Indigenous peoples’ centuries-long fight against pandemics
For centuries, indigenous peoples worldwide have suffered from epidemics and pandemics brought to their communities by outsiders. This danger only intensified with increased global travel, trade and transportation. In the colonial era, epidemics served as a deadly tool of conquest, leading, in some cases, to the annihilation of entire indigenous populations. Today, they continue to threaten indigenous peoples across the world.
For the past year, the COVID-19 pandemic has touched virtually every country and has significantly impacted every facet of our lives. Indigenous peoples, among other disadvantaged populations, have been particularly hard hit. This is why UN DESA is organizing the International Expert Group Meeting on “Indigenous Peoples and Pandemics”. The meeting will contribute to the work of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII), by helping to analyse the effects of COVID-19 on indigenous peoples, share good practices, and develop policy.
Indigenous peoples are more vulnerable to the direct (health) and indirect (economic, food security) effects of COVID-19, with generally higher infection and death rates than overall non-indigenous populations. Indigenous women and girls are even more negatively impacted due to gender, ethnicity and scarce economic resources.
During the current pandemic, indigenous leaders and organizations have questioned the absence of effective mechanisms that promote and allow for the participation of their representatives in decision-making processes during the crisis, as well as the lack of access to information about the pandemic in indigenous languages. Moreover, the disaggregated data that could reveal indigenous peoples’ genuine experience has been sorely lacking.
The United Nations has recognized the threat that COVID-19 continues to pose to indigenous peoples. In April 2020, UN DESA issued a document highlighting considerations relating to indigenous peoples and the COVID-19 pandemic, stressing the need to recognize and include indigenous peoples’ own institutions and authorities in all relevant responses. In May, UN DESA also published a policy brief on the impact of COVID-19 on indigenous peoples.
The Expert Group Meeting will take place over five days from 7 to 11 December 2020 and will be streamed live on the UNPFII Facebook page. Interpretation will be available in Spanish. The meeting will result in a report to form part of the official documentation for the 2021 UNPFII session. To learn more about the meeting and to register, please click here.