Kota Kinabalu: For the first time, a special award will be given to recipients from indigenous communities in Malaysia for promoting the rights of indigenous people in the coming national-level World Indigenous Peoples Day celebration.
It was reliably learnt that recipients from Sabah, home to the largest number of ethnic communities in the country, are on the list.
The award gives recognition to the recipients’ outstanding life’s work in advocating the rights of indigenous peoples, most often under extreme hardships and pressures.
The national-level celebration, which is hosted by rotation among the three regions in Malaysia, is held in Selangor this year from August 6 to 9 at Taman Botani Negara, Shah Alam.
The annual event is co-organised by the Malaysian Indigenous Peoples Network together with Tourism Selangor and also in collaboration with Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact (AIPP) to bring together international and local participants.
This year’s theme is “Back to the roots, #Landrightsnow!” in conjunction with the worldwide “Land Rights Now” campaign to protect and increase global recognition of Indigenous Peoples’ land rights.
Among the highlights of the programme are the Indigenous Youth Jamboree from August 4 to 5 followed by Tourism Selangor Indigenous Arts Festival from August 6 to 7 as well as cultural events, youth activities and discussions.
“We hope this year we can bring more people to the event, and to focus more on solidarity among participants,” said Yusri Ahon, President of the Malaysian Indigenous Peoples Network.
He also said that in conjunction with the event, the organisation would be advocating for the urgent need to implement the commitment by the Government of Malaysia to respect the customary lands rights of Indigenous Peoples in the country.
About 5,000 people including indigenous community representatives from Sabah, Sarawak and the peninsular as well as the public are expected to participate in the celebration.
There will also be indigenous representatives from other countries such as Cambodia, Thailand and Indonesia.
The United Nations General Assembly decided that the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples should be observed on August 9 every year. The date marks the day of the first meeting, in 1982, of the UN Working Group on Indigenous Populations of the Sub-Commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights.
In 1990, the UN General Assembly proclaimed 1993 the International Year of the World’s Indigenous Peoples and later established two International Decades of the World’s Indigenous Peoples: the first 1995-2004 and the second 2005-2014 with the goal of strengthening international cooperation for solving problems faced by indigenous peoples in areas such as human rights, the environment, development, education, health, economic and social development.
As requested in the outcome document of the 2014 World Conference on Indigenous Peoples, a UN System-Wide Action Plan on the rights of indigenous peoples was developed by the Inter-Agency Support Group on Indigenous Issues in 2015, in consultations with indigenous peoples, UN Members States, UN agencies and other stakeholders.
It aims to ensure a coherent approach to achieving the ends of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, including through improved support to Member States and indigenous peoples.
On the global stage, this year’s International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples is devoted to the right to education.
The right of indigenous peoples to education is protected by the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which in Article 14 states that “Indigenous peoples have the right to establish and control their educational systems and institutions providing education in their own languages, in a manner appropriate to their cultural methods of teaching and learning.”
The right of indigenous peoples to education is also protected by a number of other international human rights instruments, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
In spite of these instruments, the right to education has not been fully realised for most indigenous peoples, and a critical education gap exists between indigenous peoples and the general population.
There are an estimated 370 million indigenous people in the world, living across 90 countries.
They make up less than 5 per cent of the world’s population, but account for 15 per cent of the poorest.
They speak an overwhelming majority of the world’s estimated 7,000 languages and represent 5,000 different cultures.