Pope meets indigenous peoples: “Confrontation and conflict can be overcome through prior and informed consent”

Yesterday, Pope Francis met with a group of indigenous peoples. They had travelled to Rome to take part in the Third Global Meeting of the Indigenous Peoples’ Forum of the UN’s International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD).

Pope Francis made a short speech to the indigenous peoples’ representatives, reported on the Vatican Radio website as follows:

Dear Friends,
I am pleased to welcome you at the conclusion of the third Indigenous Peoples’ Forum convened by the International Fund for Agricultural Development, which this year is celebrating the fortieth anniversary of its foundation.
You have come together to identify ways of giving greater economic empowerment to indigenous peoples.  I believe that the central issue is how to reconcile the right to development, both social and cultural, with the protection of the particular characteristics of indigenous peoples and their territories.
This is especially clear when planning economic activities which may interfere with indigenous cultures and their ancestral relationship to the earth. In this regard, the right to prior and informed consent should always prevail, as foreseen in Article 32 of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Only then is it possible to guarantee peaceful cooperation between governing authorities and indigenous peoples, overcoming confrontation and conflict.
A second aspect concerns the development of guidelines and projects which take into account indigenous identity, with particular attention to young people and women; not only considering them, but including them! For governments this means recognizing that indigenous communities are a part of the population to be appreciated and consulted, and whose full participation should be promoted at the local and national level.
IFAD can contribute effectively to this needed road map through its funding and expertise, keeping in mind that “a technological and economic development which does not leave in its wake a better world and an integrally higher quality of life cannot be considered progress” (Encyclical Letter Laudato Si’, 194).
I offer you heartfelt thanks for your presence, and I ask the Almighty to bless your communities and to enlighten the work of all those responsible for governing IFAD.

Fifty Indigenous Peoples’ representatives travelled from Africa, Asia and the Pacific, Latin America and the Caribbean for the IFAD meeting. The two day meeting focussed on traditional food systems and sustainable development.

The meeting builds on the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples, held in September 2014. The Outcome Document from the Conference included the following  commitment from governments:

We commit ourselves to cooperating with indigenous peoples, through their own representative institutions, to develop and implement national action plans, strategies or other measures, where relevant, to achieve the ends of the Declaration.

Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples was in Rome for the IFAD meeting. She told the Thomson Reuters Foundation that,

“A lot of money is going into (land) speculation; this has worsened the situation. Huge plantations are encroaching on indigenous land – biodiversity and forests have been hurt. Displacement has gotten worse in the last 10 years.”

Tauli-Corpuz recommends that U.N. agencies should form partnerships with indigenous communities, rather than relying on national governments to implement development plans.

PHOTO Credit: CatholicPhilly.com

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