December 8, 2011
Through its project entitled “Earth, Exploitation and Survival: Dimensions of Indigenous Identity,” made possible with the support of the Nando Peretti Foundation, UNPO is engaged in a series of activities with the indigenous Degar-Montagnard of Vietnam’s Central Highlands; these activities focus on cultural preservation as well as youth leadership. The Degar-Montagnard diaspora plays an important leadership role in raising Degar-Montagnard issues in public forums, preserving the unique indigenous language and culture of the Degar-Montagnard people and teaching about Degar-Montagnard culture worldwide. Concentrated in North and South Carolina, USA, this diaspora has a large and active youth group that seeks to be more engaged in preserving their indigenous culture, and engaging in international conversations regarding Vietnam’s indigenous populations.
Under the third phase of the project, UNPO brought three Degar-Montagnard youth leaders to Geneva to attend the United Nations Forum on Minority Issues. In preparation for their participation in the Forum the Degar youth were given training and support on the operation of the Forum, its purpose in relation to other international mechanisms for minority and indigenous populations and how to participate effectively in the Forum. These activities also allowed the Degar-Montagnard youth to work with other young leaders from indigenous communities both within and outside of Vietnam.
Expanding upon previous trainings in North Carolina and New York, Degar-Montagnard youth leaders were provided with additional knowledge on cultural preservation and interaction with important international forums. Following training and support from UNPO on effective at the United Nations in Geneva, the youth were able to participate directly in the UN Forum on Minority Issues.
The Forum on Minority Issues represented a valuable opportunity for the Degar-Montagnard youth to put their training immediately into action under the guidance of trained UNPO staff. The youth leaders drafted a statement with the assistance of UNPO, and delivered this statement to a Forum of close to 500 participants representing states, UN agencies and minority communities. Through the Forum the youth leaders also gained a tremendous opportunity to come into close contact with other indigenous and minority representatives, and build a support network for the work they are learning to do through this project.