Wednesday, February 4, 2009

January 28-Feburary 3, 2009: Five Key Indigenous Peoples Issues

Five Important Indigenous People's Issues for the Week of January 28, - February 3, 2009

International: Stateless Peoples Defend Diversity at World Social Forum

The immense diversity of peoples was apparent at the World Social Forum (WSF), which ended Sunday in Belém, the capital of the state of Pará in the Brazilian Amazon region.

The presence of 1,900 indigenous people representing 190 ethnic groups as well as 1,400 Quilombolas (people of African origins living in traditional communities) was conspicuous among the 133,000 participants from 142 countries. They had their own tents, discussions and celebrations at the event.

For the first time, there was also a tent for the Collective Rights of Stateless Peoples, initiating a reflection at the WSF about a "radical democracy" that upholds the self-determination of peoples, said Arnau Flores, a Catalonian journalist responsible for communication at the Escarré International Centre for Ethnic Minorities and Nations (CIEMEN).

A map showing 32 of these peoples-without-states was displayed in the tent, but "there are many more," Flores told IPS. Some are well-known - like the Palestinians, Basques, Roma, Kurds, Tibetans and Saharawi. Others are seldom thought of in this context, like the South American Mapuche and the Australian Aborigines.

More than 20 organizations of such peoples took part in the activities organized by CIEMEN, with discussions ranging from strategies for emancipation and building their own institutions, to topical questions linked to the main themes of the WSF - such as the crisis of civilization and globalization.

The seeds of a global network of "stateless peoples" claiming their collective rights were sown at this WSF, aiming at a new kind of decolonization and running counter to the "idea of the imperialist nation-state" as the only institution possible in the world, said Quim Arrufat, a Catalonian political scientist in charge of CIEMEN's international relations. Read more about the World Social Forum here....

Australia: Protesters Storm High Court Over NT Intervention Ruling

About 50 protesters have invaded the High Court in Canberra to protest against its decision to reject a legal challenge to the Northern Territory Intervention.

The High Court has ruled against the group of Indigenous leaders from Maningrida in the Northern Territory who argued the takeover of their community was not constitutional.

Dozens of protesters angered by the decision have stormed the building, chanting slogans and waving banners.

About 12 of them scuffled with police and at least one protester has been arrested.

After about 20 minutes protesters left the building and staged another impromptu protest in the courtyard of the High Court.

They said the High Court has trampled on the rights of Indigenous people and many say they will not move until the decision is reversed.

Northern Territory Indigenous elder Barbara Shaw says the protesters are angry that the Court has helped the Government steal Aboriginal land. Read more about the Australian protests here....

International: Tourism and Its Impact

Social movements and tourism watchdog groups from around the world met in the Brazilian Amazon last week to discuss the damage done by predatory neoliberal capitalism and the proliferation of megaresorts and real estate developments along the coastlines of tropical poor countries.

Under the theme "Another Tourism is Possible", dozens of tourism non-governmental organizations and social activists convened at the World Social Forum (WSF 2009) between Jan 27 and Feb 1 to help the travel and tourism industry learn from its mistakes and seek alternative paths to sustainable tourism development.

A main theme of WSF 2009 was the impact on indigenous peoples whose mobilization was said to be the largest in the WSF history, according an announcement by the organizers.

Around 27% of the Amazon territory across nine countries is composed of indigenous lands and 10% of the Latin American population (around 44 million people) is composed of 522 original peoples.

They argue they are being pushed out by the expansion of transnational corporations that mine, drill for oil, build hydroelectric plants and wood mils, conduct agribusiness and tourism, among other projects.

This and the world campaign in defense of Earth was on indigenous peoples' agenda during the WSF, according to a statement.

The venue of WSF 2009 was Belem, capital of the Brazilian state of Para, considered the most important gateway to northern Brazil. It is the biggest city in the Brazilian Amazon with about 1.5 million inhabitants. Read more on the impacts of tourism for indigenous peoples here....

Taiwan: Government Working to Reduce Alcohol Abuse Among Indigenous People

The government will continue promoting its policy to help reduce alcohol abuse among the country's aboriginal people, after initial signs of progress in this area, said officials at the Cabinet-level Council of Indigenous Peoples Sunday.

Last year, 12 of the more than 30 aboriginal townships across the country joined the council's efforts and succeeded in bringing down alcohol use among their residents to 53.1 percent, an average reduction of 7.6 percent compared to the 2007 ratio, said Council Minister Chang Jen-hsiang.

Chang called for greater participation by indigenous people in her council's efforts so as to help decrease the number of injuries and accidents among them resulting from alcohol use and to take better care of their health.

The mortality rate among Taiwan's aboriginal peoples is four to five times than that of the rest of the population, and the leading causes of death among the indigenous people are malignant tumor, liver diseases and accidents -- all of which are closely related to alcohol abuse, Chang said. Read more about alcohol and indigenous people in Taiwan here....

Dominica: Eight Million Dollar Project for Dominica's Indigenous People

An $8.7 million capacity building project, launched in the Carib Territory of Dominica on January 27, is expected to provide several benefits for the Kalinago people.

The project was first submitted to the Caribbean Development Bank in 2005; however, due to the country’s fiscal conditions at the time, the proposal was deferred to mid-2007. The project has been designed with a high level of flexibility in order to respond effectively to the needs of the Kalinago people.

The primary objective of the project is to enhance the capability of residents and institutions in the Carib Territory. A Steering committee has been set up to plan and manage the development interventions and to provide basic infrastructure support systems for income generation.

Chairman of the Project Steering Committee, Dr Charles Corbette, said that the project will address many issues in the Carib Territory, including the management of several important projects.

“The capacity building project will see the construction of a new road from the Salybia Catholic Church to the Kalinago Barana Aute as well as a link road from the Horseback Ridge Road to the hamlet of Concord. In addition, resource centers will be built in St Cyr and Bataca and the project will also include the rehabilitation of the existing road from the Carib Council Office to the end of the Horseback Ridge Road. Dr Corbette highlighted some of the many benefits that can be derived from these projects,” said Charles. Read more about Dominica indigenous people here....

Last weeks Five Key Indigenous People's Issues can be found here.

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