UN committee agrees indigenous people need special declaration to cure poverty

20 October 2005 –

World leaders will need to promote sustainable development and protect the human rights of indigenous people in order to bring hunger and widespread poverty to an end, United Nations human rights, economic and labour experts told a General Assembly committee on the issue of indigenous people yesterday.

Poverty affects indigenous people more severely than the rest of the world’s population. While some 370 million indigenous persons represent 5 per cent of the world’s people, they represent 12 per cent of the world’s poor, the Director of the Division for Social Policy and Development, Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA), Joan Schölvinck said.

Often governments make decisions without consulting indigenous people beforehand, fail to provide adequate protection of their rights, and provide substandard schooling, all of which increase misery, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous people, Rodolfo Stavenhagen, told the Social, Humanitarian and Cultural (Third) Committee.

Governments should recognize that indigenous peoples have special needs, which means they also have the right to prior consultation and informed consent in the development of public policy, and decisions about investments and development projects, which can have lasting impact on their lives and culture, he said. Their accelerated assimilation into mainstream cultures can also have a lasting negative impact on them socially, culturally and economically, he added.

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