‘The voices of indigenous peoples must be heard’

Members of the audience during a press briefing on the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples to be held in 2014. Photo by: Eskinder Debebe / UN

The power of utilizing independent, indigenous-led media was the buzz at this year’s International Day of the World’s Indigenous People, an event celebrated formally at the United Nations’ New York Headquarters, but also in various celebratory and commemorative forms around the world.

“The voices of indigenous peoples must be heard,” UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova said at the event. Media coverage and exposure could help indigenous communities defend their rights and fight discrimination, Bokova added.

In Malaysia, the Indigenous People’s Network of Malaysia, or Joas, is taking a cue from the U.N. theme and incorporating workshops on media into its three-day celebration. In Bolivia, indigenous communities were set to celebrate with ritual celebrations and the opening of a photo exhibition in La Paz.

In the Philippines, representatives from native Lumad groups marked the occasion by speaking out about their risks for displacement as a result of encroaching mining development projects.

In a report published ahead of the event, Amnesty International reflected on the persistent trend of similar development projects like hydroelectric dams, pipelines and motorways placing indigenous communities’ survival at risk across the Americas.

The U.N. General Assembly adopted the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in 2007. In May 2012, the ECOSOC Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues published a report that said, “Few States have entered into effective dialogue or partnerships with indigenous peoples or have undertaken adequate legal reforms to implement the declaration.”

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About the author

  • Amy Lieberman

    Amy Lieberman is an award-winning journalist based in New York City. Her coverage on politics, social justice issues, development and climate change has appeared in a variety of international news outlets, including The Guardian, Slate and The Atlantic. She has reported from the U.N. Headquarters, in addition to nine countries outside of the U.S. Amy received her master of arts degree from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism in May 2014. Last year she completed a yearlong fellowship on the oil industry and climate change and co-published her findings with a team in the Los Angeles Times.

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