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Indigenous leaders, activists plan anti-poverty strategies at UN forum

Indigenous leaders, activists plan anti-poverty strategies at UN forum

Some 1,500 indigenous leaders and their supporters will hold a meeting at the United Nations starting next week to create strategies to meet the first two Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) – eradicating extreme poverty and hunger and providing universal primary education.

"Often the most marginalized peoples in society, without adequate access to education, health care and water, indigenous peoples are frequently deprived of the right to participate in or shape their own sustainable human development," according to the 16-member UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues.

The achievement of the MDGs, which were agreed at a UN Summit in 2000 and were designed to eliminate or reduce a host of socio-economic ills, "could inadvertently result in harm done to indigenous and tribal peoples," the Forum said.

Educational models for indigenous and minority children using mainly dominant languages as languages of instruction have extremely negative consequences on the right to education and perpetuate poverty, it gave as one example.

"Without education mainly in the mother tongue in public schools, with good teaching of a dominant language as a second language, most indigenous peoples have to accept education through a dominant/majority language, at the cost of the mother tongue which is displaced, and often replaced, by the dominant language," it said.

UN Deputy-Secretary-General Louise Fréchette will open the two-week meeting on Monday. Sid Hill, the traditional Chief of one of the native peoples of New York, the Onondaga, will bless the gathering.

This year is the start of the Second International Decade of the World's Indigenous People, designated by the UN General Assembly last December. The Assembly also asked Secretary-General Kofi Annan to appoint the Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, now José Antonio Ocampo, as the Decade's Coordinator.

Half of the Forum's 16 members are nominated by indigenous organizations and the rest by Governments.

Nominated by organizations are Michael Dodson (Yawuru, Australia), Wilton Littlechild (Cree, Canada), Aqqaluk Lynge (Inuit, Greenland), Nina Pacari Vega (Quichua, Ecuador), Pavel Sulyandziga (Udege, Russian Federation), Parshuram Tamang (Tamang, Nepal) and Victoria Tauli-Corpuz (Igorot, Philippines).

Those nominated by States are Eduardo Aguiar de Almeida (Brazil), Hassan Id Balkassm (Amazigh, Morocco), Yuri Boychenko (Russian Federation), Ralph Joey Langeveldt (Khoe-San, South Africa), Merike Kokajev (Estonia), Otilia Lux de Coti (Maya, Guatemala), Ida Nicolaisen (Denmark), Liliana Muzangi Mbella (Democratic Republic of the Congo) and Qin Xiaomei (China).