New York, NY - The global community must move from words to action to protect the rights of its indigenous peoples, from their lives to their livelihoods and their lands to their languages, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan said today in a message marking the International Day of the World's Indigenous People.
"We rejoice in the richness of indigenous cultures and the special contributions they make to the human family," he declared, noting that the first International Decade of the World's Indigenous People launched in 1995 helped make their voices heard more clearly around the world.
"We also recall the tremendous challenges which so many indigenous peoples face, ranging from unacceptable levels of poverty and disease to dispossession, discrimination and denial of basic human rights," he added.
"This year, we enter a Second Decade, and as we do so, let us remember that dialogue alone is not enough. Our focus must be on action to protect the rights of indigenous peoples and improve their situations with respect to their lands, their languages, their livelihoods, and their cultures."
The Day was being marked throughout the whole UN system with special observances ranging from artistic performance to panel discussions and messages from specialized agencies highlighting the issues within their purview.
For example, the Director General of the UN World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), Kamil Idris, highlighted the need to protect traditional cultural expressions and knowledge and associated genetic resources against misappropriation and misuse, thus helping indigenous peoples to exercise greater authority over how these vital elements of their cultural identity are used and disseminated.
At UN Headquarters in New York, indigenous artists were staging performances in the Public Lobby and a panel discussion was being held in the Dag Hammarskjöld Auditorium.
The celebrations also included the screening of a documentary film, 'Indigenous Peoples and the United Nations,' which is intended to raise awareness about indigenous issues among government officials and staff of UN agencies, funds and programmes.
For full program of the International Day's events and information see:
For more details go to UN News Centre at http://www.un.org/news