range of distinct cultures, traditions, languages, and knowledge systems.
Indigenous peoples have been plundered of their lands and territories, among other things, throughout modern history, according to the Secretary-General. They have been robbed of their own children in some circumstances.
Some have also had their political and economic sovereignty taken away from them, as well as their cultures and languages being “denigrated and exterminated.
Mr. Guterres stated that the world has recently learnt about some of the tragedies that indigenous peoples have suffered at the hands of invaders.
Some countries have begun to address this horrible legacy through apologies, truth and reconciliation efforts, as well as legislative and constitutional reforms, he said. However, there is much more to be done.
The UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, adopted in 2007, and the resulting paper of the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples, held seven years later, were cited by the Secretary-General as “means” for achieving the new social contract.
Moreover, the UN chief emphasised that indigenous knowledge must be held and shared by indigenous communities themselves, despite growing acknowledgement of its relevance, particularly in regard to solving global concerns such as the climate crisis and limiting the spread of dangerous illnesses.
In a related development, although the COVID-19 epidemic has exposed and exacerbated global disparities, a UN independent expert has cautioned that even recovery attempts are having severe consequences for indigenous populations.
Economic recovery efforts, according to Special Rapporteur José Francisco Cali Tzay, have prioritised and promoted the expansion of business operations at the expense of indigenous peoples, their territories, and the environment.
Mr Cali Tzay also asked governments to support solutions that prioritise indigenous peoples’ rights to self-determination and territory in post-pandemic recovery efforts, as outlined in a 2007 United Nations Declaration.
The UN Human Rights Council in Geneva appoints special rapporteurs and independent experts. They work in their own right and do not work for the United Nations or get payment from the organisation.