Message from Mr. Nils Arne Kastberg, Regional Director UNICEF office for Latin America and the Caribbean, on the occasion of the International Day of the World’s Indigenous People
Panama, 9 August, 2007 - On this International Day, UNICEF reaffirms its tireless commitment to promoting the respect for the rights of indigenous families and their children.
The fight for a fairer world is a moral and legal obligation of governments, but also a goal for each and every one of us.
Wherever they live, indigenous peoples are nearly always the most disadvantaged, the most excluded of groups. Too often deprived of their basic rights, basic services, and too often ignored when their knowledge would in fact contribute to a tapestry of thought, language, and diversity. By denying them, we deny ourselves.
Latin America and the Caribbean is home to 40 million indigenous people…well over a third are children. In fact, in certain countries, indigenous families represent more than half of the total population.
UNICEF believes a country cannot be fully developed if it is leaving its poor behind. UNICEF is also convinced that the MDGs cannot be achieved without taking into account the circumstances of indigenous people. For example, universal primary education will never be achieved without offering children the opportunity to learn in languages they understand.
The real test of a society is how it cares for its most vulnerable. In that quest, the voice of indigenous children must be heard, as part of their own development, as part of our collective work to ensure their health, education and protection as part of our commitment on this international day and as part of our efforts every other day of the year.