Knowledge Systems, Knowledge Diversity, Knowledge Societies: Towards a UNESCO Policy on Engaging with Indigenous Peoples

UNESCO has broad mandates in the fields of education, natural sciences, social and human sciences, culture, and communication and information. Its policies, programmes and projects provide opportunities and have significant impacts (positive and negative) for indigenous peoples worldwide. Today, policy frameworks and standards for human rights and development are evolving rapidly. In particular, the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples was adopted by the UN General Assembly in September 2007, while in 2008 the UN Development Group (UNDG) issued the UNDG Guidelines on Indigenous Peoples’ Issues. Indigenous peoples, governments and other actors legitimately demand that UN agencies take clear policy positions in relation to indigenous peoples’ rights and issues as they relate to their respective mandates. UNESCO similarly embarked on a process to elaborate a house-wide policy on engaging with Indigenous Peoples. UNESCO’s work on developing such a policy was launched during a side event organized on 10 November 2011 within  the framework of the 10th Anniversary of the UNESCO Declaration on Cultural Diversity and the Celebration of World Science Day 2011 for Peace and Development. 

The event, hosted by Ms. Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO and co-chaired by Ms. Gretchen Kalonji, Assistant Director-General for the Natural Sciences and Ms Pilar Alvarez-Laso, Assistant Director-General for the Social and Human Sciences, featured indigenous spokespersons at the highest-level from the three foremost UN institutions dealing with the rights of Indigenous Peoples: Mr James Anaya, UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Ms Myrna Cunningham, Chair of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, and Mr. Vital Bambanze, Chair, UN Expert Mechanism on Indigenous Peoples. 

Speakers:

- Ms. Gretchen Kalonji, Assistant Director-General for the Natural Sciences, on bahalf of Ms. Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO 

- Ms Myrna Cunningham, Chair of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues 

- Mr Vital Bambanze, Chair, UN Expert Mechanism on Indigenous Peoples

- Mr James Anaya, UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

- Ms Pilar Alvarez-Laso, Assistant Director-General for the Social and Human Sciences  (Spanish)

The presentations were followed by a discussion.

 

 

 

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