International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples

August 9: International Day of the World's Indigenous Peoples

On August 9 we celebrate the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples

Before anything else, why do we use the word “indigenous” instead of “aboriginal”?

Indigenous comes from the Latin word indigena, which means “sprung from the land; native.” Therefore, using “Indigenous” over “Aboriginal” reinforces land claims and encourages territory acknowledgments, a practice that links Indigenous Peoples to their land and respects their claims over it.

Why is August 9 the day of indigenous peoples?

The United Nations and the defense of indigenous rights:

On December 23, 1994, during the International Decade of the World’s Indigenous Populations, the UN General Assembly decided, in its resolution A/RES/49/214, that the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples be celebrated every year. On August 9, to commemorate the celebration of the first meeting, in 1982, of the Working Group on Indigenous Peoples of the Subcommission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities.

As requested in the outcome document of the 2014 World Conference on Indigenous Peoples, a United Nations System-wide Plan of Action on the rights of indigenous peoples was developed in 2015. Its objective is to ensure a coherent approach to achieving the goals of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples by enhancing support to the Member States and indigenous peoples.

Added to these recognitions are a series of events such as the proclamation in 1993 of the International Year of the World’s Indigenous Peoples and the first International Decade of the World’s Indigenous Peoples, which began on December 10, 1994, proclaimed in resolution A /RES/48/163. The objective of both celebrations was to strengthen international cooperation to solve problems faced by indigenous communities in areas such as human rights, the environment, development, education, and health.

What is the purpose of this celebration?

This international date is an occasion to reflect on indigenous peoples’ historical and cultural relevance and their contributions to strengthening the integration process in MERCOSUR.

This International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples takes place on the eve of the Decade of Indigenous Languages ​​2022-2032, an initiative that gained momentum thanks to the 2019 International Year of Indigenous Languages celebrations.

In the Declaration of the Presidents of the States Parties to MERCOSUR and Bolivia in 2019, the commitment of the States of the region to the promotion and protection of the rights of indigenous peoples is reiterated. It is recognized that indigenous languages, as a cultural expression, are an essential component for access to education and information, employment, and the sustainable development of our people.

A no less relevant fact is that there are around 5,000 different groups in 90 countries, which have 4,000 different languages!

These concerns have been addressed by the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (2007), which states that indigenous peoples “have the right to maintain, control, protect and develop their intellectual property of said cultural heritage, their knowledge traditions, and their traditional cultural expressions” (Article 31).

As a rule, traditional knowledge and traditional cultural expressions do not fully qualify for protection under the intellectual property system as it currently exists. The “traditional” character of these cultural assets, which generally indicates that they have been passed down from generation to generation, does not fit very well with the requirements of “originality” or “novelty” that are the foundation of the intellectual property system.

However, we find certain exceptions in the current international framework regarding intellectual property. For example, the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works (1886), the WIPO Treaty on Performances and Phonograms (1996), and the Beijing Treaty on Audiovisual Performances (2012) recognize and provide interpreters or performers of expressions of folklore.

What can non-indigenous communities do to facilitate the inclusion of indigenous peoples?

To facilitate the inclusion of displaced indigenous populations, host communities can carry out multiple actions:

– Recognize their traditional skills. Indifference to their culture and livelihoods has both emotional and economic repercussions. Valuing the knowledge of those who arrive reduces the feeling of uprooting and favors inclusion.

– Prioritize local and family purchases. Buying from indigenous people who settle in new communities supports their economic stability. You must be careful since many of their products appear illegitimately reproduced by third parties in the market.

– Respect the collective dimension of their culture. Their collective rights to lands, territories, and resources are defined in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (Articles 3 and 26). The collective possession of ancestral lands is one of the indigenous peoples’ most basic forms of self-determination and is directly affected when they move. However, other aspects of their identity also meet this community characteristic, such as decision-making and collective parenting.

– Be aware of the lack of identification documents. According to UNHCR, the displaced indigenous population is one of the most likely not to have documentation such as identity documents and birth or marriage certificates. Although it is the responsibility of State institutions to grant this type of paper, what host communities can do is understand and empathize when, under some circumstances, a displaced minority lacks documents and requires access to a process or service.

– Seek alternative means of communication and openness to other languages. In Guatemala, the IACHR has stated the lack of cultural adaptation in social services, such as health, a service corresponding to the State. However, to exist in the community, communication will be necessary regularly, so learning and teaching basic concepts of the different languages ​​ in an intercultural way will facilitate interaction and the creation of ties.

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