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 Geneva, 19 September 2014IPU Logo-bottom

Political solutions exist to ensure rights of indigenous peoples

IPU promotes the political participation of indigenous peoples as a critical element for any democracy and for any parliament seeking to be fully representative. ©Bolivian parliament.

Political solutions ensuring the rights of indigenous peoples are upheld do exist but more action is needed to implement them, says the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) ahead of a global conference on the issue next week.
Although indigenous peoples make up five per cent of the global population, they represent 15 per cent of the world’s disadvantaged and account for one third of the one billion extremely poor rural people. In addition, indigenous peoples suffer violations of rights that include forced evictions, land loss, discrimination, loss of identity and culture and are often excluded from decision making at all levels.
The UN’s World Conference on Indigenous People’s (22-23 September) in New York will focus on what is being done globally to implement the UN’s Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) which aims to redress the situation.
IPU has organized a parallel parliamentary meeting also in New York on 23 September which will pay specific attention to indigenous people’s participation in parliament. A 2010 study had found that 25 per cent of MPs considered special or affirmative measures to ensure indigenous participation in parliament to be discriminatory. This is contrary to global human rights standards which call for affirmative action for underrepresented communities.
To help inform the debate on the importance of indigenous participation in parliaments and to provide practical solutions on getting indigenous peoples involved in political decision making, two new publications will be launched.  
An IPU survey, Beyond numbers: the participation of indigenous peoples in parliament, has found there are a minimum of 979 indigenous MPs out of 44,000 MPs in the world today, 80 per cent of them men. Representation, however, is not enough, with the survey highlighting the importance of parliamentary bodies in indigenous involvement in collective decision making and of applying the principle of free, prior and informed consent before decisions are taken that affect indigenous peoples.
A Handbook for Parliamentarians on Implementing the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples provides practical steps MPs can take. Produced jointly by IPU, the UN’s Secretariat of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, the UN Development Programme and the International Fund for Agricultural Development, the Handbook tackles issues such as legislation, oversight of government action and resource allocation on addressing social and economic conditions of indigenous peoples.
MPs are also given concrete, positive examples of action taken by various countries around the world on issues affecting indigenous peoples’ rights.

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