There are an estimated 370 million indigenous people in the world, living across 90 countries. They make up less than 5 per cent of the world’s population, but account for 15 per cent of the poorest. They speak an overwhelming majority of the world’s estimated 7,000 languages and represent 5,000 different cultures.
Indigenous peoples are inheritors and practitioners of unique cultures and ways of relating to people and the environment. They have retained social, cultural, economic and political characteristics that are distinct from those of the dominant societies in which they live. Despite their cultural differences, indigenous peoples from around the world share common problems related to the protection of their rights as distinct peoples.
Indigenous peoples have sought recognition of their identities, way of life and their right to traditional lands, territories and natural resources for years, yet throughout history their rights have always been violated. Indigenous peoples today, are arguably among the most disadvantaged and vulnerable groups of people in the world. The international community now recognizes that special measures are required to protect their rights and maintain their distinct cultures and way of life.
2017 Theme: 10th Anniversary of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
Ten years ago, on 13 September 2007, the General Assembly adopted the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, a major milestone with respect to the cooperation and solidarity between indigenous peoples and Member States.
The Declaration is the most comprehensive international instrument on the rights of indigenous peoples. It embodies global consensus on the rights of indigenous peoples and establishes a universal framework of minimum standards for their survival, dignity and well-being. It elaborates on existing human rights standards and fundamental freedoms, as they apply to the specific situation of indigenous peoples.
Over the last decade, the implementation of the Declaration has achieved some major successes in at the national, regional and international levels. Despite the achievements, there continues to be a gap between the formal recognition of indigenous peoples and the implementation of policies on the ground.
See the press release.
Read more about this year’s observance.
On Twitter, follow #WeAreIndigenous and @UN4Indigenous
By resolution 49/214 of 23 December 1994, the United Nations General Assembly decided that the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples shall be observed on 9 August every year. The date marks the day of the first meeting, in 1982, of the UN Working Group on Indigenous Populations of the Sub-Commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights.
In 1990, the UN General Assembly proclaimed 1993 the International Year of the World’s Indigenous Peoples (A/RES/45/164 A/RES/47/75). Later, the General Assembly established two International Decades of the World’s Indigenous Peoples: the first 1995 – 2004 (resolution 48/163), and the second 2005 – 2014 (resolution 59/174), with the goal of strengthening international cooperation for solving problems faced by indigenous peoples in areas such as human rights, the environment, development, education, health, economic and social development.
As requested in the outcome document of the 2014 World Conference on Indigenous Peoples, a UN System-Wide Action Plan on the rights of indigenous peoples was developed by the Inter-Agency Support Group on Indigenous Issues in 2015, in consultations with indigenous peoples, UN Members States, UN agencies and other stakeholders. It aims to ensure a coherent approach to achieving the ends of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, including through improved support to Member States and indigenous peoples.
- 2016: “Indigenous Peoples’ Right to Education”
- 2015: “Post 2015 Agenda: Ensuring indigenous peoples’ health and well-being”
- 2014: “Bridging the gap: implementing the rights of indigenous peoples”
- 2013: Indigenous peoples building alliances: Honouring treaties, agreements and other constructive arrangements
- 2012: Indigenous Media, Empowering Indigenous Voices
- 2011: Indigenous designs: celebrating stories and cultures, crafting their own future
- 2010: Celebrating Indigenous Film Making
- 2009: Indigenous Peoples and HIV/AIDS
- 2008: Reconciliation between States and indigenous peoples
- 2007: Urgent need to preserve indigenous languages
- 2006: Indigenous Peoples: human rights, dignity and development with identity
- 2005: The Cause of Indigenous Peoples is Ours