Indigenous Peoples Call for More Secure Land Rights

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Indigenous Peoples Call for More Secure Land Rights

Press release number: IFAD 15/03

Rome, 20 February 2003 – Indigenous peoples need more secure rights to both land and natural resources if they are to be helped in their struggle to overcome poverty.

A roundtable discussion held as part of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD)’s Governing Council heard there are some 300 million indigenous peoples living in 70 countries throughout the world. Most of them live in conditions of extreme poverty.

Taking part in the discussion were representatives from indigenous communities living in Latin America, and Asia. IFAD has invested USD 736 million in projects to support indigenous peoples in both regions, and is expanding its initiatives. The Fund has also been in the forefront of initiatives to obtain recognition for these peoples’ land rights, resources, health services, education and food security.

But indigenous peoples have considerable potential in overcoming their own poverty, the meeting heard. They have an important role as guardians of the environment and are the repositories of valuable traditional knowledge and management systems. More efforts are needed to ensure that indigenous peoples benefit from the patrimony, and reap some of the rewards, said speakers. IFAD projects are working on developing ways of protecting local knowledge and ensuring that indigenous peoples are compensated for environmental stewardship.

As well as more resources, indigenous peoples also need help in preserving their cultures, languages and identities, speakers told the session. A greater say in decisions which affect their lives is crucial, if the voice of indigenous peoples is to be heard in the national and international arena.

IFAD is a specialized agency of the United Nations with the specific mandate of combating hunger and poverty in the most disadvantaged regions of the world. Since 1978 IFAD has financed 628 projects in 115 recipient countries and in the West Bank and Gaza for a total commitment of approximately USD 7.9 billion in loans and grants. Through these projects, about 250 million rural people have had a chance to move out of poverty. IFAD makes the greater part of its resources available to low-income countries on very favorable terms, with up to 40 years for repayment and including a grace period of up to ten years and a service charge of 0.75% per year.