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First Global Indigenous Peoples’ Forum at IFAD

Leaders from 27 countries advocate self-driven development

Rome, 12 February 2013 – The first global meeting of the Indigenous Peoples' Forum held at the Rome headquarters of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) ended today with 32 participants from 27 countries pledging to protect, respect and promote self-driven development to ensure that rural and agricultural growth is synonymous with the preservation of indigenous culture and identity.

Taking place in conjunction with IFAD's 36th Governing Council, the two-day forum marks the beginning of a new chapter in IFAD's longstanding work with indigenous peoples, most of whom live in rural areas and suffer disproportionately from poverty and social exclusion.

"Three years ago, IFAD adopted a policy on engagement with indigenous peoples. This Forum is intended to give us an opportunity to assess how well we are doing, and to improve how we implement our policy," said Kanayo F. Nwanze, President of IFAD. "While we recognize and respect the many distinct cultures, livelihoods and traditions, we are also aware that there is often common ground between indigenous peoples, particularly when it comes to the connection between societies, territories and natural resources."

Leading up to the forum, IFAD and its partners in indigenous communities conducted a series of consultations, including regional workshops, which identified two priority areas: increasing full and effective participation of indigenous peoples in the design and implementation of IFAD-supported projects; and building the capacity of indigenous peoples' organizations. At the forum, among the many issues discussed was the indigenous peoples' rights to own and manage ancestral territories. Forum participants will now synthesize their findings and discussions into an action plan and declaration, which they will present on 13 February to the Governing Council, IFAD's highest decision-making body.

The indigenous peoples of the world number almost 370 million. Although they make up less than 5 per cent of the world's population, they represent 15 per cent of the world's poor. In many countries, they are the poorest of the poor and their situation is not improving as fast as it should, especially given that approximately 80 per cent of the world's biodiversity is housed in areas predominantly inhabited by indigenous peoples.

"Many indigenous peoples, especially those found in the most remote areas, are still inhabiting their traditional territories," said Victoria Tauli- Corpuz, Executive Director, Tebtebba Foundation. "These are the last remaining ecosystems in the world, which are better conserved and sustainably used such as tropical or boreal forests, peat lands, marine and coastal areas. Indigenous peoples continuing use of their traditional knowledge and customary governance of their territories is one of the factors that ensured this."

"Since these are areas where biodiversity, minerals, oil and gas can still be found, indigenous peoples are confronted with daily threats of being displaced from their communities or of inappropriate development agendas," Tauli- Corpuz added.

The creation of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues in 2000 was a milestone, followed by the approval in 2007 of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. It was a success in the campaign of indigenous peoples for a greater voice within international institutions. IFAD supported indigenous peoples' representatives to establish a specific set of indicators to measure the well-being of indigenous peoples based on their own principles and perspectives.

IFAD has taken a series of initiatives and accumulated valuable experience in establishing constructive dialogue with indigenous peoples. IFAD funds about 240 on-going projects, of which about 30 per cent of these support indigenous peoples' communities in some 38 countries. For example, the PROCORREDOR project in Ecuador combines income generation with cultural revitalization. Indigenous peoples, who have a tradition of making handicrafts, are learning new marketing and presentation skills so they can benefit from Ecuador's growing ecotourism industry.

"We, indigenous peoples, have learned with IFAD that we must discuss and work together, and be the main promoters of the politics and practices to overcome poverty. This forum is an ideal place for dialogue where we can analyze what we have learned and where we can come to an agreement to improve the work of IFAD in our countries," said Myrna Cunningham Kein, a member of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues.


Press release No.: IFAD/05/2012

The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) works with poor rural people to enable them to grow and sell more food, increase their incomes and determine the direction of their own lives. Since 1978, IFAD has invested about US$14.8 billion in grants and low-interest loans to developing countries through projects empowering over 400 million people to break out of poverty, thereby helping to create vibrant rural communities. IFAD is an international financial institution and a specialized UN agency based in Rome – the United Nations' food and agriculture hub. It is a unique partnership of 169 members from the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), other developing countries and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).