4th Session of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues

United Nations Headquarters, New Your

16-27 May, 2005-09-04

 

Agenda Item 3(a):

Eradication of Extreme Poverty and Hunger (MDG Goal 1)

 

On behalf of

 

Bangladesh Adivasi Forum, CIPRAD, Hill Tracts NGO Forum, Parbatya Chattagram Jana Samhati Samiti (PCJSS), Jumma Peoples’ Network International, Justice and Peace and Integration of Creation, Kapaeeng, Khasi Welfare Association, Land is Life, Trinamul and Taungya

 

Jhu! Greetings from the indigenous peoples of Bangladesh.

 

Extreme poverty and hunger is widely prevented among almost every single one of the more than 45 indigenous peoples within Bangladesh. Some of our most serious concerns of this issue were recently presented on behalf of our peoples to the Government of Bangladesh in relation to the country’s National PRSP Document (“National Strategy for Accelerated Poverty Reduction”) at meetings with the Government (at a formal Dialogue Meeting held in Dhaka on 28 April, 2005 on Bangladesh’s Draft (“PRSP”) and followed by an indigenous delegation to the National PRSP Committee on 12 May, 2004). We had also made a number of specific recommendations. Let me share some of these with you.

 

Major Recommendations of IPs to Bangladesh Draft PRSP

 

                        Operationalization/Implementationof PRSP Recommendations

 

                        At a general level, we were very concerned that many of the PRSP recommendations were phased in rather weak language, suggesting recommendatory, rather than obligatory steps. This was also reflected by the glaring absence of any rention of indigenous peoples among both the Thematic Groups and the Policy Matrix (e.g., as for women: “Women’s Advancement & Rights; and for children: on “Children’s Advancement & Rights”), implying that the Government’s commitment to the issue of poverty eradication for indigenous peoples was rather ad hoc at best, and not mainstreamed into the document, and hence into the implementing and operationalizing plans and programmes. We strongly demanded that these errors and omissions be corrected before the finalization of the draft(dated December, 2004), but do not know whether, and to what extent, our demands will be reflected in the final document.

 

                        IP Involvement in PRSP Process & Governance

 

                        We had also stressed to the Government, that the difficult goal of poverty eradication will almost certainly remain unfulfilled unless and until our peoples are substantively involved as full participants both in the short-term process of formulation, implementation and monitoring of the National PRSP (e.g., as mentioned yesterday by Prof. Jeffrey Sachs), but to be adequately represented in the mechanisms and processes of governance and administration at a general level. In particular, we had emphasized the need for two specific measures. One: to fully and faithfully implement the provisions of the Chittagong Hill Tracts “Peace” Accord of 1997 relating to de-militarization, democratization, devolution, land rights and rehabilitation and two: to include indigenous peoples of the plains regions in major decision-making processes, at all levels (including the Ministry-level Special Affairs Division under the Prime Minister’s Office).

 

                        Other Important Recommendations of Indigenous Peoples

 

                        Other important recommendations included the following:

 

Land Rights

Acknowledgement of our land and resource rights and our enjoyment of the same (including those recognized in national and regional laws, customary indigenous law, and those mentioned in the ILO Convention No. 107, ratified by Bangladesh(;

 

Traditional & Indigenous Knowledge-based Economic Activities

We also sought governmental and other support to traditional, indigenous and locally-innovated models of forestry, agroforestry, agriculture, horticulture, fisheries, animal herding and other economic activities. These have proved to be socially, culturally and environmentally appropriate for our peoples and our regions. And many, if not all of these, include market-oriented activities (If I might remind all that many of our collective wisdom have been recognized ad “traditional scientific knowledge” in Agenda 21).

 

Access to Capital & Exploitation by Moneylenders

 

Indigenous peoples suffer from an acute shortage of capital, which is also the reason why they are exploited by unscrupulous money-lenders. We have demanded government-supported lending institutions to deal with such problem. We have also cautioned against unconditionally supporting micro credit programmes of small banks and NGOs that are not suitable for our peoples.

 

                        The Process

 

                        It is important to note that the initial draft of the PRSP was prepared without any form of direct participation of indigenous peoples. This was also reflected in the first draft, that only made a brief and insignificant mention of our peoples. Although the subsequent draft is a significant improvement upon the earlier draft, we have no guarantees that we will be involved substantially in the PRSP’s implementation. And this is actually related to the more general problem of discrimination faces by our peoples, as mentioned yesterday by our Rapporteur, Mick Dodson yesterday, both with regard to poverty reduction and in all important spheres of our lives. We did draw attention to this in our statements to the Government. This needs to a cross-cutting issue in poverty reduction worldwide as part of the rights-based approach to this problem.