Indigenous youth as face of the future
Sir: The United Nations observes the International Day of World’s Indigenous Peoples on August 9 and the World Youth Day on August 12 to reflect on two different demographics that are indispensable to a world where no one is left behind. The yearly observances are meant to draw attention to some of the world’s most pressing issues.
Africa has the youngest population in the world, with 70 per cent of sub-Saharan Africa under the age of 30. Such a high number of young people is an opportunity for the continent’s growth – but only if these new generations are fully empowered to realise their best potential. It is especially important that young people are included in decision-making and given appropriate opportunities to work and to innovate. Involving young people in politics and society is not merely a question of inclusion, but one that is vital for economic growth, innovation, peace, and security.
However, young people continue to face many challenges, including poverty, unemployment, and terrorism.
In the face of raging climate change and biting conflicts, indigenous people can teach the world how to acquit itself with nature’s demand. Their unique relationship with nature and all the gifts it abundantly gives puts them in the best stead to provide solutions to the problems that are pushing the world to the edge. Yet, many indigenous people continue to face unspeakable abuse.
Their future depends as well on the decisions that are made today. Their representation and participation in global efforts towards climate change mitigation, peace building, and digital cooperation are crucial for the effective implementation of their rights.
There are an estimated 476 million indigenous peoples in the world living across 90 countries. They make up less than five per cent of the world’s population, but account for 15 per cent of the poorest. They speak an overwhelming majority of the world’s estimated 7,000 languages and represent 5,000 different cultures.
Indigenous peoples have sought recognition of their identities, their way of life and their right to traditional lands, territories, and natural resources for years. Yet, throughout history, their rights have been violated. Indigenous peoples, today, are arguably among the most disadvantaged and vulnerable groups of people in the world. The international community now recognises that special measures are required to protect their rights and maintain their distinct cultures and way of life.
There is no doubt that if the world wants to leave its current trajectory of doom and gloom, it will have to tap into the inexhaustible potentials of indigenous people as well as young people.
Ike Willie-Nwobu, Ikewilly9@gmail.com
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