Following a two-day workshop in Rome, Italy, the United Nations announced a new forum for the voices of the world’s 370 million self-identified indigenous people, who speak more than 4,000 of the known 7,000 languages, who occupy more than 20 percent of the Earth’s territory, and who are dispersed over 70 countries with the largest concentration (estimated 70 percent) in Asia and the Pacific, reported the UN News Centre.
These widespread and culturally diverse groups also “make up one-third of the world’s one billion extreme poor in rural areas, are among the most vulnerable and marginalized of any group,” the United Nations International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), which bases its headquarters in Rome, stated in a press release. “…[T]hey share many common challenges such as limited access to health care and education, loss of control over lands, displacement and violations of basic human rights.”
IFAD’s recent establishment of an indigenous peoples’ forum aims to advance the participation of indigenous peoples in IFAD discussions and programs. IFAD also wants to zero in on the value of indigenous people’s experience with sustainable agriculture development. The organization cited the indigenous population’s “rich knowledge and understanding of ecosystem management,” according to an IFAD press release.
The new forum was organized by IFAD with the support of the International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs (IWGIA). The two-day workshop in Rome convened about 30 representatives of indigenous peoples’ organizations, in addition to IFAD staff, to discuss the forum’s direction and scope. The group set the first global meeting of the indigenous people’s forum to take place in conjunction with the IFAD Governing Council in 2013.
Mirna Cunningham Kain, chair of the Center for Autonomy and Development of Indigenous Peoples in Nicaragua (CADPI) and member of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII), declared, “IFAD’s policy of engagement with indigenous peoples offers an opportunity to address injustice that indigenous peoples has suffered in rural areas in the world and the establishment of an indigenous forum in IFAD is an innovative step, gives us voice and visibility that can and should help change rural development practices in our countries.”