Indigenous Peoples and their unique knowledge are essential to address the COVID-19 outbreak and to build a more sustainable, resilient world as we recover from the pandemic, the President of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) said today.
“The COVID-19 pandemic shows us that we need to rethink the way we interact with nature, as well as how we produce and consume food. The continuous use of unsustainable agricultural practices, and the devastation of forests and wildlife, are part of what has brought us into closer contact with the virus that causes COVID-19,” said IFAD President, Gilbert F. Houngbo. “Indigenous Peoples have long warned of the consequences of exactly these kinds of practices”.
Houngbo was speaking ahead of today’s event focused on the importance of partnering with Indigenous Peoples to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals and build a more resilient future, to be held on the margins of the United Nations High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF).
The event is co-convened by Canada, Finland, the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) and Indigenous Peoples Major Group (IPMG) for Sustainable Development.
“We must recognize and acknowledge the important role that Indigenous Peoples play in supporting and protecting sustainable livelihoods. They provide sound stewardship of our environment, and help build greater biodiversity and sustainable food systems,” said Minister Karina Gould, Canada’s Minister of International Development who is opening the event.
The event will examine how Indigenous Peoples’ knowledge, values and sustainable systems can help achieve zero hunger and end poverty in all forms by 2030. It will also discuss why it is critical to prioritize the protection of their rights, and increase their access to land, productive resources and health services to help them cope with the adverse impacts of the pandemic – whilst also securing their participation in relevant development processes.
“As we work together to craft a global response to COVID-19, we need to recognise Indigenous Peoples’ actual and potential contributions to sustainable development,” said Houngbo. “Too often they are systematically marginalized, suffer violations of their human rights and are excluded from – and actually harmed by – development processes. This is not acceptable and our approach to dealing with Indigenous Peoples must change.”
There are approximately 476 million Indigenous Peoples in over 90 countries. Despite representing over six per cent of the global population, they account for about 18 per cent of the world’s poor. They are at disproportionate risk in public health emergencies, becoming even more vulnerable during this global pandemic.
Indigenous Peoples are custodians of about 80 per cent of the world’s biodiversity and are also among the worst affected by climate change as a result of their close interaction and reliance upon the climate and natural systems.
IFAD has been working with Indigenous Peoples since the beginning of its operations, considering them a priority group in the fight of rural poverty. IFAD reaches more than 6 million Indigenous Peoples in 31 countries through 63 projects with US$660 million of funding. IFAD convenes the Indigenous Peoples Forum in Rome every two years.