|Candles burning at the forum's opening ceremony. ©IFAD|
The opening ceremony featured representatives of various indigenous peoples from Africa, Asia and the Pacific, Latin America and the Caribbean, along with IFAD President Kanayo F. Nwanze and others from the Fund. But it wasn’t simply a colourful moment. Rather, it embodied the unique qualities that the world’s approximately 370 million indigenous people bring to any conversation on rural development: a deeply held belief in environmental sustainability, and the traditional knowledge required to put that belief into practice.
As Nwanze said in his opening statement to forum participants: “You have much to share about how to live, how to work and how to cultivate in a manner that provides for future generations.”
A global dialogue
The forum is the culmination of two years of planning by indigenous peoples and their organizations. The seeds for the event were planted at an IFAD meeting in 2011, when indigenous peoples’ representatives called for a global dialogue about IFAD-supported operations in their territories and the organization’s compliance with its own policy on engagement with indigenous peoples.
|IFAD President Kanayo F. Nwanze (centre) joins forum|
participants at opening session. ©IFAD
Reports on the regional consultations were a key part of today’s agenda. They painted mixed picture of progress in many areas of collaboration between IFAD and indigenous peoples, and problematic gaps in others. Overall, the workshops identified urgent priorities in at least two areas: first, ensuring full participation by indigenous peoples in the design and implementation of projects financed by IFAD; and second, building the capacity of indigenous peoples’ institutions to fulfil their potential and protect their basic rights.
Action plan and declaration
The imperative for indigenous peoples’ communities to consolidate their rights – especially the right to own and control ancestral lands – was an overarching theme of the day. Because many of these communities are still marginalized and exploited, poverty is a persistent problem for them. It’s also a disproportionate one. While indigenous peoples comprise roughly 5 per cent of the world’s population, they represent about 15 per cent of the poor.
|Myrna Cunningham (right) is among participants in the |
opening ceremony at the forum. ©IFAD
“We come here for a dialogue, putting our knowledge on the table,” said Myrna Cunningham, an activist from Nicaragua who is a member of both the Indigenous Peoples’ Forum Steering Committee and the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues. “We don´t want to discuss our needs,” she added, “because people might think that we should be told what to do. We offer our knowledge so we can work together.”