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UNICEF marks the 13th International Day of the World’s Indigenous People in Latin America and the Caribbean

PANAMA,  9 August 2007 – UNICEF in Latin America and the Caribbean marked the 13th International Day of the World’s Indigenous People, by reaffirming its commitment to the rights of indigenous families and their children, and to building inclusive societies, where intercultural dialogue and diversity replace racism and discrimination, and where differences are embraced and valued.

 “Imagine how different the world we live in would be today, if we embraced and learned from the wisdom of indigenous people, when it comes to the environment and natural resources,” said Nils Kastberg, Regional Director of UNICEFs Office for Latin America and the Caribbean.

UNICEF highlighted the continuing exclusion of many indigenous groups in a region where, too often deprived of their basic rights and services, indigenous families disproportionately bear the brunt of poverty, chronic malnutrition, and child and maternal mortality.

The cycle of poverty and the violations of the rights of indigenous children start at birth, said UNICEF, when too many are denied the right to a name in their own language, a nationality, and any civil or cultural identity.

“Birth registration is a fundamental right and a cornerstone of building a democracy for all citizens of any country,” said Nils Kastberg. “It is a crucial first step in providing other basic human rights, and ensures each child can lay claim to their rights as a citizen. Birth registration protects children and provides for those who are too often otherwise excluded.”

UNICEF called on all States in the region to intensify efforts to ensure that all indigenous children are registered at birth, by adapting their systems to the special conditions and needs of indigenous communities and culture.

UNICEF called for the voice of indigenous children to be heard, as part of their own development, and encouraged all young people and adolescents to eliminate prejudice and demonstrate that friendship can overcome any ethnic differences

“Let’s let young people teach adults a lesson, by taking the lead and building friendships across boundaries, across cultures, and build a tapestry of thought, language, and diversity.” said Kastberg.

Resolution 49/214 of December 23, 1994, the General Assembly of the United Nations established “International Day of Indigenous Populations” that would be celebrated annually on August 9 during the International decade of World Indigenous Populations. At the close of the first decade, the General Assembly proclaimed the Second International Decade of World Indigenous Populations, keeping the celebration of this International Day.

UNICEF is on the ground in over 150 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence.  The world’s largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS.  UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments.

For more information, please contact:

Anna Lucia D’Emilio, UNICEF’s Regional Consultant for Excluded Populations Program: Tel + 00 507 301 7486

Isabel Benlloch, UNICEF’s Regional Communications Section: Tel + : 00 507 301 7483; Email ibenlloch@unicef.org




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