Youth as agents of change for Self-determination

Advocate Kezhokhoto Savi
Asst Professor, Kohima Law College

“Youth as Agents of change for Self-determination” is the 2023 theme of International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples’ which is celebrated globally on August 9 and the event recognizes the achievements and contributions that indigenous people made to improve world issues such as environment protection, etc.
2023 theme is “Youth as agents of change for Self-determination.”

Indigenous Peoples youth are playing an active role in exercising their right to self-determination, as their future depends on the decisions that are made today. For instance, Indigenous youth are working as agents of change at the forefront of some of the most pressing crises facing humanity today. Since colonization, Indigenous youth have been faced with ever-changing environments not only culturally in modern society, but in the traditional context as well.

The indigenous youth representation and participation in global efforts towards climate change mitigation, peace-building and digital cooperation are crucial for the effective implementation of the right of Indigenous Peoples to self-determination, and to their enjoyment of collective and individual human rights, the promotion of peaceful co-existence, and ensuring equality of all. In the role of indigenous youth in exercising self-determination in the context of climate action and the green transition, mobilizing for justice and intergenerational connections:            

Climate action and the green transition: Indigenous youth in their communities play differentiated roles and functions, from which derive certain recognition. For example, from an early age Indigenous youth, both boys and girls, are trained by their parents, the community and nature to participate in family activities, socialize with peers and elders, through games, imitation and collaborating in activities such as agriculture, shepherding, sowing and household chores, as well as in the way community ties are established between them. Therefore, Indigenous youth also have an intimate relationship with the land and biodiversity. Importantly, ways of living for Indigenous youth are changing due to evolving social, cultural, political and economic contexts. Indigenous youth have been changing this reality and becoming key players in the global climate action movement. As the next generation, Indigenous youth are positioning Indigenous Peoples’ unique alternative solutions to climate change and issues related to the ‘green transition’, especially where the development of many green technologies, such as mineral extraction and hydroelectric dams, are harming Indigenous Peoples’ lands, territories, resources and rights. The issues raised by Indigenous youth in the climate change debate can offer important insights into climate action and sustainable resource management, and they must be afforded a seat at all levels of decision-making table.

Mobilizing for Justice: Discrimination impacts the lives of Indigenous youth in ways that affect their self-estee, loss of spiritual richness, loss of language and denial of their cultural roots. Many Indigenous youth face different barriers, cultural clashes; and different influences that over time, push them to acquire an identity that is foreign to their place of origin, to avoid being the object of discrimination and racism, in extreme cases rejecting their culture, languages, and the practice of ancestral customs. In some cases, entire generation of Indigenous youth have grown up out of their communities but have retained a connection to their lands and territories through their families, Indigenous Peoples’ organisations or others. The new generation of Indigenous advocates are mobilizing to shift the narrative around Indigenous Peoples. They have become the driving force for societal mobilization, making use of online platforms to showcase and celebrate their cultures, language and knowledge systems to a wider audience and to highlight injustices within their communities.      

Intergenerational connections: It is important to have an intergenera tional dialogue between youth and elders, because youth represent continuity along the path already walked by their ancestors. As the keepers of traditional and scientific, Indigenous elders hold the key to Indigenous Peoples’ cultures, values, etc. Indigenous elders teach Indigenous youth and children the importance of family, community, nature and their responsibilities within these structures. Therefore, the connection between the generations is a crucial aspect of Indigenous Peoples’ wellbeing, as it facilitates the transfer of Indigenous knowledge and fosters strong bonds between generations. Finally, there is a need to strengthen intergenerational dialogue as well as the dialogue between Indigenous Peoples and non-Indigenous Peoples, so that future relationships will be positive for many generations to come.