6 February 2010


The first UN world report on the State of the World’s Indigenous Peoples reveals alarming statistics on poverty, health, education, employment, the environment and human rights among other issues.

According to the report, the world’s indigenous population has been estimated at 370 million individuals living in more than 70 countries. They are defined as having their own history, language, culture, political systems, livelihoods, beliefs and identity. There are 5000 different indigenous groups and almost the same number of languages used by indigenous communities worldwide.

Although they make up five per cent of the world’s population, indigenous peoples represent 15 percent of the world’s poor. Over the last three decades they have moved from their traditional lands towards urban areas partly seeking opportunities for education and employment, partly because of human rights abuses and violations in particular to their land rights and partly for cultural survival.

In developing as well as developed countries, indigenous peoples are still the daily victims of violence, assimilation policies, forced displacement and dispossession of their lands for commercial exploitation.

The report states that today, of the estimated 70,000-87,000 Batwa or Forest Peoples living in the Great Lakes Region in Africa, only one tenth has direct access to the forest. In parts of Asia-Pacific, allegations have been made of the abuse of indigenous peoples at the hands of military forces. A sizeable gap persists between the number of years of schooling attended by indigenous and non-indigenous children in several countries in Latin America. Almost a quarter of Native Americans and Alaska Natives live under the poverty line in the United States.

The adoption of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in 2007 has given indigenous peoples and the international community a framework to tackle these issues.

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