Taking place each year on 9 August, the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples is a time to recognise the achievements and contributions made by Indigenous people, as well as to promote and protect the rights of the world’s Indigenous populations.
The commemoration was originally set aside by the United Nations General Assembly to mark the day of the first meeting of the UN Working Group on Indigenous Populations, which took place in Geneva in 1982. This annual day is an opportunity to honour the strength, resilience, dignity and pride of Indigenous peoples around the world, including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
The Theme for 2021
Each year, the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples has a different theme, with the 2020 theme being, “Leaving no one behind: Indigenous peoples and the call for a new social contract.”
Although many Indigenous peoples have successfully become self-governing to an extent (the National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples being a prime example), their resources and lands are still subject to the wider authority of central governments. In the majority of cases, Indigenous peoples were not included in the social contract that was established when their country was colonised, and consequently are culturally, socially, politically and economically marginalised within the systems of the dominant population.
COVID-19 has highlighted a number of inequalities that disproportionately affect Indigenous communities around the world, who already deal with issues such as discrimination, poverty, lack of education and poor health outcomes. Despite the existence of initiatives designed to tackle this inequality, in many ways, Indigenous people are still left behind.
The 2021 theme is a call for us to collectively create a new social contract based on providing equal opportunities, prioritising the participation of minority groups in decision making and respecting the rights, dignity and freedoms of all.
This Year’s Virtual Event
As part of the observance, the UN’s Indigenous Peoples and Development Branch will be bringing together Indigenous peoples’ organisations, UN agencies, Member States, civil society and the general public for a live webinar held on Monday, 9 August (EST). The virtual event will feature a panel of guest speakers who will discuss the need to redesign a new social contract for indigenous peoples, where their own forms of governance and ways of life must be respected and based on their free, prior and informed consent.