International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples is commemorated on August 9 each year to raise awareness and protect the rights of the world’s Indigenous population.

The day recognizes the achievements and contributions of Indigenous people while highlighting the challenges many Indigenous communities face, including poverty, discrimination, and lack of access to education and healthcare. 

According to the UN, there are an estimated 476 million Indigenous peoples in the world living across 90 countries. While Indigenous people make up less than 5% of the world’s population, they account for 15 percent of the poorest. They speak an overwhelming majority of the world’s estimated 7,000 languages and represent 5,000 different cultures. 

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The day was first commemorated by the General Assembly of the United Nations (UN) in 1994, with August 9 marking 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. 

The day serves as a reminder to preserve and celebrate the rich culture, heritage, traditions, languages, and wisdom that Indigenous people bring to the world. As well it is an opportunity to foster solidarity among Indigenous people and raise awareness for the violations of Indigenous rights. 

The theme for this year’s International Day of the World’s Indigenous People is “Indigenous Youth as Agents of Change for Self-determination,” and focuses on the Indigenous youth’s role as catalysts for change. The UN Forum on Indigenous Issues is observing the day with a virtual event kicking off on Wednesday, August 9, 2023, at 9:00 am EST. Speakers will discuss the 

role of Indigenous youth in exercising self-determination in climate action and the green transition, mobilizing for justice, and intergenerational connections. To attend the virtual event, register here. 

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