International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples was celebrated around the world a couple of days ago on August 9. This year was devoted to ‘Indigenous Peoples’ Right to Education.’ The designated date of August 9th goes back to 1994 when the United Nations General Assembly established the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples to be observed on this date to mark the day of the first meeting of the UN Working Group on Indigenous Populations of the Sub-Commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights back in 1982.
The Talamua Online News (Samoa) ran a very interesting article about the day. You can read it in its entirety by clicking here. I have selected a few paragraphs to share below:
There are around 370 million indigenous peoples worldwide, living across 90 countries and representing 5000 diverse cultures. They make up less than 5 per cent of humanity, yet represent around 15 per cent of the world’s poorest people. Two thirds of the world’s indigenous peoples live in Asia and the Pacific. They include groups often referred to as tribal peoples, hill tribes, adivasis, janajati, orang asli, aboriginal or native.
Indigenous peoples make significant contributions to humanity’s cultural, intellectual and economic wealth. Across Asia and the Pacific, they are sharing essential knowledge and skills in conservation and the sustainable use of land, forests and natural resources – key to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.
Yet many indigenous peoples remain unprotected and unrecognized. They face forced assimilation, exclusion and systemic discrimination. Their cultures, stories and knowledge are in danger of being lost. Indigenous children, in particular, are often deprived of opportunities to fulfill their full potential. The promise of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development is to ensure a life of dignity for all, leaving no one behind, so special attention must be paid to the needs and rights of indigenous peoples.
Education is essential to preserve the unique identities of indigenous peoples, as well as for the full development of their potential as individuals and as communities. This is why the United Nations has chosen ’Indigenous Peoples’ Right to Education’ as the theme for the 2016 International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples. The UN Declaration recognizes the right of indigenous peoples to be educated in their own languages and cultures and calls on states to guarantee this right.
Yet there are many barriers to fulfillment, including a low prioritization of education for indigenous peoples in allocating public resources, language barriers and discriminatory and racist attitudes in education systems that are often reflected in textbooks and materials. Indigenous communities in Asia and the Pacific also face obstacles in accessing health services, including quality sexual and reproductive health care and family planning. As a result, maternal and child mortality rates are higher, life expectancies are lower and people die younger among indigenous groups.
It is hoped that more progress will be made to urge all governments to better prioritize the lives and livelihoods of indigenous peoples in policy planning and to offer more opportunities for their participation in policy planning and implementation. There is also a need and desire for governments to gather, analyze and disseminate accurate and disaggregated data on indigenous groups for sound policy formulation.