The International Day of the World's Indigenous People: Dispossessed and in Danger – Time to make the rights of indigenous peoples a reality

Despite some progress over the last decade, indigenous peoples around the world continue to live in hardship and danger due to the failure of states to uphold their fundamental human rights.

Indigenous peoples are being uprooted from their lands and communities as a consequence of discriminatory government policies, the impact of armed conflicts, and the actions of private economic interests.

Cut off from resources and traditions vital to their welfare and survival, many indigenous peoples are unable to fully enjoy such human rights as the right to food, the right to health, the right to housing, or cultural rights. Instead they face marginalisation, poverty, disease and violence – in some instances extinction as a people.

With the disruption of traditional ways of life, indigenous women may face particular challenges, losing status in their own society or finding that frustration and strife in the community is mirrored by violence in the household. For the growing numbers of indigenous women who have migrated to urban settings or who live on land with a heavy military presence, racial and sexual discrimination in the larger society may lead to a heightened risk of violence and unequal access to the protection of the justice system.

Amnesty International urges all states to work in close collaboration with Indigenous peoples to ensure that an effective system of protections is put in place at both the domestic and international levels. Critical measures requiring immediate action include:


The International Day of the World's Indigenous People was first observed on 9 August 1994, at the start of the First International Decade of the World's Indigenous People. A second decade began this year.

In July 2004, Amnesty International launched a global action calling for the timely adoption of a United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The draft UN Declaration provides for the recognition and protection of a wide range of rights crucial to the survival and well-being of Indigenous peoples as distinct cultures.

In international human rights instruments, the term "indigenous" generally refers to those distinctive cultural groups whose relationship with their land or territory predates colonization or the formation of the modern state and who maintain traditions and institutions unique to that place. In different national contexts, other terms may be used, including "aboriginal", "native" or "tribal" peoples.

AI Index: POL 30/025/2005 – 9 August 2005

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