An important focus for Franciscans International is defending the rights of Indigenous Peoples (IPs), particularly the right to their ancestral lands. This issue is closely linked to issues on extreme poverty and the environment.
IPs cut across economic systems. They have different cultures, social institutions and religions. There are more than 370 million self-identified indigenous and tribal peoples and ethnic minorities in some 70 countries. They are among the poorest and most marginalised people in the world. An estimated 70% live in Asia and the Pacific region. In Latin America alone there are more than 400 different IPs, each with a distinct language and culture.
What are the issues?
Despite their diversity, IPs are facing the same problems. To name a few: discrimination, poverty, poor health, unemployment, and high rates of imprisonment. In addition, Indigenous communities are threatened by destruction of the subtle fabric of their culture. Through ‘development’, their land and resources are expropriated or destroyed by activities such as deforestation, mining, dam and irrigation projects, and road construction. Many IPs experience forced assimilation by being forced to give up their mother tongue, religion and cultural ways.
UN International Day of the World's Indigenous People
The United Nations’ (UN) International Day of the World's Indigenous People (IP) is observed annually on August 9 to promote and protect the rights of the world’s indigenous population. The UN declared the decade from 1994 to 2004 to be the International Decade of the World's Indigenous Peoples. One of the outcomes of this decade was the establishment of a Second Decade of the World's Indigenous Peoples which started on 1 January 2005. The purpose of establishing the two decades is to identify and raise awareness of Indigenous issues, and to establish a charter of Indigenous human rights.