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© UN Photo/ Devra Berkowitz

Indigenous Media

This year's commemoration is organized under the theme "Indigenous Media, Empowering Indigenous Voices" which encompasses the role of media in supporting indigenous peoples’ models of development that are in accordance with their own priorities, cultures and values. Moreover the theme highlights how the use of media by indigenous peoples, in its traditional and new media forms, enables them to promote their cultures and languages, to transmit their knowledge, and to represent their own views that often may differ from mainstream analyses.

 The media are a key to unlock the visions of indigenous peoples of sustainable development. We must harness this power for sustainable development for all.  


Irina Bokova, UNESCO Director General
Message on the International Day of the World's Indigenous People 2012

The power of the media in shaping the lives of individuals and communities is widely acknowledged. Communication and media are the keys to raising awareness, sharing knowledge and supporting a broader debate on indigenous knowledge, culture and values, all of which are conducive to more effective policies and actions.

Putting people at the center of development

UNESCO’s general approach in development thinking and practice has always been people-centered - stimulating the awareness, involvement and capabilities of people and communities to make decisions concerning their own lives and creating new opportunities for social change. Within this framework UNESCO supports initiatives aimed at empowering women and men in indigenous communities, using media that they can adopt easily with the appropriate training to reach out to other communities, NGOs, government institutions and decision-makers.

In order to support the desires of marginalized people to be given a voice, UNESCO through the International Programme for the Development of Communication (IPDC), has funded at least 27 media projects benefitting indigenous people since 2000. This support has involved among other things, training and the purchasing of radio equipment. A wide range of skills are required - from producing programmes and running interviews to managing the financing of the station and overseeing its long term sustainability – to ensure these communities’ right to promote and defend their rights to freedom of expression and access to information.

© UNESCO/Al-Amin Yusuph. Distribution of solar/dynamo radio sets to Maasai women listeners of Loliondo Community Radio.

Community radio initiatives provide an outreach mechanism for increased access to education, self-expression and communication particularly among rural and hard to reach grassroots populations. These and other community media initiatives facilitate the transmission of new ideas and practices, improving traditional skills and acquiring new ones. They also create opportunities to challenge stereotyped portrayals and transform established patterns of representation.

Communication and media can promote changes in attitudes and social behavior and help indigenous communities and indigenous women to identify sustainable opportunities and development solutions that are within their reach – and to make themselves heard.

Empowering indigenous voices

© Douglas Nakashima

Their voices have remained largely on the sidelines of global change debates, despite broad recognition that indigenous and other vulnerable communities are on the frontlines of climate change. UNESCO helped to set up a grassroots online forum in response to indigenous peoples and community representatives’ outcry, which now reaches more than 50,000 people worldwide and includes an international network of field projects documenting local observations and knowledge related to climate change. Aptly named Climate Frontlines, it is a demonstration of ways indigenous media can facilitate development by encouraging dialogue and debate, enabling indigenous peoples to articulate their own development agendas.

New information and communication technologies play a significant role in enhancing the access to, and quality of, education, science and culture. Their applications transform the way we share, preserve and transmit knowledge and languages. UNESCO has much to contribute in this respect through its multidisciplinary mandate in education, culture, communication, social and natural sciences which is completely unique on the international stage. However, the rapid development of ICTs has also contributed to creating new divides, and UNESCO is committed to building inclusive knowledge societies for a sustainable future.

About the Day

The International Day of the World's Indigenous People, celebrated each year on 9 August, marks the day of the first meeting, in 1982, of the UN Working Group on Indigenous Populations of the Subcommission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights.

Official UN Event

Interactive Dialogue: Indigenous Media, Empowering Indigenous Voices
New York, USA, 9 August 2012

New website!

A new UNESCO platform presenting our activities with Indigenous Peoples will be launched on 9 August 2012.


Satawalese navigator Mau Piailug talks about the story of the first navigators
Thousands of years ago, when most European sailors were still hugging the coast, the island peoples of the Pacific held the knowledge and skills to explore the great ocean paths around and beyond their homes. Women were the first navigators, and Pulap was the first navigator island. It started with a kuling bird (sandpiper), which was a ghost and not just a bird...

Source: The Canoe Is the People

Featured projects

Communication: Key element for personal and social development in indigenous communities

One of the key goals of this project is the transformation of members of rural communities into a source of effective information, with real participation, and reinforce access to information, plurality, diversity of media and capacity building.

Community communication for the eradication of violence against indigenous women of Mexico, Nicaragua and Guatemala

The project has been devised by representatives of the Women's Networking Association of Community Radio Broadcasters in all three countries. The project is aimed at women's networks, but it is recognized that it is also essential for radio to address the issue of violence from different angles to include men in an issue in which they are involved.