The absence of indigenous peoples from global development processes has a dual drawback. First, indigenous peoples risk to be left by the wayside despite their very real needs for more secure and sustainable livelihoods. Second, and of greater concern, is that the impoverishment and hardship of indigenous peoples may in fact be exacerbated by this worldwide push to fulfil the MDGs.
In response to international pressure, governments may heighten their exploitation of indigenous lands and territories, thus further dispossessing indigenous peoples of the natural resources that they rely upon to fulfil basic needs. Large-scale hydroelectric development projects, for example, often target indigenous lands because they are dismissed as under-populated, under-utilised or even 'wastelands'. Similarly, indigenous communities' water sources that sustain their multiple uses and livelihood strategies are often taken away in order to provide drinking water to urban areas and metropoles. Thus a misguided pursuit of the MDGs could in fact worsen indigenous peoples, matters for ever while national indicators of well-being may improve.
Accordingly, there is a real need to involve indigenous peoples directly in development processes, whether at local, national or global levels. This publication on Water and Indigenous Peoples advocates a revision of international development efforts to fully embrace indigenous peoples' knowledge, values, land tenure, customary management, social arrangements and rights pertaining to water. Contributions cover a wide array of approaches and issues, ranging from 'worldviews' to 'rights-based struggles'.
UNESCO, 2006, Water and Indigenous Peoples. Edited by R. Boelens, M. Chiba and D. Nakashima. Knowledges of Nature 2, UNESCO: Paris, 177 pp.
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Message de M. Koïchiro Matsuura, directeur général de l’UNESCO
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