The State of the Worlds Indigenous Peoples

The United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs Secretariat (2009)

The United Nations is commonly seen as one of humankinds’ most ambitious projects, striving to attain human rights, development and peace and security for all. In many ways, the ambitious, lofty nature of its goals is both the United Nations greatest strength and its greatest challenge. Despite unprecedented progress made during the United Nations first sixty years, there remains a lingering frustration that the poorest of the poor, the most marginalized and discriminated against, still do not enjoy their basic human rights, development or security. Indigenous peoples concerns have not always been represented at the United Nations and, for the first decades of existence of the Organization, their voices were not heard there. This has slowly changed and the United Nations system has, in recent years, taken a number of steps to atone for past oversights, increasingly building partnerships with indigenous peoples. There has been a vigorous and dynamic interface between indigenous peoples numbering more than 370million in some 90 countries and 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 invaluable 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, legislation and budgets. Along with the movements for decolonization and human rights, as well as the women’s and environmental movements, the indigenous movement has been one of the most active civil society interlocutors of the United Nations since 1945.

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