9 August 2016
The United Nations is marking August 9 as the International Day of the World’s Indigenous People.
The Day is marked annually on August 9 in recognition of the first meeting of the United Nations Working Group on Indigenous Populations, held in Geneva in 1982.
It was established by the General Assembly in December 1994.
UN offices around the world are celebrating the day with a variety of events and activities in Colombia, Ghana, Honduras, Indonesia, Peru and Sri Lanka this year.
There are an estimated 370 million indigenous people in some 90 countries around the world. practicing unique traditions, they retain social, cultural, economic and political characteristics that are distinct from those of the dominant societies in which they live.
Experts recommend efforts to ensure that indigenous peoples have access to education that is culturally and linguistically appropriate, with special priority given to indigenous women and girls as well as second chance, vocational training and adult literacy programmes.
The United Nations said in a statement that this year’s theme is: Indigenous Peoples Right to Education.
It said the right of indigenous peoples to education is protected by the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
The Declaration states that: “indigenous peoples have the right to establish and control their educational systems and institutions, providing education in their own languages, in a manner appropriate to their cultural methods of teaching and learning.’’
“The right of indigenous peoples to education is also protected by a number of other international human rights instruments, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights,’’ it added.
It observed that Goal 4 of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development 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.
“Where data exist, they show consistent and persistent disparities between the indigenous and the non-indigenous population in terms of educational access, retention and achievement, in all regions of the world,’’ it noted.
It said the education sector not only mirrored the historical abuses, discrimination and marginalisation suffered by indigenous peoples, but also reflected their continued struggle for equality and respect for their rights as peoples and as individuals.
Declaring activities marking the event open, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon said: “on this International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples, I call on governments everywhere to improve access to education for indigenous peoples and to reflect their experiences and culture in places of learning.’’
“Let us commit to ensuring indigenous peoples are not left behind as we pursue the vision of the Sustainable Development Goals.’’
According to an upcoming report on the State of the World’s Indigenous Peoples on Education, in Nunavut, the northernmost territory in Canada and in Inuit in Greenland, high school graduation rates are well below average, and only 40 per cent of all school age indigenous children are attending school full time.
In Australia, participation of indigenous 15-year-olds to 19-year-olds in higher education was 60 per cent in 2013, well below the 80 per cent participation for all Australians in the same age group.
In Latin America and the Caribbean, on average, 85 per cent of indigenous children attain secondary education, but only 40 per cent complete that level of education.
However, the 2030 Agenda does not include indicators on mother tongue language education, an area that indigenous peoples have been lobbying for.
The first State of the World’s Indigenous Peoples, authored by independent experts and edited by the Secretariat of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, was published in 2009 and revealed alarming statistics on indigenous peoples’ poverty, health, education, employment, human rights, the environment and other issues.