Although some countries have begun to rectify their “heinous legacy” of discrimination against indigenous people, more action is still needed, UN Secretary-General António Guterres said on Monday.
In his message marking the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples, the UN chief called for ending to the “grievous inequalities” affecting these communities.
“Indigenous peoples around the world continue to face overwhelming marginalisation, discrimination and exclusion.
“Rooted in colonialism and patriarchy, these profound disparities are sustained by a deeply held resistance to recognising and respecting the rights, dignity, and freedoms of indigenous peoples,” he said.
According to him, there are more than 476 million indigenous living in some 90 countries worldwide, representing just over six per cent of the global population.
They have a special relationship with their lands and reflect a vast diversity of unique cultures, traditions, languages and knowledge systems.
The secretary-general recalled that throughout modern history, indigenous people had been robbed of their lands and territories, and much more. In some cases, they have been robbed of their own children.
Some have also been stripped of political and economic autonomy, while their cultures and languages have been “denigrated and extinguished”.
Guterres noted that in recent months, the world had again learned about some of the horrors indigenous communities faced at the hands of colonisers.
“Some nations have begun to address this heinous legacy through apologies, truth and reconciliation efforts, and legislative and constitutional reforms. But much more needs to be done.
“We need a new social contract – one that restores and honours the rights, dignity and freedoms of those who have been deprived of so much for so long. Central to this must be genuine dialogue, interaction and willingness to listen.”
The secretary-general pointed to the 2007 UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and the outcome document of the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples held seven years later, as the “tools” to bring about the new social contract.
“There is no excuse for denying the world’s 476 million indigenous peoples self-determination and meaningful participation in all decision-making
“Free, prior and informed consent is central for indigenous peoples to exercise their own vision of development,” he said.
Additionally, even though recognition of the importance of indigenous knowledge grows, particularly in relation to solving global challenges such as the climate crisis and preventing emergence of contagious diseases, the UN chief stressed that this knowledge must be owned and shared by indigenous communities themselves.
“On this International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples, let us show true solidarity by working to end the grievous inequalities of indigenous peoples worldwide, to fully recognize the abuse they have endured, and to celebrate their knowledge and wisdom,” he said.
In a related development, while the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed and exacerbated inequalities affecting people worldwide, a UN independent expert warned that even recovery efforts are having some negative impacts on indigenous communities.
Special Rapporteur José Tzay said economic recovery measures had prioritised and supported the expansion of business operations at the expense of indigenous peoples, their lands and the environment.
“To avoid making the situation even worse, I urge States to involve representatives, leaders and traditional authorities of indigenous peoples, including those living in urban areas, in the design and implementation of recovery policies,” he said.
Tzay further urged governments to support solutions which put indigenous peoples’ rights to self-determination and land at the core of post-pandemic recovery efforts, in line with 2007 UN Declaration.
Special Rapporteurs and independent experts are appointed by the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.
They operate in their individual capacity and are neither UN staff, nor do they receive a salary from the Organisation. (NAN)
UN Secretary-General visits Buhari At State House
The United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Wednesday paid visit to President Muhammadu Buhari at the State House in Abuja.
He was received by top government officials.
Buhari’s conversation with Guterres centred on the need to ensure peaceful and democratic elections as well as the robust participation of women and young people in all areas.
President Buhari also thanked the UN boss for the visit, stressing that it came at a time when the world is focussing on the Russia/Ukraine crisis. Buhari also believes that the visit underscores the assurance that the world is with Nigeria.
On his part, the UN scribe called for developed nations to ramp up vaccine support to countries in the global north, halt the asymmetrical distribution and reform the global financial system.
Earlier in the day, he visited the UN House in Abuja alongside some top officials and diplomats of the agency.
Guterres is on a two-day official visit to Nigeria – the first of such.
The UN chief had arrived in Nigeria on Tuesday and also visited Borno State where he proposed the reintegration of repentant terrorists. This, he said, is key to the restoration of peace in the North East region.
“The best thing we can do for peace is to reintegrate those, that in a moment of despair, became terrorists but want to become now citizens and to contribute to the well-being of their brothers and sisters,” he told a gathering at an Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camp.
The UN scribe is also expected to perform the wreath-laying ceremony in honour of the August 26, 2011, suicide bomb attack victims.
Ukraine : UN Agencies Condemn Attacks On Health Care Facilities
UN agencies on Sunday called for an immediate ceasefire and an end to attacks on healthcare professionals and facilities in Ukraine, describing such incidents as acts of “unconscionable cruelty”.
Since the start of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, 31 attacks on health care have been documented via the WHO’s Surveillance System for Attacks on Health Care (SSA), the heads of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the UN Population Fund and the World Health Organization said in a joint statement.
“To attack the most vulnerable -– babies, children, pregnant women and those already suffering from illness and disease, and health workers risking their own lives to save lives –- is an act of unconscionable cruelty,” they said, calling for an immediate ceasefire.
In 24 of the reported attacks, health care facilities were damaged or destroyed, while in five cases ambulances were hit. A total of 12 people were killed and 34 injured, according to the UN agencies’ statement.
“Humanitarian partners and health care workers must be able to safely maintain and strengthen essential health service delivery, including immunisation against Covid-19 and polio, and the supply of life-saving medicines for civilians across Ukraine as well as to refugees crossing into neighbouring countries,” said the statement, signed by UNICEF Executive Director Catherine Russell, UNFPA counterpart Natalia Kanem and WHO head Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
At least three people were killed, including a young girl, in an attack Wednesday on a children’s hospital in Mariupol in southern Ukraine.
According to the United Nations’ reproductive health agency two other Ukrainian maternity hospitals had already been attacked and destroyed before that strike.
“Attacks on health care and health workers directly impact people’s ability to access essential health services -– especially women, children and other vulnerable groups,” the UN agency chiefs said in their statement on Sunday.
“We have already seen that the health care needs of pregnant women, new mothers, younger children and older people inside Ukraine are rising, while access to services is being severely limited by the violence,” the statement added.
Oxygen and medical supplies, including for the management of pregnancy complications, are running dangerously low, they warned.
“The health care system in Ukraine is clearly under significant strain, and its collapse would be a catastrophe. Every effort must be made to prevent this from happening,” the UN agencies warned.
“We call for an immediate ceasefire, which includes unhindered access so that people in need can access humanitarian assistance. A peaceful resolution to end the war in Ukraine is possible.”
Yoon Suk-yeol wins South Korea’s presidential election
Yoon Suk Yeol, a conservative former top prosecutor, has been elected South Korea’s new president, defeating his chief liberal rival in one of the country’s most closely fought presidential elections.
With more than 98 percent of the ballots counted, Yoon had 48.6 percent of the votes against his rival Lee Jae-myung’s 47.8 percent.
Yoon said on Thursday that he would honour the constitution and the parliament and work with opposition parties when he takes office as the country’s next leader, calling the election result a “victory of the great people”.
“Our competition is over for now,” he said in an acceptance speech, thanking and consoling Lee and other rivals.
“We have to join hands and unite into one for the people and the country.”
At a separate ceremony with supporters, Yoon said he would put top priority on “national unity,” adding all people should be treated equally regardless of their regional, political and socioeconomic differences.
“I would pay attention to people’s livelihoods, provide warm welfare services to the needy, and make utmost efforts so that our country serves as a proud, responsible member of the international community and the free world,” he said.
Yoon is to take office in May and serve a single five-year term as leader of the world’s 10th-largest economy.
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