The State of the World’s Indigenous Peoples
February 18th, 2010
Indigenous peoples contribute extensively to the cultural diversity of humanity, being responsible for more than two thirds of its languages and an extraordinary amount of its traditional knowledge.
There are over 370 million indigenous people in some 90 countries, living in all regions of the world. The situation of many indigenous peoples is critical with poverty rates high and their ways of life threatened by economic ‘development’, wars and environmental disasters. Time and again, indigenous peoples see their traditional knowledge and cultural expressions marketed and patented without their consent or participation.
Of the some 7,000 languages today, it is estimated that more than 4,000 are spoken by indigenous peoples. Language specialists predict that up to 90 per cent of the world’s languages are likely to become extinct or threatened with extinction by the end of the century.
Although the state of the world’s indigenous peoples is alarming, there is reason for optimism. The human rights of indigenous peoples are increasingly recognized by the international community, as evidenced in the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, the result of significant organizing among indigenous peoples themselves. They are the stewards of some of the world’s most biologically diverse areas and their traditional knowledge about the biodiversity of these areas is invaluable. As the effects of climate change become clearer, it is increasingly evident that indigenous peoples must play a central role in developing adaptation and mitigation efforts to this global challenge.
The State of the World’s Indigenous Peoples is the result of a collaborative effort organized by the Secretariat of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues. The Chapters were written by independent experts. It is available in English, French, Spanish, Russian and Chinese.