UN Forum urges inclusion of indigenous peoples’ concerns in global anti-poverty goals

26 May 2006

At the end of a major United Nations meeting held in New York, indigenous leaders today urged the world’s developed countries to take into account the concerns of indigenous communities living within their borders while implementing the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

“Indigenous people in developed countries pointed out that they have suffered significant disparities in the enjoyment of economic, social, and cultural rights,” said members of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues in a draft document submitted to the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC).

Endorsing a series of measures recommended by some 1,200 delegates who participated in the two-week meeting, the Forum said such disparities “tended to be masked at the international level,” owing to the lack of aggregated data and the comparative high level of enjoyment of rights by the non-indigenous population.

“As a result,” according to the Forum, “there is insufficient recognition that there are challenges for meeting the goals in the developed countries.”

At the meeting, many indigenous leaders voiced their concern that developed countries treat the MDGs as a matter of foreign policy, relevant only to their international aid programmes. The MDGs are series of targets set by the world leaders to reduce levels of poverty, diseases, and illiteracy and environmental degradation b y the year 2015.

The Permanent Forum called for governments, the UN World Health Organization (WHO), UN Population Fund (UNFPA), UN Development Programme (UNDP) and other agencies to adopt targeted policies, programmes, projects and budgets to address the “staggering prevalence” of diabetes among indigenous people and put in place “culturally appropriate” health services and treatment and prevention methods.

The Forum said it fully endorsed the indigenous leaders’ demand that States must recognize their right to self determination and respect the principle of “free, prior and informed consent” with regard to development activities which take place on their lands and resources. The Forum also urged Member States to uphold the linguistic rights of indigenous people.

UN officials estimate that more than 1,200 leaders, representing some 370 million indigenous peoples in different parts of the world, attended the Forum.