Saturday, 16 January 2021

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The world's indigenous peoples must not be left behind

UN Photo/Mark Garten

9 August 2016 - There are an estimated 370 million indigenous people in the world, living across 90 countries. They make up less than 5 percent of the world's population, but speak an overwhelming majority of the world's estimated 7,000 languages and represent 5,000 different cultures.  Since 1995 the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples has been celebrated on August 9 each year to promote and protect the rights of the world’s indigenous population.

The Nordic countries are home to various indigenous peoples. The Sami are one such group; numbering up to 70,000 Sami, their homeland is known as Sápmi (Samiland) and extends across the Russian Kola Peninsula, northernmost Finland, Sweden and coastal and inland parts of northern Norway. Meanwhile, Greenland is predominantly populated by another indigenous people- approximately 90 percent of the population is Inuit.

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development sets out to include everyone in the journey to a world of peace and dignity, opportunity and prosperity. Indigenous peoples are amongst the most vulnerable to being left behind because they face a wide range of grave challenges including systematic discrimination, marginalisation, denial of their land and territorial rights and inadequate access to essential services.

Harvey Barrison, Flickr 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0) 

The theme for this year’s International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples is: “Indigenous Peoples’ Right to Education”.

The right of indigenous peoples to education is protected by the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, as well as a number of other international human rights instruments. Furthermore, Goal 4 of Agenda 2030 calls for ensuring equal access to all levels of education and vocational training for the vulnerable, including persons with disabilities, indigenous peoples and children in vulnerable situations.

In spite of these instruments, the right to education has not been fully realised for most indigenous peoples, and a critical education gap exists between indigenous peoples and the general population. Children of indigenous people remain less likely to be enrolled in school and more likely to underperform than non-indigenous children. Linked with socio-economic and cultural barriers, this marginalisation often creates a vicious circle of disadvantage.

UN Photo/John Isaac

In his message on the International Day of the World's Indigenous Peoples, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon calls on Governments everywhere to improve access to education for indigenous people and to reflect their experiences and culture in places of learning. 


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