Our idea is always to build up.
We are undergoing a process of reconstruction.
Indigenous Peoples as such are in a process of reconstruction.
Alfredo Viteri, Quichua, Ecuador
Generally, the word development has a positive sound. The overall perception is that development will bring countries and peoples forward to a better life. But the concept of development is not that simple. What is good development for some sectors of societies may have negative consequences for others. Not all peoples share the same aspirations and priorities for development.
Victims of development
The sad reality is that indigenous peoples have often ended up being the victims of development instead of its beneficiaries. In the name of development, large areas of lands of indigenous peoples have been flooded and large hydro-electric dams constructed, for example. While the big cities are supplied with power, the indigenous peoples are left with little or no compensation for the land lost, they are thus deprived of their means of livelihood, and in addition their homes are often still lacking electricity. Around the world, oil exploitation, logging and mining has contributed to economic growth for certain sectors of society, but the consequences for indigenous peoples have often been devastating. Their land has been taken away, their forests have disappeared and their rivers are left contaminated.
Indigenous peoples have their own concepts and aspirations for development, and in order to respect their right to determine their own priorities, the concepts of consultation and participation are crucial. Governments must make sure that indigenous peoples participate in the national development process at all levels. Their needs and priorities must be taken into account, not only when it comes to local projects at the village level, but also when formulating the overall development policies of a country. In most developing countries, indigenous peoples are among the poorest groups. Development policies and efforts that do not take their needs and rights into account are therefore likely to fail. Without indigenous peoples, inclusive, poverty-oriented and sustainable development is not possible.
Indigenous peoples on the international agenda
Both governments and international development agencies have responsibilities for including indigenous peoples in development processes. Within the last 15-20 years, agencies such as the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank, United Nations Development Programme, the European Commission and a number of bilateral donors have adopted policies for the inclusion of indigenous peoples in development programmes. These policies and strategies reflect good intentions and increasing understanding of indigenous peoples’ rights, and they have helped placing indigenous peoples on the international development agenda. Nevertheless, there is still a gap between the intentions and reality when governments and development agencies negotiate and implement development strategies. Often, there are no permanent mechanisms for securing the participation of indigenous peoples, there are no specific statistics or data available on the situation of indigenous , and often the staff of government and development institutions has little knowledge about indigenous peoples’ rights, needs and priorities. For indigenous organisations, it remains a challenge to push for further participation in development processes.