ODIHR's impact in 2021: Lifting up indigenous voices to counter racism and promote diversity and inclusion
Indigenous communities form an integral part of societies across the OSCE region. They include groups with distinct languages and cultures, but a profound connection to the land on which they live. Racism against such groups seeks to discredit their right to existence, and tackling intolerance and discrimination is therefore key to protecting and promoting their rights within our diverse societies.
OSCE participating States have acknowledged that indigenous people may experience specific difficulties in exercising their rights, and recognize that all OSCE commitments apply equally to everyone.
Intolerance and discrimination targeting indigenous groups come in many forms. ODIHR takes action at all levels to help states address both individual acts of racism as well as entrenched discrimination resulting from the historical exclusion and marginalization of indigenous people. In particular, ODIHR works to amplify the voices of marginalized groups and raise awareness of the challenges they encounter to help break the cycle of exclusion.
On 9 November 2021, ODIHR continued its work in this area with an online conference featuring indigenous activists from Saami, Inuit, Native American, First Nations and other indigenous communities, who spoke with representatives of state institutions, civil society and intergovernmental organizations. The meeting’s 60 participants came from 28 countries, and close to a thousand people viewed the recording on social media channels.
During the event, indigenous representatives shared their experiences of accessing justice, defending their rights and addressing intolerance. They discussed the multiple forms of discrimination targeting women and girls from indigenous communities, as well as how the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the problems of healthcare inequality and the digital divide. They highlighted the oppression they have faced and continue to face, including at the hands of state institutions, and the subsequent intergenerational trauma and socio-economic deprivation it has caused.
"Non-discrimination is a prerequisite for the effective contribution of all in creating peaceful and stable societies."
— Ambassador Kairat Abdrakhmanov, OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities
In addition, the activists all emphasized the positive role of indigenous people in focusing attention on challenges that disproportionately affect their communities, for example the climate crisis. They reiterated the unique position of indigenous groups in helping states develop solutions to such global problems, and the importance of promoting inclusion to allow the voices of these communities to be heard.
Addressing intolerance and discrimination is essential to ensure that historically marginalized and vulnerable groups can enjoy all their rights and contribute fully to society. ODIHR continues to work with state institutions, civil society and indigenous groups to provide a platform for dialogue and inclusive decision-making. Following the event, other intergovernmental bodies such as the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) expressed their commitment to keeping intolerance targeting indigenous groups high on the agenda.