To mark the 26th anniversary of the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples on Sunday, UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres released a letter describing the devastating impact Covid-19 has had on more than 476 million indigenous people around the world.

“Throughout history, indigenous people have been decimated by diseases brought from elsewhere, to which they had no immunity. It is critical for countries to marshal the resources to respond to their needs, honour their contributions and respect their inalienable rights.

“Realising the rights of indigenous people’s means ensuring their inclusion and participation in Covid-19 response and recovery strategies. Indigenous peoples must be consulted in all efforts to build back stronger and recover better,” he said.

The holiday celebrating indigenous people was first marked in Cambodia in 2005 in Phnom Penh.

The Department of the Development of Indigenous Peoples at the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries cooperated with civil society organisations and 24 indigenous communities from 15 provinces in Cambodia to celebrate the holiday.

UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres said indigenous peoples must be consulted in all efforts to build back stronger and recover better. Photo supplied

Executive director of the NGO Forum on Cambodia Tek Vannara told The Post he was committed to supporting indigenous people in Cambodia, especially communities listed by the government as eligible to receive communal lands to improve their livelihoods.

He said NGOs have participated in coordinating and encouraging the establishment of an alliance of indigenous people to be recognised by the Ministry of Interior.

Hopefully, Vannara said, communities of indigenous people will have the ability to participate in community development in line with the government’s policies.

“We will continue to support various initiatives to preserve the culture, tradition, language, work, and heritage of indigenous people by establishing cultural centres.

“The implementation of natural resource and biodiversity protection projects for the sake of society and the environment is important to us.

“We will promote participation with the authorities and relevant people to design areas of management within natural protected areas to raise the living standards of indigenous people,” Vannara said.

He also noted the need for society to practise good hygiene as Covid-19 continues to spread across the globe. “Covid-19 has never forgotten us. It is we who forget it,” he said.