4 August 2006

Indigenous People Face Challenges Posed by Poverty, Discrimination, Says Secretary-General in Message for International Day

NEW YORK, 3 August (UN Headquarters) -- Following is the message by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan for the International Day of the World's Indigenous People, observed on 9 August:

The annual observance of this International Day recognizes the achievements of the world's indigenous people, who number more than 370 million and who live in some 70 countries. But, it is also a moment to acknowledge the critical challenges they face. Much remains to be done to alleviate the poverty faced by many indigenous people; to protect them against massive violations of human rights; and to safeguard against the discrimination that, for example, forces many indigenous girls to drop out of school.

In the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, indigenous peoples now have an official home at the United Nations. And, as the proceedings of the Forum have stressed, the perspectives, concerns, experiences and world views of indigenous peoples have a crucial role to play in addressing global challenges and our efforts to achieve the Millennium Development Goals. Indeed, only by respecting cultural diversity and indigenous peoples' right to self-determination can our work together truly be called a partnership.

This year's observance is also a day on which to welcome the recent adoption, by the first session of the new Human Rights Council, of the draft United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The product of many years of complex and, at times, contentious negotiations, the Declaration is an instrument of historic significance for the advancement of the rights and dignity of the world's indigenous peoples. Its expected adoption by the United Nations General Assembly before the end of the year will be a major achievement, with potential to further mobilize indigenous people and their partners.

On this International Day, in the Second International Decade of the World's Indigenous People, I call upon all actors -- States, indigenous peoples, United Nations bodies, international development agencies, non-governmental organizations and the private sector -- to give renewed attention and true meaning to the Decade's theme, and build a "partnership for action and dignity".

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