Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Empowering indigenous peoples is a must for sustainable rural development, says IFAD President

IFAD President Kanayo F. Nwanze

IFAD at UN World Conference roundtable on advancing indigenous peoples' rights

 Rome/New York, 23 September 2014 -- The President of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) called for greater support to indigenous peoples whose economic and social empowerment is a prerequisite for the kind of sustainable development that can transform struggling rural areas in developing countries.

“Today, many of the world's indigenous peoples and communities still struggle to preserve their identity, culture, land and resources – despite the real progress they have made," IFAD President Kanayo F. Nwanze said in an address during a roundtable discussion at the United Nations World Conference on Indigenous Peoples, a high-level plenary meeting of the United Nations General Assembly. “Too often, indigenous peoples are still neglected by development efforts or vulnerable to discrimination.”

While indigenous peoples account for just 5 per cent of the world’s population – more than 370 million people – they account for 15 per cent of those living in poverty.

The World Conference on Indigenous Peoples began today at UN headquarters in New York. Running over 22 and 23 September, the conference is made up of plenary meetings, and interactive round-table and panel discussions. The decision to hold the conference was made by UN General Assembly in 2010. Since then, indigenous peoples' organizations have successfully lobbied to expand the UN high-level plenary session to include more involvement, input and representation of indigenous peoples in the proceedings.

The World Conference will adopt a concise, action-oriented outcome document prepared on the basis of inclusive, open informal consultations with Member States and indigenous peoples.

“Unless we mainstream the rights of indigenous peoples, unless we are serious about their empowerment, unless we work with them as equal partners – then any global development agenda we conceive will be a hollow exercise, empty because it will not reach the most disadvantaged,” Nwanze said during one of the roundtable discussions. He further emphasized that to eliminate rural poverty and ensure food and nutrition security, there need to be inclusive processes and actions, and sustainable results on the ground.

Nwanze noted that IFAD has maintained a strong commitment to indigenous peoples' development through its loan-funded investment programs benefiting the poorest and most remote rural communities in Asia, Africa and Latin America. In particular, IFAD has built strong partnerships with indigenous peoples' organizations at local, national and international levels, and with the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues and the Inter-Agency Support Group.

“As our partnership with indigenous peoples has evolved, they have gained greater control over their own development,” Nwanze added about the rewards of IFAD’s long-term commitment.
Recently, IFAD was recognized in a report on UN agencies implementing indigenous peoples’ rights that stated: “In terms of establishing institutional mechanisms for sustained dialogue with indigenous peoples, IFAD is a global pioneer.” The report was commissioned by the Philippine-based indigenous institution Tebtebba and the Chiang Mai, Thailand-based Asian Indigenous Peoples Pact.

In the end, advancing the rights of indigenous peoples is not just a matter of justice or equality,” Nwanze said, adding that it is not “something that the member states of the United Nations owe to indigenous communities in the name of implementing our policy declarations.”

“In the end, we owe it to ourselves – to humankind – to respect indigenous peoples' rights,” Nwanze continued.

“The right to the gifts of nature – clean air, water, land – and the right to freedom.”
Since IFAD's founding, it has financed a total of about US$1.8 billion in loans and some $38 million in grants for indigenous peoples.

Press release No.: IFAD/61/2014
The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) invests in rural people, empowering them to reduce poverty, increase food security, improve nutrition and strengthen resilience. Since 1978, we have provided about US$15.8 billion in grants and low-interest loans to projects that have reached some 430 million people. IFAD is an international financial institution and a specialized United Nations agency based in Rome – the UN’s food and agriculture hub.


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