Statement on the Occasion of the International Day of the World's Indigenous Peoples

09 Aug 2007

On this International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples, I would like to make a special call on Governments, bilateral and multilateral agencies, as well as civil society organizations, to support development policies and programmes, including population and reproductive health programmes that take into account the rights, needs, culture and traditions of indigenous peoples.

In our work, my colleagues and I at UNFPA apply a culturally sensitive approach to programming, recognizing and appreciating the valuable knowledge and unique culture of indigenous peoples. UNFPA supports programmes led by and for indigenous peoples in a number of countries including Bolivia, Brazil, Guatemala, Chile, Panama and Ecuador. The Jambi Huasi programme in Ecuador, for example, incorporates traditional medicine alongside modern obstetric care and provides an experience to impact reproductive health policies with a multicultural approach. Respect for the cultural diversity and identity of all the communities that we serve is an essential part of UNFPA’s development efforts.

Indigenous women are particularly vulnerable – they have less income, less education and higher maternal and infant death rates than non indigenous women. Thus, their opportunities are fewer and the risks to their well-being are higher. Even so, these women can contribute so much, especially when there are programmes that support and empower them.

The more that indigenous communities continue to be under threat, impacted by the global economic systems, climate change and rapid population growth, as well as the exploitation of their natural resources, the more we need to ensure our programmes not only protect them, but learn from, value and appreciate the unique blend of knowledge and tradition, of culture and harmony with nature that is implicit in their communities.

During the last decade national and international communities have made significant progress – setting in place international and national frameworks and norms, recognizing territorial and other rights and seeking to increase indigenous peoples’ participation in national and regional political processes.

Today let us agree to guarantee that our development policies and programmes recognize the unique contribution and treasure the richness of the cultures of indigenous peoples all over the world.

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