Indigenous peoples are 5 pct of population but 15 pct of poorest: UN official

The indigenous peoples account for about 5 percent of the world's population but constitute 15 percent of the poorest, a UN senior official said Thursday, while noting a recently agreed compact on migration can help protect their rights.

At a meeting commemorating the International Day of the World's Indigenous Peoples, UN Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs Zhenmin Liu said the indigenous peoples often migrate in search of a better life but current reality for many who have migrated is "poverty, little or no access to education, employment and other social services."

As this year's focus is on indigenous peoples' migration and movement, Liu said in the recently agreed Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration, the UN member states committed to address and reduce the vulnerabilities in migration, and that the compact presents an opportunity to highlight the specific needs and rights of migrants from indigenous groups.

He further said the compact is a vehicle to address cases of involuntary migration of the indigenous peoples, while noting "they have a strong relationship with their lands, territories and resources" but are "increasingly losing their ancestral lands as a result of development projects, settlement programs, conflict and violence, and climate change."

On July 13, all 193 UN member states except the United States agreed on the finalized text of the compact, the first intergovernmental document designed to deal with the comprehensive issues of migration. The compact is set to be officially adopted at a high-level conference in Morocco this December.

There are an estimated 370 million indigenous people in the world, living across 90 countries. They speak an overwhelming majority of the world's thousands of languages and represent 5,000 different cultures.

As a result of migration, currently many of the indigenous population live in urban areas. Liu said in Latin America, over 40 percent of all indigenous peoples live in urban areas, and in some countries the rates reach about 80 percent.

On Dec. 23, 1994, the UN General Assembly decided in a resolution that the International Day of the World's Indigenous Peoples shall be observed on Aug. 9 every year. The date marks the day of the first meeting, in 1982, of the UN Working Group on Indigenous Populations. On this day, people from around the world are encouraged to spread the UN's message on the protection and promotion of the rights of indigenous peoples.






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