Source: Kapaeeng Foundation
Indigenous and tribal peoples and ethnic minorities constitute roughly 5 per cent of the world’s population, but they are 15 per cent of the world’s poor. In Latin America, poverty rates for indigenous peoples are substantially higher than for non-indigenous:
In Asia, for instance, where 70 per cent of the world’s indigenous peoples live, their ancestral territories are often threatened by deforestation and takeover of resources. In many countries, indigenous children and youth face discrimination in access to education – notably in their own languages and based on their cultures – and adults face discrimination in labour markets.
In Paraguay, poverty is almost eight times higher among indigenous peoples, in Panama almost six times higher and in Mexico three times higher. As with rural women, poverty for indigenous peoples is rooted in multiple forms of disadvantage and deprivation.
Virtually everywhere, indigenous peoples suffer from discrimination, violation of their rights (social, political, human and economic) and exclusion (or self-exclusion) from mainstream social, economic and political processes. For indigenous women and youth, there is typically an overlap of these and other forms of deprivation specific to their gender or age groups.
In addition, indigenous peoples in many parts of the world suffer from precarious control over their natural resource base, particularly in the face of commercial interests in, for example, timber exploitation, food or biofuel production or mining on their land.
The disadvantages faced by rural Poverty Report 2011 indigenous populations in Asia come from many sources: topography, limited access to infrastructure and services, low human capital, poor land and very limited access to credit.
While poverty rates have declined substantially over time among indigenous peoples in Asia, a poverty gap persists between indigenous and non-indigenous populations. Other than in China, this gap at best remains unchanged and at worst is widening. This is the case even in countries that have experienced a rapid decline in the incidence of poverty: in Viet Nam, for example, during periods of pro-poor growth during the 1990s and early 2000s, the incidence of poverty among ethnic minority groups only dropped slowly, compared with a rapid decline of poverty among the majority Kinh population.
Many countries, notably in Latin America and Asia, have established policies and institutions to support the rights and capabilities of indigenous peoples.
Several countries have passed legislation and established public programmes to recognize indigenous languages and cultures, develop appropriate educational curricula, enhance indigenous children’s access to schooling in their languages, and improve access to health-care services among indigenous communities. Some countries have legislation recognizing indigenous land rights, although implementation of such legislation can be challenging because of the powerful interest groups that often compete with indigenous peoples in their claims over their ancestral territories.
A number of international donors, including IFAD, have supported indigenous groups in gaining title to land and management of ecosystems.
Some also have policies or strategies for operating in indigenous peoples’ territories, which aim to address multiple forms of deprivation affecting these communities and to strengthen their capabilities – including by leveraging indigenous knowledge, practices and institutions.
IFAD’s policy on engagement with indigenous peoples, for example, focuses particularly on empowering indigenous peoples in rural areas to overcome poverty by building upon their identity and culture. The policy sets out nine principles of engagement – including free, prior and informed consent – that IFAD adheres to in its work with indigenous peoples.
The recent proclamation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples has been a landmark event laying out a framework for protecting and strengthening indigenous peoples’ rights and capabilities. However, turning this landmark event into a foundation for progressive change at the national and sub national level is a challenge in many countries.