Building peace in the minds of men and women

International Day of the World's Indigenous Peoples

9 August

By resolution 49/214 of 23 December 1994, the United Nations General Assembly decided that the International Day of the World's Indigenous Peoples shall be observed on 9 August every year. The date marks the day of the first meeting, in 1982, of the UN Working Group on Indigenous Populations of the Sub-Commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights. In 1990, the UN General Assembly proclaimed 1993 the International Year of the World's Indigenous Peoples (A/RES/45/164 A/RES/47/75)

Each year, UNESCO marks the celebration of the Day by sharing information on projects and activities that are relevant to the annual theme. 

Indigenous peoples live in all regions of the world and own, occupy or use some 22% of global land area. Numbering at least 370-500 million, indigenous peoples represent the greater part of the world’s cultural diversity, and have created and speak the major share of the world’s almost 7000 languages. Many indigenous peoples continue to be confronted with marginalization, extreme poverty and other human rights violations. Through partnerships with indigenous peoples, UNESCO seeks to support them in addressing the multiple challenges they face, while acknowledging their significant role in sustaining the diversity of the world’s cultural and biological landscape.

MESSAGE FROM THE DIRECTOR-GENERAL

"The disappearance of indigenous languages is a major threat to indigenous communities and their unique heritage, as well as to our global diversity and our very potential for creativity and innovation. Through the International Year of Indigenous Languages (IYIL2019), UNESCO strives to focus attention on these critical issues, and to take steps towards global collective action to address them."

— Audrey Azoulay, Director General, Message on the occasion of the International Day of the World's Indigenous Peoples 2019

Download the complete message in PDF format
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WHAT UNESCO DOES WITH INDIGENOUS PEOPLES

Through partnerships with indigenous peoples, UNESCO seeks to support them in addressing the multiple challenges they face, while acknowledging their significant role in sustaining the diversity of the world’s cultural and biological landscape. UNESCO places the needs of indigenous peoples amongst its priority areas for response.

 

Wide angle stories

Most indigenous languages are in danger, even though they are the main conveyors of knowledge that provide original solutions to contemporary challenges. “The major influence on the sorry state of their languages is the fact that indigenous peoples are threatened themselves,” says Minnie Degawan (Igorot, Philippines) in her introductory article.

The designation of 2019 as the International Year of Indigenous Languages (IY2019(link is external)) gives us the opportunity to review issues related to indigenous languages and knowledge in other latitudes as well: among Fijians in the Pacific, the Dong in China, the Sámi in Swedish Lapland, the Bahima in Uganda, the Maori in New Zealand and the Mixtec in Mexico.