Today we mark the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples. There is much to celebrate, including solid human rights standards on which to build inclusive societies in partnership with indigenous peoples. The imprint of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) and the ILO Indigenous and Tribal Peoples Convention (No. 169), can today be found across the globe on many national laws, policies and institutions – clear evidence that moving indigenous peoples’ rights from theory to practice is possible and beneficial.
But there is also much to make us pause for reflection. Indigenous peoples are disproportionately affected by poverty, and they face systemic discrimination and exclusion from political and economic decision-making. In all regions, we still witness wide gaps between human rights commitments and realities faced by indigenous peoples. That is why the theme of this year’s International Day, “Bridging the gap: implementing the rights of indigenous peoples”, could not be more fitting.
We need to bolster our efforts to combat discrimination, to ensure respect for indigenous peoples’ cultures, identity and institutions, to promote their important contribution to cultural diversity and to protect their cultural heritage and resources. We need renewed commitment with which to bridge the implementation gap. We have a unique occasion to demonstrate this next month, as Member States and indigenous peoples gather in New York for the first-ever World Conference on Indigenous Peoples. The World Conference is an opportunity to develop, with indigenous peoples, a practical roadmap leading to stronger action to promote and protect the rights of indigenous peoples. This can include action plans to implement the UNDRIP as well as further ratifications of ILO Convention No. 169, as we celebrate its 25th anniversary. The World Conference should also contribute to the development of an inclusive post-2015 development agenda, including Sustainable Development Goals that fully reflect the rights of indigenous peoples.
Bridging the implementation gap of indigenous peoples’ rights also requires enhanced field action by the UN and closer partnerships with indigenous peoples and governments at the national level. This is the objective of the United Nations Indigenous Peoples Partnership (UNIPP), an inter-agency initiative launched by ILO, OHCHR, UNDP, UNICEF and UNFPA. Activities under this partnership are based on recommendations by the UN mechanisms dealing with indigenous peoples. Concrete impact on the ground is outlined in a recent publication “UNIPP Success Stories: Cooperating to promote and protect indigenous peoples’ rights”.
The ILO and OHCHR are committed to expanding positive practices and working together with indigenous peoples and other partners to bridge the implementation gap and to achieve full realization of indigenous peoples’ rights.