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UN: Danish Minister directs attention to indigenous peoples’ access to education

June 21 2013

In his statement on education at the 4th session of the General assembly open work group on sustainable development goals held this week in New York, the Danish Minister for Development Cooperation, Christian Friis Bach, directed attention to indigenous peoples’ access to education.

The Minister stressed the importance of creating social protection schemes and focus on education in a manner that takes into account the specific challenges faced by marginalised groups, and amongst them, indigenous peoples.

Further the minister stressed that equal access to education for children and youth must be at the core of securing the right to education. This means that it is necessary to create solutions that are targeted at excluded groups such as indigenous peoples.

Due to the geographic and politically marginalized status of indigenous peoples, indigenous children and youth generally lack access to formal education. Education for indigenous peoples is however not only a matter of improving access. As stressed in a forthcoming briefing note on indigenous peoples and education prepared by IWGIA, most often, education systems and curricula do not reflect or respect indigenous peoples’ diverse cultures, and even aim at devaluating indigenous cultural traditions.

The implementation of indigenous peoples’ right to education means ensuring access to culturally appropriate and relevant formal education, as well as the right to control their own education systems. In either case, education should serve as a route towards the achievement of empowerment and self-determination. Education should strengthen indigenous children’s ability to exercise their civil rights in order to influence political policy processes and thereby improve protection of human rights.