This year, as the United Nations commemorates its 70th anniversary, we can look back on major advances for humanity. The 2007 adoption by the General Assembly of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples was one of many successes achieved through the fruitful partnership between indigenous peoples and United Nations Member States.
The year also marks a watershed in human development. The period of the Millennium Development Goals is drawing to a close to be succeeded by a post-2015 development agenda designed to advance inclusion and shared prosperity. This people’s agenda is a concrete plan of action for ending poverty in all its dimensions, irreversibly, everywhere, and leaving no one behind.
On this International Day, we are focusing attention on the health and well-being of the world’s indigenous peoples. The Declaration affirms the right to maintain indigenous health practices as well as to have access to all social and health services for the enjoyment of the highest standards of physical and mental health. We must make every effort to support indigenous peoples’ rights and aspirations as affirmed in the Declaration.
Indigenous peoples face a wide range of challenges to their health and well-being. Most are eminently preventable. They include inadequate sanitation and housing, lack of prenatal care, widespread violence against women, and high rates of diabetes, drug and alcohol abuse, youth suicide and infant mortality. These issues must be urgently addressed as part of the post-2015 development agenda in culturally appropriate ways that meet indigenous peoples’ conceptions of and aspirations for well-being.
On this International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples, I call on the international community to ensure that they are not left behind. To create a better, more equitable future, let us commit to do more to improve the health and well-being of indigenous peoples.