Rigoberta Menchu

On The International Day Of Indigenous Peoples - Aug. 9, 1996

Rigoberta Menchu
August 09, 1996— Quito, Ecuador
International Day of Indigenous Peoples
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The International Day has profound significance, since it is the product of long struggles of indigenous peoples to recover their historic memory, break the silence, improve their conditions of life and affirm their economic, political, social and cultural rights.

At the doors of the third millennium, when there is much uncertainty, the indigenous peoples present flowerings of life and hope. In numerous countries, they have became central actors of new processes that are planting the seeds of a multiethnic, pluricultural and plurilingual future which will be the guarantee of a peace full and harmonious coexistence in these pluralistic societies.

A multiplicity of innovative initiatives and proposals has gestated and consolidated a full and worthy participation of indigenous peoples in diverse aspects of the internal life of their countries. Deserving special mention is the growing protagonism in the political arena based on the rescue of ethical values and civic dignity with alternatives and proposals that seek to solve local problems as much as national ones.

These achievements are made possible thanks to the fact that the indigenous peoples have begun to look for unity with common goals and objectives. Despite the fact that idea to divide us and cause confrontation between indigenous peoples persists, each day that passes, we overcome lack of unity and consolidate our identity. It is certain that there remains a long road to cover but we are advancing with firm steps.

The International Day is also an occasion to vigorously condemn the grave and systematic violation of the inalienable rights of indigenous peoples, which even affects the right to life. In some countries, extinction is threatening indigenous peoples, while in others they suffer starvation; and the conditions of marginalization, segregation, oppression and racism of which they are victims have generally not been eliminated.

This situation cannot continue. Today on the International Day of Indigenous Peoples, I am making a call to international public opinion to condemn and sanction all types of abuse against indigenous peoples, all violations of their human rights, and all assaults against their dignity. We must not permit silence to continue surrounding the aggressions of which they continue to be the object.

In addition, I call on all governments and demand that they pass the declarations of intentions into actions so that they completely fulfill the commitments undertaken with the International Decade of Indigenous Peoples which was proclaimed by the United Nations in December of 1994, with the purpose of finding viable solutions to the ancestral problems of said populations. In this sense, governments have the urgent responsibility of giving impulse to projects that strengthen and support actions and initiatives by indigenous peoples and institutions that resolve the problems they confront. For this it is also crucial that the states ratify and comply to the diverse international agreements on the rights of these peoples.

Now is the time to responsibly and conscientiously undertake the actions that will lead us to the construction of nations that are truly pluriethnic, multicultural and plurilingual, whose intercultural relations are based on tolerance and the absolute respect for the cultural rights of indigenous and non-indigenous; peoples nations where there is justice and options of development, liberty and real democracy for all, respect to the culture of all and total respect form human rights.

I take advantage of the celebration of the International Day to congratulate the efforts and initiatives of indigenous peoples to resolve their local problems, and their support for the solution of national problems, and I exhort them to continue on the path of unity and determination to give to future generations a world in which peace is not only a dream.

Speech from http://gos.sbc.edu/m/internatpeople.html.