For the estimated 300 million indigenous and tribal people in more than 70 countries around the world, progress often means problems when traditions and technologies clash. But the Hmong hill tribes in northern Thailand, with the help of the International Labour Organization, are fashioning new solutions to developing their ancient culture as a tool to fully participate in modern societies. ILO TV's Miguel Schapira takes us there.
In the remote mountains of Thailand, a tree falls as a spirit passes from the landscape. Members of the indigenous tribe known as the Hmong mourn the death of one of their own. The tree is a sacrifice to his memory. This tradition ties them to their ancestral land but puts them at odds with those who say it ruins the environment.
There are an estimated 300 million indigenous and tribal peoples around the world, who find themselves at a crossroads and sometimes in the crossfire between tradition and progress.
Hussein Polat, ILO expert on Indigenous Peoples
A major problem for indigenous people is that they are discriminated from the development planning and implementation so they resisted the imposed programs and policies.
The International Labour Org.'s Indigenous and Tribal People's Convention is their sole legal protection at the international level. The ILO set up the INDISCO cooperative program to encourage decent work through sustainable development.
Katya Hemmerlich, Coordinator, ILO INDISCO
The advantage to the cooperative approach is that its about self help, its about empowering people to find their own solutions, rather than coming in and providing set solutions which may not be culturally appropriate for them.
To compete on an equal footing with other Thai children while strengthening their cultural identity, these Hmong students attend a special classes taught by tribal elders, set up by the Thai Government with help from the ILO.
Wa Saa Wang, Hmong Tribal elder
We think that our ancestral values are essential to give children the knowledge that will make them proud members of their culture and society.
Miguel Schapira, ILO TV News
For the hill tribe people of Thailand, traditional values, sustainable development and decent work are becoming common elements of the same equation. To harmonize them might be, indeed, an uphill challenge, but these children of the Hmong tribe are showing us that there might be a brighter future for the hill tribe people of Asia.