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Statement of the OAS Secretary General on International Day of the World's Indigenous Peoples

  August 9, 2018

The indigenous population of the world is approximately 370 million people, who live in more than 70 countries, according to estimates of international organizations. Today is the International Day of the World's Indigenous Peoples, but unfortunately many of them have little to celebrate. Despite the fact they represent 5 percent of the world´s population, indigenous peoples make up 15 percent of the poorest people in the world and continue to be one of the most vulnerable groups. This situation of vulnerability is closely linked to colonization, racism, discrimination and the historic denial of their individual and collective rights.

ECLAC states that in Latin America there are 826 indigenous peoples, with a population nearing 45 million people, in addition to the 10 million that live in the United States and Canada, according to official data. These peoples are characterized by their broad demographic, social, territorial and political diversity, and include peoples living in voluntary isolation to those present in large urban settlements.

In the framework of the OAS we have advanced in the protection and recognition of the rights of these peoples. In 2016, after 17 years of negotiation with the active participation of the representatives of the indigenous peoples, the American Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples was adopted, the principal instrument for the promotion of the rights of the indigenous peoples in the Americas. The Inter-American Convention Against Racism, Racial Discrimination and Related Forms of Intolerance, adopted in 2013, is another important juridical tool to prevent, punish and eliminate racism and discrimination against indigenous peoples.

Additionally, in February 2018, the OAS Permanent Council resolved that each year the Inter-American Week for Indigenous Peoples would be held in the second week of August. We are celebrating the first edition this week.

However, there is still much to be done, especially to facilitate indigenous peoples' real and effective access to these rights. As with all members of our societies, with the inclusion of indigenous peoples we all win, our democracy wins, our ethnic-cultural diversity benefits, and our environment wins. Their inclusion makes us better societies. I invite you to join us to work for more rights for more indigenous people in the Americas.

Reference: S-044/18