Monday, 18 November 2019

UN in your language

Indigenous people

Indigenous people

Ladakhi woman UN Photo - F. Charton

The World´s indigenous people are In Focus this time. They can be found all around the world from Australia to the Arctic. We take a look at why they have been granted special rights in international law and take a closer look at Europe´s indigenous people; the Samis in three of the Nordic countries and the Greenlanders who seem to have independence within reach.

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1 Individual vs. collective rights
2 Greenland: Oil fortune to fund independence
3 The Sami of Northern Europe – one people, four countries
4 Indigenous Peoples in Canada

3 Questions to Denise Zmekho Director of the film "Children of the Amazon"


  • Considering the diversity of indigenous peoples, an official definition of “indigenous” has not been adopted by any UN-system body. Instead the system has developed a modern understanding of this term based on the following:
    o Self- identification as indigenous peoples at the individual level and accepted by the community as their member.
    o Historical continuity with pre-colonial and/or pre-settler societies
    o Strong link to territories and surrounding natural resources
    o Distinct social, economic or political systems
    o Distinct language, culture and beliefs
    o Form non-dominant groups of society
    o Resolve to maintain and reproduce their ancestral environments and systems as distinctive peoples and communities.

  • It is estimated that there are more than 370 million indigenous people spread across 70 countries worldwide. Practicing unique traditions, they retain social, cultural, economic and political characteristics that are distinct from those of the dominant societies in which they live.

  • Most indicators of well-being show that indigenous peoples suffer disproportionately compared to non-indigenous peoples. Poverty rates are significantly higher among indigenous peoples compared to other groups. While they constitute 5 per cent of the world's population, they are 15 per cent of the world's poor.

  • Of the some 7,000 languages today, it is estimated that more than 4,000 are spoken by indigenous peoples. Language specialists predict that up to 90 per cent of the world’s languages are likely to become extinct or threatened with extinction by the end of the century.