Poverty Reduction Strategies
The socalled PRSPs, Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers, are meant to be a tool for governments to reduce poverty in their countries. The concept was introduced by the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, IMF, in 1999 and is now applied in the 70 poorest countries of the world. In these countries, the PRSPs constitute the main framework for achieving the Millennium Development Goals.
The PRSPs are supposed to be country-driven. This means that it is the given country itself that defines the issues and problems that the PRSPs should solve. The strategy and the targets to be achieved should be clearly defined on the basis of consultation with all sectors of society.
It seems quite obvious that indigenous peoples should be among the groups to take part in the PRSP processes. The majority of the world’s 370 million indigenous peoples live in developing countries, and they are often among the poorest groups. The World Bank estimates that indigenous peoples constitute approximately 5% of the world’s population, but 15% of those living in poverty.
Nevertheless, ILO research has shown that consultation with and participation of indigenous peoples in national PRSP processes has been very limited. Although the PSRP processes are intended to reach out to “traditionally marginalized groups”, the related guidelines are silent on involving indigenous and tribal peoples. Also, institutional policies on indigenous peoples such as the World Bank Operational Policy 4.10., are often applied to specific localised development projects, but not to the PRSP or other overall processes.
In most countries, information on the Poverty Reduction Strategies does not reach indigenous peoples. No permanent mechanisms are established to secure their participation in the process and they have no influence concerning budget making. When monitoring poverty, most countries do not develop specific indicators that reflect indigenous peoples’ notions of poverty and well-being. While owing a television or having a corrugated iron roof on your house in many countries is regarded as an indicator of wealth, this might not be the case for indigenous peoples. Living in a traditional house with a thatched roof is not necessarily an indicator of poverty whereas loss of language, traditional institutions and access to land and forests would be important indicators of poverty for most indigenous peoples.
To make Poverty Reduction Strategies effective, much stronger involvement of indigenous peoples in the national poverty reduction strategies is needed. However, this is a long term process demanding serious commitment and a lot of effort from governments and international agencies, as well as indigenous peoples’ organisations.