Our Perspectives


Indigenous youth and the post-2015 development agenda

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Indigenous women in ColombiaAccording to figures from ECLAC, there are more than 800 indigenous peoples in Latin America, with a total population of about 45 million. Photo: UNDP Colombia

“Children and youth are the future of humanity”

(Álvaro Pop, Member of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues and Youth Focal Point)

Imagine that instead of excluding marginalized groups, we include them in the new international post-2015 development agenda. Now, imagine the future development agenda built on the enormous potential of indigenous peoples with their ancestral knowledge. Now combine this knowledge with the innovative and entrepreneurial spirit and the mobilizing and transforming capacity of indigenous youth. Wouldn’t you listen to these voices?

We have decided that, yes indeed, we would listen to them and have provided them with the platform Juventud Con Voz (Voice of the Youth). It will serve as a forum for participatory dialogue in which the proposals and ideas of indigenous youth can be heard in order to have an impact, individually or collectively, on the post-2015 development agenda and to contribute effectively towards strengthening their organizations.

Fifteen years ago, 189 heads of state committed to eradicate extreme poverty and multiple deprivations that threaten the well-being of individuals, with the adoption of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Despite the enormous progress towards achieving this ambitious project, the indignity of poverty is still violating the human rights of a great many people every day. Thus, the inclusion and participation of excluded and marginalized people in the formulation of future Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is a duty and obligation for the international community.

The indigenous population worldwide is estimated at 370 million people (DESA). According to the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), "in Latin America [...] there are over 800 indigenous peoples accounting for a population of close to 45 million people. Their vast socio-demographic, territorial and political diversity ranges from peoples living in voluntary isolation to those present in large urban settlements.”

The MDGs did not reflect the specific needs and concerns of indigenous peoples in terms of self-determination over their territories, natural resources, cultures, identities and languages. A few months from the agreed deadline for achieving the MDGs, indigenous people, both adults and youth, are taking advantage of a historic opportunity to influence the future post-2015 development agenda.

Accordingly, within the framework of the Fourteenth Session of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, held in New York from 20 April  to 1 May 2015, UNDP is bringing together indigenous leaders to a roundtable on intergenerational dialogue. Views and proposals are being shared on the priorities and the participation of indigenous youth in the post-2015 development agenda. Challenges are being highlighted and strategies created for strengthening their voices in consultations on a development agenda whose innovative process focuses on the inclusion of everyone.

Older indigenous leaders such as Álvaro Pop, María Eugenia Choque, Myrna Cunningham-Kain and María Teresa Zapeta will discuss the participation of indigenous youth in electoral processes and their role in the preservation and transmission of traditional knowledge, as well as the leadership of indigenous women.

Indigenous youth – Dalí Angel, Antonia Benito, Jasmine Sánchez and Apolinaria Santana Oropeza, some of whom are members of Juventud Con Voz – will focus on the results of the IV Young Americas Forum, justice and redress, education and health.

An indigenous proverb sums up the essence of sustainability, the aim of which is to not jeopardize future generations: “We do not just inherit the earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children.”  Indigenous youth are willing to learn this ancient wisdom and apply it to the new realities of a more globalized world. They want to listen and to be heard.

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