Why Indigenous Rights Need Improvement Throughout The World

Humans have been known to discriminate against others because of differences in culture and identity, and this discrimination often fuels conflict. One may think that this would not be the case, as our world is graced with the presence of indigenous populations that actively contribute to the celebration of life through their music, art, languages and knowledge. However, we live in a world that struggles to accept disparity between people.

The problem that I wish to raise awareness of in this report is the low level of respect and appreciation societies have for indigenous populations. Despite the recent global efforts to change this, indigenous people, who posses so much valuable knowledge of humanity and nature, are still in need of greater representation in countries across the world. If indigenous people were integrated and accepted further into societies, the values and knowledge possessed by these people would undoubtedly contribute to countering the racism, discrimination and negative stereotypes that they are the targets of, and would promote peace and reciprocal respect between peoples.

Recent efforts such as the United Nation’s 2007 Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples mark a beginning of a global effort to accept indigenous people as equals and provide them with access to the human rights standards and fundamental freedoms that others benefit from. This declaration is one among many that has been put in place in order to improve countries’ efforts to appreciate and recognize indigenous communities. However, despite 148 states expressing their support for this declaration, the treatment of indigenous peoples within most of these states does not reflect the principles which the declaration was put in place to champion. Since the declaration was signed, indigenous peoples throughout the world are increasingly experiencing attacks on their communities through armed conflict. This constitutes a dire response from governments who have vowed to abide by and support the actions and principles which the declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples embodies.

It is evident in places such as New Zealand and Australia that there has been government failure to properly implement the declaration’s values in their countries. National and community actions have not been made to align with the declaration that the two countries’ respective governments committed to on the behalf of their people. In New Zealand, efforts to create and uphold reparation have been made through offering the indigenous community in New Zealand, the Māori, university scholarships and government funding. These forms of reparation are essential as they allow institutions and governance systems to enhance the inclusion of the indigenous community. However, despite there being many people who believe these forms of reparation to be well-founded, there has been strong disagreement from people who oppose these policies, which highlights the problems of inequality that remain despite the government’s efforts.

New Zealand has made some other efforts to improve involvement of the Māori in society. These include adaptations of government bills, land return, more usage of the indigenous language, and more education covering indigenous history. Although these efforts have exceeded those of other countries, there is still significant evidence of racism and inequality in New Zealand. This is evident in the fact that despite the state’s efforts to include indigenous citizens in society, there has not been enough effort outside of government and institutions. There is still a great need to include Māori citizens in other areas of life that the average non-indigenous New Zealander is involved in. We must encourage Pākehā, the non-indigenous population, to see these increasing efforts to include Māori as an opportunity to appreciate the cultural and spiritual richness that exists in New Zealand.

There should be more government funding for the education of New Zealand’s children on indigenous issues as it is an integral part of creating change that is sustainable. The Māori being discriminated against by other people in New Zealand is partly because of a lack of education on the importance of the Māori in New Zealand’s history. The government of New Zealand has introduced education about the history of the Māori in primary schools, however the education should not stop there. It should be compulsory for there to be collaborations to facilitate long lasting relationships between primary schools that hold rich Māori culture, and the schools who do not have social proximity to indigenous culture. This would provide more education, but more fundamentally would allow children to collaborate and understand equality at a young age and carry those experiences all the way through life. This would mean that non-indigenous members of society will not just see the Māori as another subject they learn at school, but as a part of their childhood experience.

For any country or state to move forward on these issues, they must embrace the gift that is indigenous peoples – they and the world have much to learn from them in areas of peace and development. Indigenous approaches to conflict resolution arguably transcend legal action as their focus is on forgiveness and coexistence. With greater integration of these virtues into the world through respect of indigenous cultures the world would benefit greatly.

Indigenous peoples have endured much hate, neglect, abuse and disrespect and it is time to make change. Countries need to introduce not only financial aid to indigenous populations, but they also need to facilitate ways in which indigenous and non-indigenous people can connect and appreciate each other through collaboration in building their shared nations. Therefore, it is important that countries that possess an indigenous population create an indigenous people’s quota that requires the government to present equal representation. It is not until everyone is treated with equal respect that we will be able to move forward, and creating this quota is the first small step that will help countries work towards this goal.

Author Nathan Rutstein once wrote that “prejudice is an emotional commitment to ignorance.” We discriminate against people due to their ethnicity, culture, religion, socio-economic status and other features. It does indeed require effort to learn to understand other peoples, but countries internationally must endeavor to improve on their current approaches to indigenous issues in order to help create a peaceful world. States must realize that we need to first work within our own communities before venturing outside of our nations, in order to build a strong foundation for us to work towards world peace.

Bella Christie
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