Include Indigenous communities in MDGs or watch them die a slow death, experts warn

We are dangerously close to killing off the world's Indigenous populations, and losing forever the invaluable knowledge these communities have about medicines and the ecosystem.

This stark warning is being made today by a team of health experts based at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) and coincides both with the launch of a major, month-long series on Indigenous Peoples' health in the Lancet, which begins today, and the fifth session of the UN's Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, which took place this week.

The experts caution that major international policies such as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which were set up to target the world's poorest people could, as they currently stand, actually lead to entire populations of Indigenous peoples being wiped out forever.

They explain that minority groups such as Indigenous peoples could be ignored because of the way the MDGs work by focusing on big numbers and encouraging targets to maximise health benefits for the majority. This means that the health experiences of minority Indigenous populations will be swallowed up, unnoticed, in the country statistics for the MDGs, and that these communities could become the hidden victims of the global effort to tackle poverty.

The Lancet series has been written in the first year of the Second Decade of the World's Indigenous Peoples, initiated after a First Decade which even according to the High Commissioner for Human Rights, achieved little. The High Commissioner noted in an evaluation of the Decade that its main objective, the adoption of a declaration of rights for Indigenous peoples, had not been achieved and that more needed to be done by the Member States and the international community to improve the rights of Indigenous peoples.

The LSHTM team, which is contributing a number of research papers and coordinated the series, is echoing the calls made by the Permanent Forum for more research and ac

Contact: Lindsay Wright
London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine

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