ROME: There are more than 370 million self-identified peoples in some 70 countries around the world. In Latin America alone there are over 400 groups, each with a distinct language and culture, though the biggest concentration is in Asia and the Pacific– with an estimated 70 per cent. And their traditional lands guard over 80 per cent of the planet’s biodiversity.
They are the indigenous peoples.
They have rich and ancient cultures and view their social, economic, environmental and spiritual systems as interdependent. And they make valuable contributions to the world’s heritage thanks to their traditional knowledge and their understanding of ecosystem management.
“But they are also among the world’s most vulnerable, marginalized and disadvantaged groups. And they have in-depth, varied and locally rooted knowledge of the natural world,” says the Rome-based International Fund for Agriculture Development (IFAD).
“Unfortunately, indigenous peoples too often pay a price for being different and far too frequently face discrimination,” the Fund, which hosted the Global Meeting of the Indigenous People Forum in Rome on February 10 and 13.
During this biennial meeting, the United Nations specialized agency brought together representatives of Indigenous Peoples’ Organizations from across the world, as well as leaders of partner bodies to engage in a direct dialogue and improve participation of indigenous peoples in the Fund’s country programs.
Over the centuries, the indigenous peoples “have been dispossessed of their lands, territories and resources and, as a consequence, have often lost control over their own way of life. Worldwide, they account for 5 per cent of the population, but represent 15 per cent of those living in poverty,” IFAD said.
One of the most effective ways to enable indigenous peoples to overcome poverty, it adds, is to support their efforts to shape and direct their own destinies, and to ensure that they are the co-creators and co-managers of development initiatives.
Rights of Indigenous Peoples
The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, adopted by the General Assembly on September 13, 2007, establishes a universal framework of minimum standards for the survival, dignity, well being and rights of the world’s indigenous peoples.
• There are more than 370 million self-identified indigenous people in the world, living in at least 70 countries
• Most of the worlds’ indigenous peoples live in Asia
• Indigenous peoples form about 5,000 distinct groups and occupy about 20 per cent of the earth’s territory.
• Although indigenous peoples make up less than 6 per cent of the global population, they speak more than 4,000 of the world’s 7,000 languages.
• One of the root causes of the poverty and marginalization of indigenous peoples is loss of control over their traditional lands, territories and natural resources.
• Indigenous peoples have a concept of poverty and development that reflects their own values, needs and priorities; they do not see poverty solely as the lack of income.
• A growing number of indigenous peoples live in urban areas, as a result of the degradation of land, dispossession, forced evictions and lack of employment opportunities.