They, The Peoples!

Human Wrongs Watch 

By Baher Kamal*

They are more than 370 million, that’s 120 per cent of U.S. population; they speak 4.000 of 7,000 languages spoken today all over the world; they contribute extensibly to Humanity’s cultural diversity, and they know more than any body else on Earth how to preserve water, land, biodiversity, and the whole cycle of life.

Credit: UN Forum on Indigenous Issues

Nevertheless, they are deliberately impoverished, denied, oppressed, and exterminated. Because their lands embrace the most precious resources –commercially profitable minerals, flora, fauna– they have been even physically eradicated by political and business magnates who consider them a disturbing obstacle to their insatiable greed.

They make up to one-third of the world’s poorest and suffer inhumane conditions in all countries. UN research reveals alarming statistics on poverty, health, education, employment, human rights, the environment and more.

Their lives and sufferance are never headlines, nobody talks about them, busy as the world now is with rescuing giant private banks and corporations. Hollywood made huge profits by showing them as wild, violent, stupid, uncivilised, “bad” people, while “good” white, civilised cowboys, sheriffs, and military commanders manage to uproot them and extinguish them.

Describing the “Dispossessed”

They are the so-called indigenous peoples, the original, real lords of vast cultures and lands which have been methodically grabbed by armed, violent foreign colonisers coming from far away to seize their resources, their knowledge and their lives.

The UN is just great about elaborating studies, describing realities.

For instance, it says that indigenous peoples face “systemic discrimination and exclusion from political and economic power; they continue to be over-represented among the poorest, the illiterate, the destitute; they are displaced by wars and environmental disasters; indigenous peoples are dispossessed of their ancestral lands and deprived of their resources for survival, both physical and cultural; they are even robbed of their very right to life.”

And it adds that “In more modern versions of market exploitation, indigenous peoples see their traditional knowledge and cultural expressions marketed and patented without their consent or participation.”

Giving a “Forum” To the Denied

After long decades of extensive –and expensive– discussions, the United Nations decided to “recognise” them and to establish a new “reserve for them called “UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues”. Issues, mind you.

The world body has been so generous to give them the chance to have a World Conference on Indigenous Peoples, to be held in 2014. Following white man style, the UN will also give them the opportunity to have a meeting on 7-18 May 2012 at the UN headquarters in New York, to talk about their problems.

Some Facts about the “Indians”

The facts included in the UN “The State of the World’s Indigenous Peoples” 2010  are terribly eloquent. See some of them:

  • In the United States, a Native American is 600 times more likely to contract tuberculosis 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,
  • And worldwide, more than 50 per cent of indigenous adults suffer from Type 2 diabetes – a number predicted to rise.

The Startling Reality

These are just a few of the startling statistics in the UN first publication on the State of the World’s Indigenous Peoples, which the UN generously considers as “a thorough assessment of how indigenous peoples are faring in areas such as health, poverty, education and human rights.”

It says that while indigenous peoples make up around 370 million of the world’s population –some 5 per cent– “they constitute around one-third of the world’s 900 million extremely poor rural people.”

It also says that “every day, indigenous communities all over the world face issues of violence and brutality, continuing assimilation policies, dispossession of land, marginalization, forced removal or relocation, denial of land rights, impacts of large-scale development, abuses by military forces and a host of other abuses.”

Alarming State of Health”

The publication’s statistics illustrate the gravity of the situation 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.

According to the study:

  • Indigenous peoples’ life expectancy is up to 20 years lower than their non-indigenous counterparts.
  • Indigenous peoples experience disproportionately high levels of maternal and infant mortality, malnutrition, cardiovascular illnesses, HIV/AIDS and other infectious diseases such as malaria and tuberculosis.
  • Suicide rates of indigenous peoples, particularly among youth, are considerably higher in many countries, for example, up to 11 times the national average for the Inuit in Canada.

Some Funds”

Of course, the so-called international community has helped them. In fact,

The UN System has established “some funds” that are “specifically intended for indigenous peoples.”

Some of these funds are intended to help finance the participation of indigenous people at UN meetings, while other funds are for small projects,” states the UN.

In addition to these funds, “there are great deal of donors that have funded indigenous peoples’ participation in the Forum and other activities.” No comment.

*Baher Kamal is an Egyptian-born, Spanish national, secular, anti-war journalist and analyst specialised in international affairs and human development. He is publisher and editor of Human Wrongs WatchThis article can be republished, sourcing and linking to: Human Wrongs Watch


Also Read: Indigenous Bolivians Halt Transnational Highway Crossing the Amazon   

2011 Human Wrongs Watch

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