International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples

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International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples

©IFAD/David Alan Harvey

The International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples is celebrated on 9 August. This year’s theme is indigenous peoples’ migration and movement. It is a special day to unite our voices and walk together towards social and environmental justice.

Indigenous peoples consider themselves distinct from other societies prevalent in areas they live in. This distinctiveness is shown in the diversity and richness of cultures, constituting our common heritage. From the Apus spirits of the mountains in the highlands of Peru to the dancing forest spirits of the Yaka tribe in the mists of the Congo basin - the land is much more than a means of production. Their land is their life.

Indigenous peoples’ face systematic human rights violations, dispossession and discrimination which can compel them to move or migrate. Indigenous peoples have a strong connection to lands and historical continuity with societies on their ancestral territories. Addressing indigenous peoples’ migration and movement starts there.

Increasing urbanisation poses new challenges

Traditionally, indigenous peoples have lived in rural areas. However, today many indigenous communities are displaced or forced to migrate from their ancestral lands. Many end up in urban areas with limited opportunities and resources. According to the World Bank, almost half of the indigenous population in Latin America now live in urban areas. Leaving their places of origin means indigenous peoples encounter new challenges that reshape their individual and collective identity. This affects indigenous youth in particular, in their struggle to find their sense of place, identity and their own path in life.

What are the reasons for migration?

Indigenous peoples frequently suffer from discrimination, marginalization, violence and infringements of their basic rights. Unsustainable and extractive exploitation of their lands often lead to conflicting claims for resources, pressure and destruction of their environments and sacred sites. Consequently, indigenous peoples experience conflicts and violence, dispossession of land, resettlements and lack of state recognition.

The effects of climate change, land grabbing, population growth, and the growing demand for energy and food are already leading to forced displacement and health problems. Indigenous territories cover polar regions, humid tropical forests, small islands, mountains, coastal regions, arid and semi-arid lands that are particularly vulnerable.

Intersecting discriminations and risks

Migration exposes indigenous migrants to different forms of discrimination, for being both migrants and indigenous, and additionally because they are often poor. Risks can include changing diets, that can lead to higher propensity to obesity and diabetes; the disruption of social bonds, changes of customs and values within the community; victimization by organized crime and drug addiction.

The need for collective action

The challenge is to transform rural areas into places where people can build decent livlihoods and where migration is a choice and not a necessity. IFAD's engagement with indigenous peoples living in rural areas aims to create the right conditions so that indigenous peoples' cultures can not only flourish, but also guide the world to reconcile with nature and make a more sustainable use of natural resources.

IFADs commitments

IFAD’s investments in rural livelihoods includes the Indigenous Peoples Assistance Facility, an innovative funding instrument that indigenous communities can use to find solutions to the challenges they face and carry out  projects to support  their communities.

The Indigenous Peoples' Forum offers indigenous peoples a systematic dialogue with United Nations agencies and it enables participants to assess IFAD's engagements with indigenous peoples. The fourth global meeting will take place in February 2019 and will address indigenous peoples' knowledge and innovation in climate resilience and sustainable development.

Find out more about the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples