indigenous peoples rights in the 21st Century a brief review

Today, we are celebrating International Day of the World's Indigenous Peoples. Which was proclaimed by the UN General Assembly December 1994. People from different nations are encouraged to participate in observing the day to spread the UN’s message on indigenous peoples. Activities may include educational forums and classroom activities to gain an appreciation and a better understanding of indigenous peoples.

The right of indigenous peoples protected by the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, 2007,  through this “Indigenous peoples have the right to establish and control their educational systems and institutions providing education in their own languages, in a manner appropriate to their cultural methods of teaching and learning.

There has been progress in implementing the declaration over the last decade, there continues to a gap between the formal recognition of Indigenous peoples and implementation policies on the ground. As a result, indigenous peoples continue to face exclusion, marginalization everywhere in the world.

Globally, there are approximately 370 million Indigenous Peoples worldwide, in over 90 countries. Although they make up 5 percent of the global population, they account for about 15 percent of the extreme poor.  Indigenous Peoples’ life expectancy is up to 20 years lower than the life expectancy of non-indigenous people worldwide. While Indigenous Peoples own, occupy, or use a quarter of the world’s surface area, they safeguard 80 percent of the world’s remaining biodiversity.

 Indigenous peoples continue to suffer discrimination, marginalization, extreme poverty and conflict.  Some are being dispossessed of their traditional lands as their livelihoods are being undermined. Meanwhile, their belief systems, cultures, languages and ways of life continue to be threatened, sometimes even by extinction. Looking at the Americas, Russia, the Arctic and many parts of the Pacific.  However, this definition makes less sense in most parts of Asia and Africa, where the colonial powers did not displace whole populations of peoples and replace them with settlers of European descent.

 Indigenous people from this Asia or Africa has different exploitation, they were forced to move from their habitations, forest being captured by the colonial powers. In the Indian- subcontinent during British Raj. I will highlight the four issues, one, where dalit being historically discriminated based on their identity and they have to still suffer due to un-equal society. Second you can find numerous evidence during 19thcentury, how brutally British Raj, treated Indigenous people, first, they made slave to deport many indigenous people to the others part of the world for doing their work as Indentured labor. Third, with Indigenous people were taken into within India from their home land Chota Nagpur Plateau for working in the tea plantation in Assam and Bengal, Fourth during the Colonia raj Adivasi of Indian confronted with British for saving their sovereignty, they cut forest for the wood to construct the Railways. Through imposing legislation or law British Raj tried to crippled the people living with forest.

In South Africa, even after the end of Apartheid in 1994, Indigenous people of the South African still not got their due because of the rigid previous system and rampant corruption in the country. Last October, I visited South Africa and got the chance to see the situation of the farm workers. Their appalling working conditions upset me. There are still unequal land distributions among the people, with most of the lands belonging to the white community. I interacted with one of the farm workers, and his situation was similar to a bondage labourer. The owner of the farm had given a one-room house to him near the field, for all his family. He worked in the pear farms, and even though he had many skills; he was confined to the life of a labourer with no option for mobility or exploring life outside.

In the contemporary world the situation of Indigenous people is atrocious due to bad planning respecting governments, in the past they have exploited by the colonial rulers. But today, in spite of constitutional democracy everywhere in world, the indigenous people still has to being targeted for natural resources. Whenever I visit rural areas, it is appalling to see the condition of indigenous people living in and around the forests. They are the ones who suffer due to bad planning of the government, NGOs and corporations. In 2006, first time in India through Forest Rights Act, this law provides immense legal support to tribal/Indigenous people to retain their right to reside within and around forest areas. But still many huddles for proper implementation of this law in the ground.

Recently during my interaction with one of Indigenous people in Odisha shared with me, they are fed-up with recent policy of the government for “Paramparagat Krishi” traditional agriculture. He was sharing with me “our agricultural practice was always organic, in the past they pushed us to use do fertilizers/pesticides/hybrid seeds for cultivation”.  Indigenous people hold vital ancestral knowledge and expertise on how to adapt, mitigate, and reduce climate and disaster risks. In the 21st Century Indigenous people needs recognition of their expertise on the various matters, and they need their rights, which has been denying by long time. They certainly need development but that should be with dignity

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