Time is running out for Indigenous peoples on the brink of extinction

MONTREAL – Aug. 7, 2009 – The International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples on August 9 is a time to celebrate the incredible diversity of Indigenous cultures worldwide. It is also a day to remember the fragile state of many of these cultures, and the need for concerted international action to protect the rights that help them survive, says Rights & Democracy.

In Colombia alone, more than 30 Indigenous groups teeter on the brink of extinction with populations numbering less than 500 people. Displaced by years of violent armed conflict and the exploitation of natural resources, each one of these peoples faces the very real possibility of disappearing before the end of the century, and taking with them their unique world view, language, traditions and knowledge.

“These endangered peoples, in Colombia and globally, are integral to our understanding of the world and their loss would have a profound affect on us all,” said Rémy M. Beauregard, President of Rights & Democracy. “There is still time to save them, but we must act immediately to ensure their survival.”

Rights & Democracy contributes to the full recognition and implementation of the rights of Indigenous peoples at the national, regional and international levels. This work includes an ongoing research project on Indigenous peoples in danger of extinction in Colombia. The project, which is being carried out by the Colombian National Indigenous Organization (ONIC), seeks to identify the needs of these peoples and the threats they face and devise strategies for their protection and long-term survival.

The international community can contribute to protecting vulnerable peoples in Colombia and around the world by supporting the enforcement of internationally-recognized territorial, political and cultural rights.

These rights are essential to preventing the disappearance of endangered Indigenous peoples. If these rights go unenforced, we sadly and inevitably will have fewer and fewer peoples to celebrate each August 9.