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IDB presents new database on indigenous peoples

The IDB will present its new database on indigenous legislation at the United Nations’ Second Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues on May 20, 2003. The United Nations invited the Bank to participate in this year’s forum, which runs from May 12-23, to provide information about its activities in the area of indigenous issues in terms of institutional policies, operations and in practice. The invitation was issued in response to recommendations issued by the UN’s First Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, held in New York in May of last year.

The IDB’s new interactive database compiles all types of legislation on indigenous issues in the region – constitutional, primary and secondary laws, as well as jurisprudence when applicable. The legislation is organized and sorted according to 22 variables, allowing for comparative studies by topic and countries.

Since gathering and providing information on indigenous issues topped the list of recommendations at last year’s UN Forum, the IDB’s Database on Indigenous Legislation in the Americas is expected to generate great interest among governments, civil society organizations and specialists in indigenous issues and the law, in particular.

The IDB has been an active player in indigenous issues, having worked in this area for the past 20 years. During the 1980s, the Bank issued guidelines for mitigating the impact of projects that negatively affect indigenous communities and compensating those communities, when appropriate.

In 1992, the IDB supported the establishment of the Indigenous Fund as well as an IDB Unit for Indigenous Peoples and Community Development that promotes indigenous issues inside the institution. Two years later, the strong social emphasis of the Bank’s Eighth Replenishment exercise led the Bank to take a more proactive approach to correct the disproportionate presence of indigenous peoples among the poorest and most marginalized sectors of society.

In recent years, there has been a significant increase in the number of Bank-financed projects that include indigenous communities as beneficiaries and participants. By the end of 2002, 20 percent of the projects in the Bank’s portfolio were included in that category.

Speaking at a special session on economic and social development, Christof Kuechemann, deputy manager of the Sustainable Development Department at the IDB, emphasized the importance of the UN’s efforts in creating the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues. “Strengthening the presence of indigenous peoples as active participants and beneficiaries in the political, economic and social development processes of our countries” is the key to “development with identity,” Kuechemann said. He went on to explain that achieving development without losing cultural identity depends on three factors: strengthening traditional indigenous economies, reducing discrimination in labor markets, and supporting intercultural economies. 

The Permanent Forum for Indigenous Issues, established by the UN in 2000, met for the first time in 2002. Its objective is to provide indigenous peoples with a way to reach the international community and to communicate their views and concerns on issues such as development, health, the environment, human rights, culture and education. The 16 members of the Council declared themselves ready to “roll up their sleeves and make concrete recommendations that are doable and that can improve the lives of indigenous peoples.”

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