Sensible analysis and relevant recommendations on MDGs and indigenous peoples

Ah, if only indigenous communities received a penny for every recommendation issued in their names! However, of the literally thousands of recommendations issued over the years, the 10 presented in this excerpt represent the most essential and practical steps that should be taken - together with an intelligent awareness of the heightened potential of unitended negative impacts. The only real criticisms are that: A) Number 10 should be expressly treated as the number 1 priority and should go further to emphasize the primacy of the right of self-determination. Not only should indigenous peoples be consulted, they should be regarded as full partners in all phases of the development process with the right to meaningful participation through self-representation mechansims that seek to address power disparities -and- B) Acknowledgement of the elevated risk of unitended negative impacts and specific multi-stakeholder mechanisms for analysis and mitigation should be made explict and incoroporated into the body of the recommendations. Other than that, the recommendations are highly relevant to the Congo Basin and aptly emphasize the need for agencies to get serious about addressing the needs of this highly vulnerable, difficult-to-reach population; data disaggregation, information sharing; gender analysis; and development of inclusive multi-stakeholder dialogues that provide access by indigenous peoples to the processes that affect them.

Excerpt from Statement of the Inter-Agency Support group on Indigenous Issues regarding Indigenous Peoples and the Millennium Development Goals: "...The Inter-Agency Support Group on Indigenous Issues considers that indigenous and tribal peoples have the right to benefit from the Millennium Development Goals, and from other goals and aspirations contained in the Millennium Declaration, to the same extent as all others. However, as the 2005 review of the implementation of the MDGs nears, it appears from the available evidence that indigenous and tribal peoples are lagging behind other parts of the population in the achievement of the goals in most, if not all, the countries in which they live, and indigenous and tribal women commonly face additional gender-based disadvantages and discrimination...Detailed information and statistics describing their situation are often lacking, as was made clear during the International Workshop on Data Collection and Disaggregation for Indigenous Peoples held in January 2004 following approval by the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues and the Economic and Social Council. LACK OF ADEQUATE DISAGGREGATED DATA IS A PROBLEM for the achievement of the MDGs. Nevertheless, the information available – both statistics that do exist and experience acquired in the course of our work – indicates that these peoples RANK AT THE BOTTOM OF THE SOCIAL INDICATORS IN VIRTUALLY EVERY RESPECT...Concern has also been expressed that the effort to meet the TARGETS LAID DOWN FOR THE ACHIEVEMENT OF THE MDGS COULD IN FACT HAVE HARMFUL EFFECTS ON INDIGENOUS AND TRIBAL PEOPLES, such as the acceleration of the loss of the lands and natural resources on which indigenous peoples’ livelihoods have traditionally depended or the displacement of indigenous peoples from those lands. Because the situation of indigenous and tribal peoples is often not reflected in statistics or is hidden by national averages, there is a concern that efforts to achieve the MDGs could in some cases have a negative impact on indigenous and tribal peoples, while national indicators apparently improve. While the MDGs carry a potential for assessing the major problems faced by indigenous peoples, the MDGs and the indicators for their achievement do not necessarily capture the specificities of indigenous and tribal peoples and their visions. Efforts are needed at the national, regional and international levels to achieve the MDGs with the full participation of indigenous communities – women and men -- and without interfering with their development paths and holistic understanding of their needs. Such efforts must take into account the multiple levels and sources of discrimination and exclusion that indigenous peoples face.

The Inter-Agency Support Group therefore makes the following recommendations:

1. There is a need to take the situation of indigenous and tribal peoples fully into account in the efforts of the international system to achieve the MDGs and the other aspirations of the Millennium Declaration.
2. The 2005 MDGs review should take explicitly into account the situation of indigenous and tribal peoples, when dealing with each and every goal, and not only on issues related to poverty.
3. It is important for each intergovernmental organization to continue to develop its sources of disaggregated data and information on indigenous and tribal peoples.
4. Agencies should collect and disseminate the pertinent information on a timely basis to demonstrate the specific situation of indigenous peoples in the process of implementing the MDGs.
5. The United Nations system should increase its commitment and attention to the gender dimensions of indigenous issues in the MDG process.
6. Each organization should ensure that indigenous and tribal peoples are consulted, including the participation of indigenous women and, as relevant, children and youth in formulating, implementing and assessing their programmes for the implementation of the Millennium Declaration and the achievement of the MDGs.
7. The CCA/UNDAF process should take full account of the situation of indigenous and tribal peoples; the role of the United Nations Country Teams in that respect is crucial.
8. States should ensure the inclusion of indigenous issues in their efforts to achieve the MDGs, and in development efforts more generally, and should include the situation of indigenous peoples in reporting on the implementation of the Goals.
9. States, international organizations and non-governmental organizations should promote national dialogues, including through the establishment of institutional frameworks, as appropriate, in order to bring together indigenous peoples’ perspectives and priorities for sustainable human development and their expectations regarding the MDGs. Indigenous peoples’ institutions and processes, where they exist, should be respected during these dialogues.
10. Partnerships at the international and national level should increase efforts to support and build on indigenous peoples’ articulation of their path of development and their full participation in the decision-making processes. They should make every effort to provide adequate funding, technical and institutional support and training to assist those development efforts articulated by indigenous peoples towards achieving the MDGs.

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