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State of the World's Indigenous Peoples

image of State of the World's Indigenous Peoples

While indigenous peoples make up around 370 million of the world’s population – some 5 per cent – they constitute around one-third of the world’s 900 million extremely poor rural people. Every day, indigenous communities all over the world face issues of violence and brutality. Indigenous peoples are stewards of some of the most biologically diverse areas of the globe, and their biological and cultural wealth has allowed indigenous peoples to gather a wealth of traditional knowledge which is of immense value to all humankind. The publication discusses many of the issues addressed by the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and is a cooperative effort of independent experts working with the Secretariat of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues. It covers poverty and well-being, culture, environment, contemporary education, health, human rights, and includes a chapter on emerging issues.

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Health

The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples states that “Indigenous individuals have an equal right to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health. States shall take the necessary steps with a view to achieving progressively the full realization of this right”,2 thus affirming the basic human right to life and health that is guaranteed under international human rights law. It also goes on to state, “Indigenous peoples have the right to promote, develop and maintain their institutional structures and their distinctive customs, spirituality, traditions, procedures, practices and, in the cases where they exist, juridical systems or customs, in accordance with international human rights standards”.3 This implies a greater obligation of states to uphold not only the indigenous individual’s right to health but also the collective right of indigenous peoples to maintain and use their health systems and practices in pursuit of their right to health. The Declaration further specifies, “Indigenous Peoples have the right to their traditional medicines and to maintain their health practices, including the conservation of their vital medicinal plants, animals and minerals. Indigenous individuals also have the right to access, without any discrimination, to all social and health services”.4 The Declaration thus establishes a framework for addressing the health situation of indigenous peoples that includes the obligations of states both to provide accessible, quality health care to indigenous peoples and to respect and promote indigenous health systems, each of which must be fulfilled in order to ensure the health of indigenous peoples.

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