Wednesday, May 20, 2009

May 13-19, 2009: Five Key Indigenous People's Issues

Five Key Indigenous Peoples Issues for the Week of May 13 - 19, 2009

Taiwan: Head of Council of Indigenous Peoples Comes Under Fire

Council of Indigenous Peoples (CIP) Minister Chang Jen-hsiang (章仁香) came under fire from Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) legislators yesterday at the legislature’s Internal Administration Committee, who called her leadership style “arrogant and passive.”

KMT Legislator Kung Wen-chi (孔文吉), a Sediq who authored the bulk of President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) policies promising to improve basic infrastructure for Aborigines, said that after one year in office, the CIP had failed to deliver on any of the items included in Ma’s platform and that Chang’s “passive” leadership was to blame.

“Many Aboriginal groups have said the Ma administration bounced its check when it comes to the promises he made them. But the CIP is the government agency that handles the matter,” Kung said.

“What have you done lately besides going to ribbon-cutting ceremonies?” Kung asked, adding that activists had called for Chang’s resignation on numerous occasions over the past year.


Chang, an Amis, said the proposal for budgets appropriation had already been submitted to the Executive Yuan for review, adding that many projects, including improving farm roads, had begun. Read more about the CIP defense here....

United Nations: Widespread Abuse Against Indigenous Peoples Persists, Warns Migiro

Indigenous peoples around the world continue to suffer from prejudice and marginalization, Deputy Secretary-General Asha Rose-Migiro told the opening session today of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues.

“Powerful forces continue to take land from indigenous peoples, denigrate their cultures, suppress their languages and even directly attack their very lives,” warned Ms. Migiro.

“These acts violate every principle enshrined in the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples,” she added.

Some 2,000 participants from around the world converged on UN Headquarters in New York to discuss furthering the implementation of the landmark 2007 Declaration, which gained momentum last month when Australia officially endorsed the document after being one of four countries to vote against it along with Canada, New Zealand and the United States.

The non-binding text sets out the individual and collective rights of the world’s almost 400 million indigenous peoples, as well as their rights to culture, identity, language, employment, health, education and other issues.

It also prohibits discrimination against indigenous peoples and promotes their full and effective participation in all matters that concern them, and their right to remain distinct and to pursue their own visions of economic and social development.

“The General Assembly solemnly proclaimed that the Declaration is a standard of achievement to be pursued in spirit of partnership and mutual respect,” said Ms. Migiro.

The Deputy Secretary-General stressed that just raising living standards for indigenous peoples is not enough. “Protecting indigenous communities and their wealth of wisdom will not only enhance their lives, it will serve the interest of all people concerned about a healthy future for our planet.” Read more about United Nation's concerns here....

Australia: Link to Land Boosts Indigenous Health

Indigenous Australians who take on active roles in the management of aboriginal land have dramatically improved health, research shows.

A study taking in almost 300 indigenous adults aged 15 to 54 years in Arnhem Land found those who took part in "caring for country" programs performed better across a range of health factors.

They had more frequent physical exercise, a better diet, less obesity, lower blood pressure, less psychological distress, less diabetes and a lower risk of heart disease.

"These are the principle preventable diseases contributing to the (17-year) gap in indigenous life expectancy," said Dr Paul Burgess from the Menzies School of Health Research.

"Our findings suggest that investment in caring for country programs may be the means to generate sustainable economic development, and gains, for both ecological and indigenous peoples' health in remove areas of Australia."

The programs occur on aboriginal land and sea areas and they include border protection, quarantine, control of invasive weeds and feral animals, fisheries and wildfire management and sustainable commercial use of wildlife.

Dr Burgess said the finding should prompt a re-think of policies that encouraged indigenous people to centralise in large remote townships. Read more about aboriginal links to land here....

Peru: Army Calls For Amazon Protest

Peru's military have been authorised to give support to the police for 30 days in an escalating dispute over Amazon resources with indigenous groups.

The armed forces will intervene to ensure the operation of roads, airports and other essential services, Peru's ministry of defence said.

A day before the protesters said they would begin an insurgency to defend their rights, a threat later withdrawn.

Some 30,000 people have held a month-long protest in Peru's Amazon region.

There have been clashes with the police as the indigenous protesters call for the repeal of decrees passed over the past two years relaxing restrictions over oil exploration and development.

President Alan Garcia has said all Peruvians should benefit from the country's natural resources not just the "small group of people who live there".

"We have to understand when there are resources like oil, gas and timber, they don't belong only to the people who had the fortune to be born there," President Garcia said.

Under Peru's constitution the state is the owner of the country's mineral and hydrocarbon wealth. Read more of the indigenous peoples struggle in Peru here....

India: Dongria Kondh Shocked Over Mine Approval

The government of India has given the British mining company Vendata resources final approval for the controversial bauxite mine on the Niyamgiri Mountain of Orissa, India.

The Dongria Kondh were shocked to learn this on Friday, after receiving a phone call from the UK charity group ActionAid. It was the first time they heard of the decision.

“It has happened in a very underhanded way,” says Kumti Majhi, a leader for the Kondh.

Simply put, “this ruling will mean the complete destruction of the tribal groups – there’s no doubt about it”, says Babu Mathew, ActionAid’s director in India.

However, there is still some hope, following yesterday’s election results, that the project will tossed aside, or at least put on hold. Read more about the Dongria's struggle here....

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

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