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Indigenous Youth as Agents of Change: Celebrating the International Day of the World’s Indigenous People 2023

On August 9, 2023, the world will observe the International Day of the World’s Indigenous People, a day dedicated to raising awareness and protecting the rights of the world’s indigenous population. This year, the theme of the day is “Indigenous youth as agents of change for self-determination”, which recognizes the role and contributions of indigenous youth in exercising their rights and aspirations in various contexts .

According to the United Nations, there are an estimated 476 million indigenous peoples in the world living across 90 countries. They make up less than 5 per cent of the world’s population, but account for 15 per cent of the poorest. They speak an overwhelming majority of the world’s estimated 7,000 languages and represent 5,000 different cultures .

Indigenous peoples are inheritors and practitioners of unique cultures and ways of relating to people and the environment. They have retained social, cultural, economic and political characteristics that are distinct from those of the dominant societies in which they live. However, they also face many challenges and vulnerabilities related to their identities, cultures, languages, lands, territories, natural resources, education, health, and human rights .

In this context of demand for self-determination, indigenous youth are working as agents of change at the forefront of some of the most pressing crises facing humanity today. For instance, indigenous youth are harnessing cutting-edge technologies and developing new skills to offer solutions and contribute to a more sustainable, peaceful future for their people and planet. But their future depends as well on the decisions that are made today. Their representation and participation in global efforts towards climate change mitigation, peacebuilding, and digital cooperation are crucial for the effective implementation of their rights as indigenous.

Indigenous youth are also mobilizing for justice and seeking to end the violations of their rights by governments, corporations, and other actors. They are advocating for their rights to self-determination, autonomy, land, territory, natural resources, free prior and informed consent, cultural integrity, and non-discrimination. They are also promoting their cultures, traditions, and contributions to the world as sources of pride and strength.

Moreover, indigenous youth are creating intergenerational connections with their elders and ancestors and preserving their unique cultures and ways of relating to people and the environment. They are learning from their wisdom and knowledge and passing it on to future generations. They are also teaching and inspiring others to respect and value their diversity and resilience.

The International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples 2023 aims to celebrate and support the rights and aspirations of indigenous peoples, especially their youth, as they are vital for the well-being of humanity and the planet. The day will also feature a commemoration event where speakers will share their expertise and experience about the role of indigenous youth in exercising self-determination. The event will be held on August 9, 2023 from 9:00 to 10:30 a.m. EDT (New York time) and will be open for online registration.

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