Wednesday 09 August 2023, 15:00

FIFA and United Nations join together to celebrate International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples

  • Event in Sydney/Gadigal highlighted issues impacting First Nations, Māori and Indigenous Peoples

  • UN International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples is held every 9 August

  • Unite for Indigenous Peoples is one of the social causes being run during the FIFA Women's World Cup™

FIFA and the United Nations Human Rights (OHCHR) jointly staged an event celebrating the International Day of the World's Indigenous Peoples, which has coincided with the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023™ being played in Australia and Aotearoa New Zealand. The event, held in Sydney/Gadigal, highlighted the challenges facing First Nations and Māori as well as Indigenous people worldwide.

First Nations and Māori guests, UN agency representatives and member association representatives joined FIFA President Gianni Infantino and FIFA Secretary General Fatma Samoura to listen to experts on how to drive change, and how football can play its part.

The day is held every 9 August to spread awareness about the Indigenous population around the world and to protect their rights. The FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023™ has been used to convey these messages with “Unite for Indigenous Peoples” one of the seven social causes which are being promoted during the tournament.

“It was my pleasure to address a beautiful event in Sydney recognising First Nations and Māori on the occasion of the International Day of the World's Indigenous Peoples,” Mr Infantino said. “We recognise the importance of preserving the rights and lands of the Indigenous Peoples around the world and we are proud that we can use football to highlight this issue. It is fitting that this day coincided with the great countries of Australia and New Zealand hosting the most inclusive and the greatest FIFA Women’s World Cup ever.”

Fatma Samoura said that events like these are perfect to promote awareness and encourage further change, and talked about her experience on a visit to Darwin in northern Australia. “Indigenous people are traditional owners of our lands, unique storytellers, educators, healers, and the original carers of the climate and our environment,” she said.

“I learnt so much during my recent trips to The Treaty of Waitangi Grounds and to the Northern Territory, bringing a fresh lens to the importance of the work we are all doing.

“First Nation and Māori countries have been strongly represented in our branding, in the use of traditional place names for host cities through our team welcomes and on matchdays, including the ceremonies and through team captains’ armbands.”

The main event was a panel discussion which centred on how the FIFA Women’s World Cup™ can drive change through a grassroots and legacy focus, how to improve access and participation in sport, how to remove barriers for children, and how to achieve equity in sport. The panellists were Denise Ewe (a repeat UN delegate and esteemed Māori Elder), Linda Faulkner (Commissioner, New Zealand National Commission for UNESCO), Grace McColm-Monaghan (UNICEF Australia Young Ambassador) and Professor Hannah McGlade (Noongar Human Rights and Social Justice Advocate, UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues) and the event was moderated by Oriini Kaipara (broadcaster and te reo Māori interpreter).

There were also touchpoints on what needs to be addressed for the future and what FIFA and UN agencies can do to promote the protection of rights for all through mitigating racism, empowering youth and women to enact change, combatting violence against women, and education on how to achieve sustainable positive change in societies.

Heike Alefsen, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights for the Pacific, said the world of sports has an enormous reach and influence, which if used positively, can drive respect for human rights and empower communities. “Advancing the rights of Indigenous Peoples, empowering and amplifying their voice, is both a goal in and of itself and an essential part of protecting the human rights of all people,” Alefsen said. “There are many parallels between human rights and sports, and notably football – at best, a focus on empowerment, fairness and a celebration of the values of having an identity yet being united in diversity – all at the same time." Alefsen thanked FIFA for collaborating with UN Human Rights in spotlighting the cause of inclusion and non-discrimination, and said governments, business and sports all had a part to play. “In sports, to improve governance, indigenous contributions must be acknowleged and further institutionalized with indigenous women engaged in all aspects of planning and organising of large events. Full inclusion – by taking part as players but also in decision-making – will contribute to gender equality and transformational change.” Panelist Hannah McGlade, a member of the Kurin Minang Noongar people of West Australia, said the voices of Indigenous women was critical to ending the blight of violence against many Indigenous women and children. "Indigenous youth are agents of change for self-determination – and ending violence to Indigenous women and children is critical to youth agency and self-determination. They deserve the best chance for a healthy life, to fully realise their potential and dreams for the future," she said.

Unite for Indigenous Peoples LED Boards