Nepal: Bridging the Gap at the 20th International Day of the World's Indigenous People
Saturday August 9th marked 20 years since some 5,000 indigenous communities comprising over 370 million people and living in more than 90 countries across the world celebrated the first International Day of the World's Indigenous People (IDWIP). The UN General Assembly decided to observe August 9th as a special day of the world’s indigenous people through a resolution passed in December 1994.
The date marks the day of the first formal meeting of the UN Working Group on Indigenous Populations (WGIP) - a mechanism exclusively dedicated to protect and promote the rights of indigenous people at the UN. The same working group drafted the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People (UNDRIP), which was ratified by almost all the countries across the world in 2007. Nepal also voted in its favor.
Every year, IDWIP is marked with a special theme. The focus of this year’s International Day is, ‘Bridging the Gap: implementing the rights of indigenous people'. The theme aims to highlight the importance of developing policies and programmes directed at implementing the rights of indigenous people both at national and international level.
In a message sent on the occasion of IDWIP, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon said, 'This year’s International Day of the World’s Indigenous People comes at a critical moment as the world endeavours to meet the Millennium Development Goals, forge a new vision for sustainable development and prepare the groundwork for the adoption of a new legal climate agreement– all by 2015.' He also calls on all partners to join the UN in promoting and protecting indigenous rights and in recognising and celebrating the valuable and distinctive identities of indigenous people around the world. He encouraged them to work even harder to empower indigenous people and support their aspirations.
Soon after the UN declaration, Nepal’s indigenous communities also have been celebrating the day every year by organizing various programs, rallies and procession in Kathmandu as well as in parts of the country, under their umbrella organisations: Nepal Federation of Indigenous Nationalities (NEFIN), Nepal Indigenous Women Federation (NIWF), NGO-Federation of Nepal Indigenous Nationalities (NGO-FONIN), Youth Federation of Indigenous Nationalities, Nepal (YFIN) and Nepal Students Federation of Indigenous Nationalities (NSFIN). Speaking about IDWIP, Nagendra Kumal, Chairman of NEFIN said, 'This special day has somehow boosted our movement, united us further and connected us with indigenous people from other parts of the world'.
Twenty years ago, when the UN General Assembly declared 9th August as the International Day of the World’s Indigenous People, like many other parts of the world, indigenous people were hardly known in Nepal. Today, they are not merely recognised legally as a distinct community, but there are many triumphs as well as despairs to share.
Photos: Nepal's Indigenous community take part in a rally on the occasion of International Day of the World's Indigenous People. Credit: Dev Kumar Sunuwar
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Click on the link below to read Dev Kumar Sunuwar's full report on the state of indigenous people on IDWIP's 20th anniversary: