By Kasise Ricky Peprah

Theme: COVD 19 AND INDIGENOUS PEOPLES’ RESILIENCE

There are 370 million indigenous peoples around the world spread across 90 countries,
with the vast majority, 70%, living in Asia. They belong to more than 5,000 different
indigenous populations and speak more than 4,000 languages.
Indigenous communities, peoples and nations are those which, having a historical
continuity with pre-invasion and pre-colonial societies that developed on their territories,
consider themselves distinct from other sectors of the societies now prevailing on those
territories, or parts of them. They form at present non-dominant sectors of society and
are determined to preserve, develop and transmit to future generations their ancestral
territories, and their ethnic identity, as the basis of their continued existence, in
accordance with their own cultural patterns, social institutions and legal system.

This historical continuity may consist of the continuation, for an extended period
reaching into the present of one or more of the following factors:
-Occupation of ancestral lands, or at least of part of them
-Common ancestry with the original occupants of these lands
-Culture in general, or in specific manifestations (such as religion, living under a tribal
system, membership of an indigenous community, dress, means of livelihood, lifestyle,
etc.)
-Language (whether used as the only language, as mother-tongue, as the habitual
means of communication at home or in the family, or as the main, preferred, habitual,
general or normal language)
-Residence in certain parts of the country, or in certain regions of the world
-Other relevant factors.

On an individual basis, an indigenous person is one who belongs to these indigenous
populations through self-identification as indigenous (group consciousness) and is
recognized and accepted by these populations as one of its members (acceptance by
the group). This preserves for these communities the sovereign right and power to
decide who belongs to them, without external interference.
Against the backdrop of the Covid 19 pandemic, this year’s celebration will be marked
by a virtual event. It will feature a panel discussion on the innovative ways indigenous
people continue to demonstrate resilience and strength in the face of the pandemic
while confronting grave threats to their survival. The aim is to highlight how the
preservation and promotion of indigenous peoples’ traditional knowledge and practices can be leveraged more fully during this pandemic. Panelists will share good practices
with the audience through an interactive virtual event that will focus on building back
stronger.

The discussion will bring together indigenous people’s organizations, UN agencies,
Member States, civil society and relevant stakeholders.
While we still are grappling with the fundamentals of the virus, notably its exact origins,
together with leading research organizations, indigenous peoples have long warned that
our reckless environmental damage has a role of to play in the occurrence of
pandemics in general. Thanks to their traditional knowledge and their harmonious
relationship with nature, they have long known that environmental degradation has the
potential to unleash disease.

The International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples is observed on 9 August each
year to raise awareness to the needs to protect the rights of the world’s indigenous
population. This event also recognizes the achievements and contributions that
indigenous people make to improve world issues such as environmental protection. It
was first pronounced by the United Nations General Assembly in December 1994,
marking the day of the first meeting of the UN Working Group on Indigenous
Populations of the Sub-Commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights
in 1982.

It was to be celebrated every year during the first International Decade of the World’s
Indigenous Peoples (1995–2004). In 2004, the Assembly proclaimed a Second
International Decade, from 2005–2015, with the theme of “A Decade for Action and
Dignity”.

In the year 2016, it was reported that about 2680 indigenous languages were in danger
and on the verge of becoming extinct. Hence, UN designated 2019 to be the
International Year of Indigenous Languages to persuade, convince and create
awareness to people about the Indigenous Languages
People from different nations are encouraged to participate in observing the day to
spread the UN’s message on indigenous peoples. Activities generally include
educational forums and classroom activities to gain an appreciation and a better
understanding of indigenous peoples.