UNESCO: United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization



Santiago held the First Regional Workshop for the Development of UNESCO´s Policy on Indigenous Peoples

Santiago held the First Regional Workshop for the Development of UNESCO´s Policy on Indigenous Peoples
  • © UNESCO / Carolina Jerez

From 3 - 5 September, representatives of indigenous peoples in the region, UNESCO specialists and government representatives of Chile participated in the Regional Workshop to develop UNESCO Policy on its relationship with indigenous peoples. Issues were addressed from the UNESCO areas: education, science, culture and communication and information.

“Elaborating a UNESCO Policy on Engaging with Indigenous Peoples will help UNESCO more sharply position its priorities, programmes and activities to bring greater benefits to indigenous communities and to acknowledge the new institutional landscape that has emerged since the adoption of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples” said Douglas Nakashima, UNESCO Focal Point on Indigenous Issues in Paris.

Two general objectives guided the work: 1) properly position the programs, procedures and activities regarding the new institutional landscape that is emerging from the adoption of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) and 2) awareness and provide guidance to the officers and committees of UNESCO to effectively implement the UNDRIP in all components of the work of UNESCO.

Intecultural dialogue

For Myrna Cunningham, United Nations Chair of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, "this meeting reflects the recommendations of the Permanent Forum which were heard, and serve to catalyze processes. At UNESCO, like other UN agencies, has made several recommendations regarding promotion policy and seeing that this fact is specifying is very important. I appreciate the fact that it was a horizontal dialogue. The point of the process is that we know more and that the product of that appreciation is that we leave knowing more. The challenge is how to remain committed."

Nelson De Leon Kantule of the Mesoamerican Indigenous Council (CIMA) is emphatic: "The challenge we have is that this meeting instance is neither the first nor last. When it arrives in Panama it informs communities what was said here, but I know that we need to communicate more, to get our voices known. We cannot stay in the meetings because the knowledge of our people is disappearing and UNESCO must help to appreciate and rescue our wealth."

Part of the richness of the indigenous people according to Victoria Uranga, Coordinator of UNESCO Knowledge Management Section in Santiago is, "that UNESCO works towards building a policy not only as a duty and a necessity, it is also a great opportunity for our organization. Indigenous peoples have the knowledge, worldviews and keys that enrich us, which reinforce our mandate to promote peace in the world and allow us to jointly work with them as they deal with global challenges."

According to Donald Rojas, CICA board member and director of the National Indigenous Bureau of Costa Rica, "UNESCO´s institutional nature provides a unique position for impact on issues of the greatest importance for indigenous rights. It's a good time to set these intercultural dialogues that allow us to interact between the UNESCO team, representatives of indigenous organizations and governments. Good prospects were in the workshop at the onset and frank dialogue on complex issues which mandates conventions should be considered for policy and especially in building participatory politics."

For the scientist in the UNESCO, Montevideo Office, Ernesto Fernandez Polcuch, "this is the beginning of a dialogue for a better understanding. We need more and better communication about what UNESCO is doing in this field, while we understand the priorities and adapt our practices to the decision processes and worldviews of indigenous peoples."

Additional meetings and workshops will be held, pending the identification of funding, to complement the work successfully completed in Santiago. These inputs will contribute towards the formulation of a draft UNESCO Policy on Engaging with Indigenous Peoples that will be reviewed and considered for eventual approval by UNESCO.

More information:

Interview (Youtube video) to Mirna Cunningham (in Spanish), Nicaraguan doctor, Indigenous Miskita woman and United Nations Chair of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues.

Photo gallery (Flickr)

The UNESCO and the Indigenous Peoples

International Indigenous Peoples Day

  • 10-09-2012