Latin America must fight discrimination against indigenous people – UNICEF

8 July 2005 – With Latin America’s indigenous peoples lagging way behind the non-indigenous population in both income levels and human development indicators such as education, health, access to water and sanitation, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) is calling for an all-out battle against inequality.

“Discrimination against indigenous people in Latin America is a structural problem and the key to tackle it is to overcome the enormous inequalities in this region,” UNICEF Regional Director for Latin America and the Caribbean Nils Kastberg told more than 80 indigenous children and adolescents from 17 Latin American countries meeting in Madrid, Spain.

“We have a debt that is not only from the past, but also from the present,” he told the opening session of the two-day meeting yesterday. An estimated 40-50 million indigenous people live in Latin America, representing 10 per cent of the population.

The president of the UNICEF National Committee in Spain, Francisco González-Bueno, urged the participating children and adolescents to take action. “Our obligation is to make the rights embraced by Governments a reality,” he said. “It’s essential that you know your rights in order to be able to demand then, since only rights that are claimed are fulfilled.”

The conclusions of the meeting, organized by the UNICEF Regional Office for Latin America and the Caribbean, will be reflected in a Final Declaration and presented at the Ibero-American Ministerial Conference on Children and Adolescents, to be held in September in León, Spain.

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