7 August 2001


NEW YORK, 6 August (UN Headquarters) -- This International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples finds us in the midst of intensive preparations for the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, which will meet for the first time in May next year, at the United Nations Headquarters.

This Forum, created by the Economic and Social Council last year, is a pioneering initiative aimed at giving indigenous peoples the chance to bring their concerns to the attention of the whole world. By the end of this year, 16 independent experts, half of them nominated by indigenous peoples, will have been elected. We look forward to this event as a further development in the continued relationship between the United Nations and indigenous peoples.

This year has also seen the landmark decision by the Commission on Human Rights to establish a Special Rapporteur on the human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous peoples. The Special Rapporteur will provide an important mechanism for monitoring the human rights situation of indigenous peoples, and play an active role in bringing them together with governments to look for reconciliation and justice.

Indigenous affairs will be high on the agenda of the World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance, taking place in September. Indigenous peoples will be an important voice amongst those combating the scourge of racism and discrimination. The results of the Conference must lead to real solutions to the problems they face.

On this International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples, let us pay tribute to their rich cultures and traditions, and their precious contribution to the diversity of the world. Let us pledge to protect their interests and their rights, in a renewed dialogue built on trust and respect.

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