International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples: An Inclusive Celebration

Approximately 45 million indigenous people live in Latin America and the Caribbean, accounting for 8 per cent of the population, but they speak over 500 indigenous languages and are stewards of some of the most biodiverse territories of the planet. For many indigenous peoples, cultural heritage, language, indigenous knowledge of the environment and knowing how to live well are all connected.

“The Kolla people are an example of this. “For them, the hummingbird has a profound spiritual meaning that connects the people with well-being and decision-making for the future. The hummingbird must be protected and cared for. In other words, the hummingbird represents the link between the importance of knowing, respecting and caring for the environment and community-based development and being connected to Pachamama (mother earth)” asserted Serena Heckler, UNESCO’s regional programme specialist for Ecological and Earth Sciences for Latin America and the Caribbean.

Marked every year on 9 August, the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples is an opportunity to celebrate these communities and their knowledge. This year’s theme focuses on building a new social contract with indigenous peoples – one that is anchored in human rights and respect for their worldviews, indigenous concepts of development and good governance. UNESCO Montevideo works with indigenous peoples of Latin America and the Caribbean to amplify their voices and to increase indigenous peoples’ inclusion and participation in decision-making.

To amplify indigenous peoples’ voices in governance and decision-making in issues related to the environment and climate change, UNESCO is supporting working groups for social inclusion and participation in UNESCO sites. Through its Local and Indigenous Knowledge Systems (LINKS) Programme, it is supporting a series of workshops with indigenous peoples in Argentina to increase involvement of indigenous knowledge holders with international environmental assessments and processes, including the Convention on Biodiversity. It will also host a capacity-building webinar on indigenous knowledge-based fire management in the face of climate change.

As vehicles for indigenous knowledge about sustainable development and living well, indigenous languages are vital elements of indigenous identity. UNESCO is proud to serve as Secretariat of the International Year of Indigenous Languages 2019 and the upcoming International Decade of Indigenous Languages.


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