Through the International Day and Decade on Indigenous Peoples, the United Nations aims to strengthen international cooperation for solving problems faced by indigenous people in such areas as human rights, development, education and health. Also, it celebrates the achievements and contributions of indigenous people to improve world issues, such as environmental protection.
In 1994, the United Nations General Assembly decided that the International Day of the World’s Indigenous People shall be observed on 9 August. The date marks the day of the first meeting, in 1982, of the UN Working Group on Indigenous Populations of the Sub-commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights.
Indigenous People in Canada
Unfortunately, despite living in the developed world, indigenous peoples of North America often suffer many social obstacles. These factors can play into indigenous peoples’ social dislocation and alienation from both their ancestral lands, and North American society in general.
Also, Aboriginal People have serious environmental concerns: the natural relationships that have sustained them are now altered because of the exploitation of the land and water. These changes have accelerated in recent years with health issues related to toxic chemicals and pollution.
On a positive note, Canada was one of the first countries in the modern era to extend constitutional protection to indigenous peoples’ rights. This constitutional protection has provided a strong foundation for advancing indigenous peoples’ rights over the last 30 years, especially through the courts.
Indigenous peoples and the Millennium Development Goals
A group of United Nations experts stated that the new global sustainable development agenda must include specific references to indigenous peoples and the challenges they face.
As the experts say: “Indigenous peoples can contribute significantly to achieving the objectives of sustainable development because of their traditional knowledge systems on natural resource management which have sustained some of the world’s more intact, diverse ecosystems up to the present”.
More on the the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and their references to indigenous peoples in the next blog post.