Poverty reduction is one of the global Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and is the overarching aim of most national and international development strategies, including those supported by bi- and multi- lateral donors and lenders.
Poverty reduction is also a crucial concern for the approximately 350 million indigenous people around the world. Most of them live in developing countries and are disproportionately represented among the poor. The World Bank estimates that they constitute approximately 5% of the world’s population, but 15% of those living in poverty.
There are specific considerations that need to be taken into account, when aiming at reducing poverty among indigenous peoples:
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- Indigenous peoples are distinct peoples who have their own histories, territories, livelihood strategies, values and beliefs and thus hold distinct notions of poverty and well-being. If indigenous peoples’ own perceptions and aspirations are not addressed in Poverty Reduction Strategies (PRS), there is a risk that these will either fail or even aggravate the situation by for example depriving indigenous peoples of access to crucial resources, undermining traditional governance structures or contributing to the loss of indigenous languages.
- Indigenous peoples’ poverty is a reflection of their generally marginal position within national societies. This implies that indigenous peoples are also marginalized with regards to participation in the shaping of the PRS and with regards to access to resources aimed at alleviating poverty.
Since 1999, the Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers (PRSPs) have become the overall framework for lending, debt-relief and development cooperation in low-income countries. The PSRP process is intended to be open and participatory and to reach out to “traditionally marginalized groups”. The related guidelines, however, are silent on involving indigenous and tribal peoples.
In 2005, the ILO carried out an “Ethnic Audit” of PRSPs in 14 countries. The goal of the audit was to ascertain whether and how the rights, needs and aspirations of indigenous and tribal peoples have been taken into account and whether they have been involved in the consultations leading to the formulation of PRSPs.
Following this, the ILO has undertaken specific case studies on Cambodia, Cameroon and Nepal to document in more details indigenous peoples’ own perception of poverty and participation in the PRSP processes and assist in having their needs, priorities and rights taken into account in the PRSP processes.
In 2008, the ILO published a Practice Guide for Including Indigenous Peoples in Poverty Reduction Strategies, indicating good practices and operational recommendations for a rights-based approach to addressing the multifaceted poverty as perceived by indigenous peoples themselves.