IFAD strengthens its partnership with indigenous peoples #ip2011

Indigenous peoples have repeatedly asked for a more systematic dialogue with United Nations agencies. In response to this request, IFAD has taken a series of initiatives in the past seven years and accumulated valuable experience in establishing constructive dialogue with indigenous peoples.

In 2009 IFAD developed its Policy on Engagement with Indigenous Peoples. The policy proposed to establish an Indigenous Peoples’ Forum as a concrete attempt to institutionalize a process of consultation and dialogue with indigenous peoples’ representatives at the national, regional and international levels.

From IFAD’s perspective, the objectives of such forum is to:
  • share and discuss the assessment of IFAD’s engagement with indigenous peoples among IFAD staff, Member States and indigenous peoples’ representatives;
  • consult on rural development and poverty reduction; and
  • promote the participation of indigenous peoples’ organizations in IFAD’s activities at the country, regional and international levels.

On Thursday 17 February, approximately 100 people participated in the workshop establishing indigenous people's forum. The indigenous delegated kicked off the meeting with a traditional ritual of blessing and calling on the spirits of different regions for guidance.


In his welcoming address, IFAD's President, Dr Kanayo Nwanze, reiterated that indigenous peoples have a "vast well of untapped potential, with unique forms of knowledge, practices and understanding of ecosystem management."

"Indigenous peoples’ ancestral memory is a storehouse full of thousands of different species capable of responding to new challenges and climatic conditions – just as they have done for centuries before", said Nwanze

"And we must place special emphasis on creating opportunities for the young people of indigenous communities. Theirs is a special challenge: to build a bridge between their rich cultural heritage and the demands and opportunities of today’s world. As was described in the Kari-Oca Declaration of 1992, they must be able to walk to the future in the footprint of their ancestors."

Dr Nwanze concluded that "We must listen to each other, learn from each other, and work together – today, tomorrow, and many days into the future."

Kevin Cleaver talked about IFAD's engagement with indigenous peoples, underscoring the importance of access to ancestral land and other natural resources such as water, forest. IFAD colleagues  gave an overview of situation and status of indigenous peoples in Africa, Asia and Latin America. Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, executive director Tebtebba Foundation and former Chair of the UNPFII gave a history of IFAD's engagement with indigenous peoples.

Mirna Cunningham, director of the Center for indigenous peoples’ autonomy and development and Member of the UNPFII, talked about how the important role indigenous peoples in producing food to ensure food security.  She complimented IFAD for giving indigenous peoples a voice.

Later during the day, in an interview, Mirna outlined the challenges and opportunities facing indigenous peoples. We immediately posted the interview on Facebook and tweeted about it. Some of our fans have asked us to add Spanish subtitles. We'll definitely do so!



The participants spent the rest of the day discussing issues and options for the forum's modalities, organization, participation and governance. They will be sharing the outcomes of these discussion on Friday afternoon.

The IFAD social reporting team will be reporting live from the final session of the workshop. Make sure you tune in. Follow us on Facebook and on Twitter. Follow #ip2011.

One last comment before filing this report: We often talk about bridging the digital divide and in doing so, we talk about providing the appropriate technology and locally relevant content to the people we work with. 

We also know that both modern and old information communication technologies (ICTs), be it computers, mobile phones, radio allow poor rural people and indigenous groups to take part in socio-economic activities of their respective communities. ICTs can be used to help indigenous peoples to preserve and promote their ancestral traditions and allows them to share knowledge.

So you can imagine how pleasantly surprised I was when I saw our Ethiopian indigenous delegate with an iPad! He is using it to connect to the world and also to share what he is learning with the rest of his community. Wonder which indicator we need to use to assess the impact of Steve Jobs!


See photo gallery