UNDP calls for action on indigenous rights

16 May 2011

16 May – Opening a key meeting of indigenous peoples at United Nations headquarters in New York, Rebeca Grynspan, UN Development Programme (UNDP) Associate Administrator, called on countries around the world to uphold the rights of indigenous populations that live within their borders.

More than 1,500 people from indigenous groups around the world are gathering at the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Peoples from 16-27 May to discuss economic and social development and political participation of members of their communities who are often excluded from decision-making bodies and processes.“

Strengthening indigenous peoples’ voice and participation, respecting their rights and improving their access to opportunities are crucial to any society that aims to generate the kind of inclusive development that will build communities that are more just, diverse and cohesive,” said Grynspan, at the Forum’s opening session.

During the two-week Forum, indigenous peoples, government representatives, UN agencies —including UNDP — civil society organizations and academics address a range of issues affecting indigenous peoples and then put forward recommendations for action by UN and other bodies.“

UNDP is strengthening its capacity to work for the rights of indigenous peoples more effectively—from a human rights basis and under the area of ​​democratic governance—thus responding to the recommendations of this Forum in 2011,” she said.

A UNDP regional-level programme in Latin America and the Caribbean has been working with governments and indigenous peoples in, for example, Bolivia and Mexico, to boost electoral and political participation of indigenous groups.

Since 2009 the programme, sponsored by the Spanish International Cooperation Agency, has trained thousands of government and civil society representatives in 24 countries through an online portal called Virtual School.

Participation of indigenous peoples is also central to a UNDP-supported initiative to assist developing countries safeguard their forests on which some indigenous groups rely for their livelihoods.

UNDP has helped to ensure that activities under the UN Collaborative Programme on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation in Developing Countries (UN-REDD) adhere to the principles of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

The 2007 Declaration, signed by a majority of countries, is widely recognized as a key international instrument to promote and protect the rights of the more than 370 million indigenous peoples in some 90 developing and developed countries.

Indigenous peoples account for 15 percent of the world’s poor and one-third of the 900 million people living in extreme poverty. Indigenous people also tend to experience low levels of education, increased health problems, higher levels of crime and human rights abuses.