Indigenous people worldwide facing genocide, says new UN report

A United Nations report titled The State of the World’s Indigenous Peoples says the indigenous people and tribes worldwide are facing extinction and exploitation due to threats of displacement and dispossession of their lands, territories and resources. It takes note of the displacement of thousands of families of the Santhal Adivasis in the Indian State of Jharkhand as a result of extraction of minerals, without proper compensation or economic security.

The January 2010 report laments that despite the current year being the International Year of Biodiversity, no steps are being taken to save the small scale farming from impending ruin. Indigenous groups are facing livelihood loss owing to commercial plantation and mono-cropping, particularly after opening up of economies to international trade. The report questions the commercial use of GM crops and dumping of heavily subsidized commercial agri-crops by developed countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America. 

The report says that due to caste based discrimination against the dalits in India, poverty is much deeper among the Scheduled Tribes (STs) compared to the rest. In countries like India, Indonesia, the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Malaysia and Thailand, arbitrary arrest or fake criminal charges are often made against members of indigenous and tribal peoples. It says that the liberalization of the Mining Codes since the 1980s to attract the FDI has led to loss of traditional lands as well as environmental degradation in many countries from Latin America, Africa and Asia. 

Although indigenous peoples make up only 5 per cent of the global population, they constitute around one third of the world’s 900 million extremely poor rural people. In both developed and developing countries, poor nutrition, limited access to care, lack of resources crucial to maintaining health and well-being and contamination of natural resources are all contributing factors to the terrible state of indigenous health worldwide, it says. Indigenous peoples suffer from discrimination in terms of employment and income.

The State of the World’s Indigenous Peoples echoes the message of Survival International’s short report Progress Can Kill, which demonstrates that policies designed in the name of ‘progress’ often bring huge misery to tribal peoples in the form of disease, obesity, suicide, addiction and reduced life expectancy.

Some other findings of the report include:

• In the United States, a Native American is 600 times more likely to contract tuberculosis (TB) and 62 per cent more likely to commit suicide than the general population.

• In Australia, an indigenous child can expect to die 20 years earlier than his non-native compatriot. The life expectancy gap is also 20 years in Nepal, while in Guatemala it is 13 years and in New Zealand it is 11.

• In parts of Ecuador, indigenous people have 30 times greater risk of throat cancer than the national average. 

• Worldwide, more than 50 per cent of indigenous adults suffer from Type 2 diabetes – a number predicted to rise.

• Up to 90 per cent of the world’s languages are likely to become extinct or threatened with extinction by the end of the century.

Further readings:

Opinion: UN report on Indigenous Peoples- 370 million living in hell, 15 January, 2010,

UN report paints grim picture of conditions of world’s indigenous peoples, 14 January, 2010,

State of the World’s Indigenous Peoples, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Division for Social Policy and Development,

Progress can Kill, Survival International,

Meet against GM crops, The Hindu, 21 January, 2010,  

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