International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples is the occasion to celebrate the richness of cultural diversity in our country. It is also a day to be reminded of the insecure and unfavourable situation in which many indigenous people still survive on a day to day basic.

On this day, Rural Reconstruction Nepal, Coordinator of the HRTMCC Sub-committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ESCR), on behalf of the coalition members would like to raise the issues of exclusion, marginalisation, discrimination and poverty of indigenous people which is still the daily reality for many of these people. Despite of Nepal Government’s commitment towards the international conventions and acceptance of international human rights standards for the protection and promotion of indigenous people’s right, many laws still remain vague and fail to protect the fundamental rights of these peoples.

The majority of the Nepal’s natural resources – minerals, water, potential energy sources, forests and more – are found within the indigenous peoples’ territories. However, access to and ownership and development of these resources remains a contentious issue. Valuable indigenous knowledge, skill and technology that have been contributing to sustain and further our society, economy and civilisation are now endangered by market driven multinational products.

We are also concerned about the proportionate representation of all Indigenous peoples and other marginalised groups in the upcoming election of the Constituent Assembly to realise the inclusive democratic new Nepal. We also acknowledge/welcome the recent agreement made between Nepal Government and indigenous people’s representatives on the issues of proportionate representation in the Constituent Assembly.

Therefore, we urge the Nepal Government to:

  • Ensure that the indigenous and ethnic people enjoy their rights of access to and control over natural resources;
  • Protect the farmers’ rights, including intellectual property rights i.e. indigenous and traditional knowledge;
  • Ratify the ILO Convention No. 169 concerning Indigenous and Tribal Peoples which ensures “to promote the full realisation of the social, economic and cultural rights of these peoples with respect for their social and cultural identity, their customs and traditions and their institutions”;
  • Play an effective role in the UN process for adoption of the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on ESCR which grants the rights of individuals or groups to submit communications (complaints) concerning non-compliance with the Covenant.
  • Ensure effective implementation of the Concluding Observations of the UN Committee on ESCR considering Nepal’s state report during its 38th Session held in April-May 2007, in particular, ensure that indigenous communities are represented in decision-making bodies at all levels in the
  • Constitutional process and full enjoyment without discrimination of their economic, social and cultural rights is guaranteed.
  • Rural Reconstruction Nepal (RRN)
  • Coordinator, HRTMCC Sub-committee on ESCR
  • On behalf of:
  • Informal Sector Service Centre (INSEC) Public Health Concern Trust (PHECT)
  • Lumanti Support Group of Shelter (LUMANTI) Collective Campaign for Peace (COCAP)
  • Forest Action Community Self Reliance Centre (CSRC)

Source: FORUM-ASIA website Thursday, 09 August 2007