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UN releases first-ever publication on the state of the world’s indigenous peoples

In January, the United Nations released it’s first-ever publication assessing indigenous issues worldwide. The State of the World’s Indigenous Peoples gives the most thorough assessment to date of how the world’s approximately 370 million indigenous peoples fare in the areas of education, employment, economic development, human rights, and poverty. Each of the report’s seven chapters, written by independent experts on indigenous issues from all over the world, tackles one of these crucial topics, as well as other emerging issues faced by indigenous communities.

In addition to addressing the issues, the report also offers facts and figures for different regions, which present mostly alarming statistics on violations of human rights of indigenous peoples; lack of recognition of free, prior, and informed consent; respect of their cultural diversity; and right to education.

Although much of what is contained in this extensive report is quite alarming, there is certainly reason to feel optimistic. In her introduction to the report, Chief of the Secretariat of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, Mrs. Elissavet Stamatopoulou, states the following: “There has been a vigorous and dynamic interface between indigenous peoples—numbering more than 370 million in some 90 countries—the United Nations, an interface which, difficult as it is, has produced at least three results: a.) a new awareness of indigenous peoples’ concerns and human rights; b.) recognition of indigenous peoples’ valuable contribution to humanity’s cultural diversity and heritage, not least through their traditional knowledge; and c.) an awareness of the need to address the issues of indigenous peoples through policies [and] legislation…”

An example the international communities “new awareness of indigenous peoples’ concerns and human rights” is the adoption of the Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples by the General Assembly in September 2007. There is also a growing recognition of indigenous peoples’ roles as the stewards of some of the world’s most biologically diverse areas and their invaluable traditional knowledge of the biodiversity of these areas. As climate change takes its place as one of the greatest threats to humanity, it is increasingly clear that indigenous peoples’ should be a part of the solutions to developing adaptations and mitigation of this issue.

Indigenous peoples continue to organize amongst themselves to advocate for their rights and increase awareness within their communities of their rights.

The full-length version of The State of the World’s Indigenous Peoples can be found on the website of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues.

The State of the World’s Indigenous Peoples is the result of a collaborative effort, organized by the Secretariat of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues.

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