Today marks the International Day of the World's Indigenous Peoples, which was first announced by the UN General Assembly in 1994.
The event is to recognize the important contributions made by indigenous communities and the struggles they face across the world.
This year’s theme is the 10th anniversary of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which set out a framework for signatory countries to maintain the survival and dignity of their indigenous populations.
Much progress has been made since for the estimated 370 million indigenous people across 90 countries, but for many violence and discrimination remain facets of daily life, sometimes at the hands of states that voted in favour of the declaration.
“In too many cases, indigenous peoples are now facing even greater struggles and rights violations than they did ten years ago,” said the UN’s leading officials for indigenous issues in a joint statement.
As a global race for resources heats up, these communities are at greater risk than ever of being forced from their ancestral land.
In Brazil, ranchers have illegally encroached on indigenous territory, resulting in the deaths of scores of people and the devastation of the country’s rainforest. In India, mining and industrial development have led to armed conflict as communities face eradication in the face of government-sanctioned projects.
And in Honduras, threats continue against the family and associates of Berta Caceres, an activist who successfully opposed the Agua Zarca Dam and who was gunned down in her home last year.
As the UN itself acknowledges, governments across the world must redouble efforts protect their vulnerable indigenous communities and to ensure that the 2007 declaration is more than a list of good intentions.
- Ruairi Casey
Read more about the increasing violence against activists and indigenous people in PLACE’s special series of investigations ‘Politics of Death’.
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