You can’t achieve MDGs without Indigenous Peoples

Developing countries cannot achieve the target of Millennium Development Goals unless they address discrimination of indigenous peoples. In a paper presented at the high level plenary meeting of the General Assembly Millennium Development Goals Summit, representative of indigenous communities noted that many them were left out by country interventions.

Lucy Mulenkei from the Indigenous Information Network in Kenya said indigenous peoples still don’t have a voice in national programs.

“Indigenous Peoples have historically faced social exclusion and marginalization.  They are disproportionately represented among the poor, their levels of access to adequate health and education services are well below national averages,” she said. “If the Millennium Development Goals are to be met, states need to give attention to the situation of Indigenous Peoples.”

While they constitute approximately 5% of the world’s population, Indigenous Peoples make up 15% of the world’s poor.   Indeginous Peoples also make up about one third of the world’s 900 million extremely poor rural people.

Mulenkei gave an example in Uganda where the Batwa have largely been left out of everything that it was only two years ago when the first person joined high school. The Batwa are among other minority hunter gathers in Africa and are found in Uganda, DRC, Rwanda and Burundi.

“If the Millennium Development Goals are to be reached by 2015, they must be underpinned by a human rights-based approach to development that emphasizes universality, equality, participation and accountability. ”

Often in countries like Uganda interventions are made for those who have the big political muscle and have representation. Batwa people and other fruit gathers are not even represented at local district councils which are often in charge of monitoring interventions.

Last year I visited Karamoja, where the tribes still live a nomadic life.  A Karimojong doctor told me many women in the region refused to give birth in the hospital because they are forced to deliver laying on their backs something totally different to their culture.

Mulenkei said working with Indigenous Peoples on the MDGs requires a culturally sensitive approach, based on respect for and inclusion of indigenous peoples’ world-views, perspectives, experiences, and concepts of development.

Mulenkei and other activist gathered in New York said  that government must recognize that indigenous peoples as distinct peoples and therefore be respected for their individual and collective human rights by and therefore avail them culturally-sensitive social services.

Many environmental programs have left indigenous people out of their lands with no alternative source of livelihood and therefore exacerbating the poverty levels among these groups.

Activists called for governments to incorporate indigenous people especially women in decision-making and in political participation at all levels of representation; community local and national levels.

They called for creation of quotas not only in political participation but in all organizational forms. Mulenkei said economic empowerment of communities especially women through n small grants, micro credit facilities would help a lot to bring these communities closer to the national indicators.

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