The fifteenth International Day of Indigenous People has been observed in the country by holding various programmes.

While various ethnic groups took out rallies in the capital demanding right to indigenous people and calling for meaningful Constituent Assembly elections, the Nepal Federation of Indigenous Nationalities (NFIN) organised the major celebrations in Butwal in western Nepal.

Addressing the celebrations in Butwal, Ian Martin, chief of UNMIN and Special Representative of UN Secretary General, expressed satisfaction over the recently sealed deal between the government and indigenous community.

“This year’s International Day of the World’s Indigenous People has particular resonance in Nepal, with the dialogue between Janajati representatives and the Government resulting in a positive outcome this week,” he said.

Terming the agreement as a major step for Nepal’s indigenous peoples, Martin said, “It also highlights the need for continuing dialogue to ensure that there is consensus on the electoral system with Madhesis, Dalits and other traditionally marginalised groups. This will contribute to achieving the ultimate goal of the election: to produce a Constituent Assembly that is truly representative and able to frame a constitution which responds to the aspirations of all Nepalese people.”

Martin also appealed to the indigenous community to pay particular attention towards uplifting “most marginalised within the community as well as women.”

“In this week’s agreement between the Janajati and Government representatives, the Government made the commitment to adopt and ratify two important United Nations instruments. Firstly, the Government committed to adopt the Indigenous and Tribal Peoples’ Convention (known as Convention169 of the International Labour Organisation), which ensures consultation with and participation of indigenous communities and organisations. And secondly, it committed to ratify the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which establishes international human rights standards for the protection of the rights of indigenous peoples. The Declaration was adopted by the Human Rights Council in June 2006, and the General Assembly is expected to adopt it in the coming days.”

Addressing a separate programme by the National Network of Indigenous Women in Kathmandu, Sandra Beidas, acting OHCHR representative in Nepal, said, “Creating an inclusive Nepalese society will take time. But greater representation for marginalised groups in the Constituent Assembly – including greater representation of Janajati women – should provide an unprecedented opportunity for such groups to have a strong role in determining the shape and nature of the new Nepal.”

Louise Arbour, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, in a statement issued on Thursday, called on member states of the United Nations – including Nepal – to adopt the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples at the General Assembly in the next few days.

Meanwhile, Rural Reconstruction Nepal (RRN), coordinator of the Human Rights Treaty Monitoring and Coordination Committee (HRTMCC), sub-committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ESCR), has issued a statement raising the issues of exclusion, marginalisation, discrimination and poverty of indigenous people “which is still the daily reality for many of these people.”

The RRN has urged the state to ensure all kinds of rights of indigenous people including their access to and control over natural resources; indigenous and traditional knowledge; and ratify relevant UN instruments, among others.

There are 59 listed indigenous nationalities in Nepal, according to the government. This year, the indigenous community has raised the issue of CA and how best to utilise it for their upliftment.

The project, titled “Sustainable Reproductive Health and Livelihood Programme” (SUREHELP) and funded by the government of Austria will be working in villages of Salyan and Rolpa, the districts most affected by the ten year long conflict.

The project, which began in April this year, will end in March next year.

It will concentrate on the reproductive health and livelihood opportunities for women, poor and the marginalized through socio-economic means and political awareness.

During the launch at Hotel Himalaya, Minister for Local Development Dev Gurung, while underscoring the need to make the state responsible for overall national development, said, “The attempts made by the private partnership organisation is praiseworthy but only these attempts are not enough to make a new Nepal.”

Stating that everyone has the right to choose his religion, Minister Gurung highlighted the need to make Nepal a secular country. While expressing his commitment to help the private sector in development activities, he pointed out that Nepal’s patriarchal system was mainly responsible for domestic violence against women.

Aiming to serve around 33,600 women, youth, poor, disadvantaged and children from various communities, the project will also focus on enhancing the quality of life and the process of economic, social and cultural empowerment of the conflict affected poor and excluded communities.

Likewise, acknowledging the project as an opportunity provided by UNFPA, Arjun Karki, President of RRN Nepal said, “Nothing will happen unless we actively restructure a new Nepal through social, economical transformation and by raising political awareness.”

Posted on: 2007-07-20 06:35:15 (Server Time)