UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The United Nations General Assembly on Monday approved a document strengthening the rights of indigenous peoples worldwide.
The Outcome Document was endorsed by consensus at the start of the first World Conference on Indigenous Peoples.
The gathering brought together more than 1,000 delegates from indigenous communities along with various heads of state and UN officials.
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said indigenous people are "central to our discourse of human rights and global development" and have an important role in the push for a more sustainable use of natural resources.
Ban said indigenous people have the "full support" of the U.N. He welcomed delegates with greetings in indigenous languages from Latin America, South Africa, New Zealand, Malaysia, North America, Norway and Sweden.
Aili Keskitalo, president of the Sami Parliament in Norway, told the General Assembly that indigenous people have for decades been marginalized, discriminated against and ignored. She said this has begun to change since the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples was approved in 2007.
"The challenge now remains to implement the provisions of the declaration, by closing the gaps between theory and practice, between inspiration and reality," she said.
The primary goals, she said, are to prevent the loss of territory and resources, to end discrimination, to maintain cultural identity, and to help find solutions to climate change.
Keskitalo said the new Outcome Document is important because if recognizes that indigenous people and their institutions will be allowed to participate in U.N. debates and actions that effect their communities.
Nobel Peace Prize winner Rigoberta Menchu of Guatemala told the Assembly that the rights of indigenous peoples have consistently been violated and called for a more rigorous program to make good on the promises of the 2007 declaration.
The two-day meeting also highlights the high level of poverty in many indigenous regions.