“Youth as Agents of Change for Self-Determination” is the theme for the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples in 2023. This global celebration takes place on August 9th and aims to recognize the accomplishments and contributions of indigenous people towards addressing global issues, including environmental protection.


2023 Theme – “Youth as Agents of Change for Self-Determination”

Indigenous Peoples’ youth are actively engaging in asserting their right to self-determination, recognizing that their future hinges on the decisions made today. For example, Indigenous youth are at the forefront of addressing pressing global crises, serving as agents of change. In the wake of colonization, Indigenous youth have experienced evolving cultural dynamics not only within modern society but also in traditional contexts.


The participation and representation of indigenous youth in worldwide efforts related to climate change mitigation, peace-building, and digital cooperation are pivotal for effectively upholding the right of Indigenous Peoples to self-determination. This ensures the enjoyment of both collective and individual human rights, promotes peaceful coexistence, and ensures equality for all.


The Role of Indigenous Youth in Exercising Self-Determination


(a) Climate Action and the Green Transition:

In their communities, Indigenous youth play diverse roles that stem from early training and involvement in various activities. This includes participation in family endeavors, interactions with peers and elders, and engagement in tasks like agriculture and household responsibilities. Their intimate connection with the land and biodiversity shapes their perspectives. As key players in the global climate action movement, Indigenous youth provide alternative solutions to climate change and challenges posed by the ‘green transition.’ These technologies often impact Indigenous lands, territories, resources, and rights. The insights offered by Indigenous youth in climate change discussions can guide climate action and resource management decisions at all levels.


(b) Mobilizing for Justice:

Indigenous youth often encounter discrimination that affects their self-esteem, spiritual heritage, language retention, and cultural roots. Over time, they may adopt identities foreign to their origins to avoid discrimination and racism. Some even reject their culture, language, and ancestral practices. Many Indigenous youth maintain connections to their lands and communities despite growing up outside their original settings. A new generation of Indigenous advocates is actively reshaping the narrative surrounding Indigenous Peoples. They harness online platforms to showcase their cultures, languages, and knowledge systems, while also highlighting injustices within their communities.


Facilitating dialogue between youth and elders is essential, as youth carry forward the path paved by their ancestors. Indigenous elders, as guardians of traditional and scientific knowledge, hold the key to Indigenous Peoples’ cultures and values. They impart vital teachings about family, community, nature, and responsibilities to the younger generation. Strengthening intergenerational dialogue, as well as dialogue between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Peoples, is crucial for fostering positive relationships in the coming generations.


Advocate Kezhokhoto Savi

Asst. Professor, Kohima Law College

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