Development For Whom?

With the Asia region becoming the new investment and economic development hub, indigenous peoples face increasing marginalization and violations to their individual and collective rights.

Asia is home to around 2/3 of the world’s 370 million indigenous peoples and they share a common situation as other indigenous peoples in other parts of the world – they are part of the most marginalized and at the bottom rung of the development ladder. Even with this, indigenous peoples have been maintaining and sustaining their culture, traditions, and their strong connections to their lands and territories for their sustenance and continuity of their ways of life.

Historically, indigenous peoples in Asia have been dominated through colonization and/or through nation-state building and subsequent globalization. Based on human development indicators, they are overrepresented among the poor, illiterate, malnourished and stunted. This is further compounded by the continuing non-recognition of States of their collective rights as indigenous peoples and the expropriation of their lands and resources for state-sponsored development and corporate investments. These impositions are leading to gross and wide-scale violations of their individual and collective rights. This is despite the fact that majority of Asian governments voted in favor of the adoption of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) in 2007.

The international financial institutions (IFI) such as the World Bank (WB) and Asian Development Bank (ADB) have been the key partners of governments in addressing poverty and for national economic development through technical and financial assistance. However, the development interventions of IFIs have mixed outcomes. While there are progresses in some areas, it also resulted to wider gaps between the rich and the poor and environmental problems among others. Some projects assisted/funded by international financial institutions (IFIs) have been contributing to the worsening situation of indigenous peoples in the region which goes against their aim of reducing poverty rate.

Certain projects of these IFIs such as large dams, land concessions and commercial agriculture have led to forced displacements, destruction of sacred sites and loss of traditional livelihoods of indigenous peoples. Although IFIs have their own safeguard policies aimed to prevent harm to affected communities, there are still some gaps in substance and the implementation is weak. Further, mechanisms for redress remain inaccessible and difficult for many indigenous peoples.

This briefing paper presents recent cases demonstrating the need for stronger safeguards consistent with recognizing and respecting the rights of indigenous peoples as well as better implementation of safeguard policies on the ground.

Click here to download full publication.

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