People's Stories Indigenous People

Urgent action needed to tackle poverty and inequalities facing indigenous peoples
by International Labour Organization (ILO)
Feb. 2020
The International Labour Organization (ILO) says there is an urgent need to tackle the high level of poverty and inequalities facing indigenous peoples.
According to a new ILO report, released to mark the 30th anniversary of the Indigenous and Tribal People’s Convention 1989 (No. 169) , indigenous peoples are nearly three times as likely to be living in extreme poverty as their non-indigenous counterparts.
They account for almost 19 per cent of the extreme poor (those living below US$1.90 per day). Even when less stringent poverty lines are used (US$3.20 or US$5.50 per day), a disproportionate number of poor are indigenous peoples. Furthermore, irrespective of the region and residence in rural or urban areas, indigenous peoples represent a sizable share of the global poor.
“Progress in improving the lives of indigenous peoples has been too slow,” said Martin Oelz, an ILO specialist and co-author of the report. “More ratifications of Convention No. 169 and action for its effective implementation would be a step in the right direction. To ensure that public policies address the needs of indigenous peoples and reflect their aspirations, it is essential to tackle the widespread absence of institutional and legal frameworks enabling their participation in decision-making.”
New figures contained in the report, Implementing the ILO Indigenous and Tribal Peoples Convention No. 169: Towards an inclusive, sustainable and just future , show that the number of indigenous peoples worldwide is considerably higher than previously thought – equivalent to more than 6 per cent of the global population.
This amounts to over 476 million people – significantly more than the combined populations of the United States and Canada. More than 80 per cent of indigenous peoples globally live in middle-income countries.
The Convention is the only international treaty open for ratification specifically aimed at promoting and protecting the rights of indigenous and tribal peoples. Currently, 23 of the ILO’s 187 member States have ratified Convention No. 169 , meaning that only about 15 per cent of indigenous peoples globally live in countries covered by the Convention.
Worldwide, there are believed to be more than 5,000 distinct indigenous communities, in about 90 countries.
Today, the livelihoods and economic activities of many indigenous peoples have transformed. The report found that about 45 per cent of indigenous women and men are outside of the agricultural sector.
Despite their over-representation among the poor, the report finds that, globally, indigenous peoples have a higher employment participation rate than their non-indigenous counterparts (63.3 per cent compared to 59.1 per cent).
But these employment participation figures come with substantial differences in the quality of work – indigenous peoples often experience poor working conditions and discrimination.
The report found that more than 86 per cent of indigenous peoples globally work in the informal economy – which is often associated with poor working conditions and a lack of social protection – compared to about 66 per cent of non-indigenous people.
Indigenous women face particular challenges. Informality rates for them are more than 25 percentage points higher than their non-indigenous counterparts. They have the lowest chance of having completed basic education and are the most likely to be in extreme poverty.
Indigenous women also have the highest participation in contributing family work (nearly 34 per cent). At the same time, only about a quarter (24.4 per cent) of indigenous women are in wage and salaried work, a lower proportion than non-indigenous women (51.1 per cent) and indigenous men (30.1 per cent).
Even when in wage and salaried work, indigenous peoples earn on average 18 per cent less than their non-indigenous counterparts.
The report notes that the higher employment rates recorded for indigenous peoples may reflect a need, related to poverty, to undertake any form of income generation, even when it is low paid and under poor working conditions.
The report underlines that despite the progress made in public policy frameworks, there is an urgent need to tackle the inequalities confronting indigenous peoples. The report also identifies many opportunities to overcome the situation and empower indigenous women and men as development and climate actors – to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals and realize the Paris Agreement on climate change.
Ratification and implementation of ILO Convention No. 169 is key to moving forward, particularly for building and strengthening public institutions and legal frameworks that enable consultation with and the participation of indigenous peoples.

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State of the World’s Indigenous Peoples
by UNDESA, UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues
The United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs is launching the fourth edition of the State of the World’s Indigenous Peoples. The launch comes on the date the General Assembly adopted the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in 2007 which marked the culmination of decades of struggle among indigenous peoples for a universal framework establishing minimum standards to ensure their survival, dignity and well-being.
The Declaration stands as the most comprehensive international instrument on indigenous peoples’ collective rights, including the rights to self-determination, traditional lands, territories and resources, education, culture, health and development.
The production of the State of the World’s Indigenous Peoples (SOWIP) responds to the recommendation by the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues to periodically produce a United Nations publication that analyzes a broad spectrum of indigenous peoples’ issues and advocates for the rights of indigenous peoples as enshrined in the Declaration and other international instruments.
The fourth edition of SOWIP offers a perspective on the utilization of the Declaration at national, regional and international levels – as the basis for the development of new laws and policies and as a source of inspiration and a tool for advocacy and awareness-raising focusing on the implementation of the Declaration.
Chapters highlight progress, good practices and achievements and showcase indigenous peoples in official statistics; it also identifies challenges and offers recommendations for the way forward.
Findings show that while the Declaration has served as the impetus for positive change for over a decade, much more remains to be done, as indigenous peoples continue to face structural and legal barriers to their full, equal and effective participation in political, economic, social and cultural life.
Although some countries have taken constitutional and legislative measures to recognize the rights and identities of indigenous peoples, exclusion, marginalization, and violence against indigenous peoples persist.
The report examines the impact the Declaration has had on the lives of 370 million indigenous peoples living in an estimated 90 countries. Drawing on these trends and lessons, the publication presents recommendations on the way forward to implements the commitments of the Declaration in pursuit of the full realization of the rights of indigenous peoples around the world.
* State of the World’s Indigenous Peoples 4th Edition:
* Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in 2007:
Aug. 2019
No Sustainable Development without Indigenous Peoples, says Jeffrey Campbell - Manager of the FAO Forest and Farm Facility.
For years, the importance of indigenous peoples in the fight against deforestation, land degradation and climate change was overlooked and even denied, to the detriment of the environment and the food systems on which we all depend. Thanks to the global advocacy of indigenous peoples and their organizations, this tendency is changing – though not fast enough.
Some 370 million people identify themselves as members of indigenous cultures. While indigenous peoples make up less than 5% of the world’s total population, they wield enormous influence over the well-being of the natural resources on which we all depend. They manage 28% of the world’s land surface and, are the de facto guardians of 80% of global biodiversity – including most of the plant and animal species on Earth.
As family farmers, fishers, pastoralists and forest-dwellers, indigenous peoples apply traditional methods of land management and food production which have evolved over centuries and which have often proven their sustainability and resilience in the face of environmental changes.
Indigenous knowledge systems and languages contribute directly to biological and cultural diversity, poverty eradication, conflict resolution, food security and ecosystem health, and serve as the foundation of the resilience of indigenous communities to the impact of climate change.
Their awareness of traditional food sources and the fundamental connection between food systems and healthy landscapes can help to promote diets that are diverse and sustainable.
The vital role of indigenous peoples was recognized in the 2007 UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP). And yet, indigenous peoples continue to suffer disproportionately high levels of land insecurity, social dislocation and violence while defending their traditional lands. They also make up 15% of the world’s poorest people.
These and other factors, including youth migration, are causing traditional knowledge and indigenous food systems to disappear at an alarming rate. They are also contributing to the rapid loss of indigenous languages.
In fact, this year’s observance of the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples (9 August) focuses attention on the world’s 7,000 indigenous languages, in keeping with the year-long observance of the International Year of Indigenous Languages.
When, in 2015, the international community agreed on 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), a set of targets for improving lives while protecting natural resources by the year 2030, they included specific mention of indigenous peoples, and acknowledged that there can be no truly sustainable development without protecting the traditional knowledge and territories of indigenous peoples.
We can look to the world’s forests for an example of why this is so. Forests continue to be critical for the food security, livelihoods, culture and spiritual identity of indigenous peoples. Their resources include nutritious foods and medicines, household materials and the income gained from selling forest products.
Indigenous knowledge can be combined with new information and innovation in agriculture and land management to protect biodiversity and foster integrated sustainable management of diverse food systems and conservation of traditional medicines. But this approach requires urgent, consistent action.
It will take urgent policy changes and community-based action, particularly around the recognition of land rights, to bring about significant, lasting improvements in the lives of indigenous peoples and the natural resources which are vital to us all.

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