For information only - not an official document.
Press Release No: UNIS/SG/2628
Release Date: 8 August 2000
Secretary-General Says Protection of Indigenous Children
And Youth Is Investment in Future of Humankind

NEW YORK, 7 August (UN Headquarters) -- Following is the text of Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s message for the International Day of the World’s Indigenous People, which is observed on 9 August:

As we mark this year's International Day of the World's Indigenous People, we have new progress to celebrate.  Only last month, the Economic and Social Council decided to create a Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, to be in place by 2002.  The establishment of this new mechanism is a historic step forward in the recognition of indigenous people's legitimate struggle for respect of their way of life.  It will give them a clear voice within the United Nations system and help ensure better protection of their human rights.  

Composed of representatives from both governments and indigenous peoples, this high-level advisory body is intended as a forum for dialogue, reconciliation and cooperation in all areas of concern to indigenous peoples.  Its broad mandate will include not only human rights, but also economic and social development, culture, environment, education and health.  It will allow for greater integration and coordination of the United Nations work as it relates to indigenous populations, as well as gather and distribute information on indigenous issues.  

The establishment of a permanent forum was one of the fundamental goals of the International Decade of the World's Indigenous People proclaimed by the General Assembly for the period 1995-2004.  Halfway through the Decade, the progress achieved in several areas has given true meaning to the idea of Partnership in Action, the Decade's theme.    

This year, the Working Group on Indigenous Populations has focused on indigenous children and youth.  We must do all we can to defend the rights and meet the needs of this most vulnerable of groups.  Their protection is an investment in the future of humankind.  It is through youth that the culture and values of indigenous peoples will be kept alive.

And so, as we observe this first International Day of the World's Indigenous People of the twenty-first century, let us pay tribute to the richness of their traditions and their contribution to the diversity of our world.  Let us resolve to safeguard their interests and their rights, wherever they may live. `

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