Indigenous and tribal communities are around three times more likely to face extreme poverty than others with women “consistently at the bottom of all social and economic indicators”, UN labour experts said on Monday.
Highlighting new data showing that disproportionate numbers of indigenous people live on less than $1.90 a day – 18.2 per cent versus 6.8 per cent of non-indigenous people – the International Labour Organization (ILO) insisted that millions are being held back by a “spectre of poverty”.
The problem warrants global attention because this at-risk population is significantly larger than was previously thought, ILO insists.
According to the UN organization, there are more than 476 million indigenous people globally, the majority of whom live in relatively prosperous countries.
At the same time, support for the only international treaty that protects their rights – Convention No. 169 – is weak, it maintains.
Only 23 of ILO’s 187 Member States have signed the convention on the rights of indigenous peoples in the 30 years since it was adopted.
This means that only around 15 per cent of indigenous peoples stand to benefit from the treaty’s focus on implementing policies and legislation designed to combat poverty and unfair treatment and promote equality through inclusive dialogue and best practice.
Focusing on the world of work as a key indicator of the lives of indigenous people, the ILO found that far more of them are active in the informal sector – by 20 per cent – compared with other workers.
And based on data from 23 countries that are home to more than 80 per cent of indigenous people, the ILO report found that indigenous women face the biggest challenges too.
In addition to having the lowest chance of completing basic primary education, only about one in four indigenous women is in salaried work, compared with one in two non-indigenous female workers.
Indigenous earn less
Researchers also noted that even when they are in salaried work, indigenous people earn around 18 per cent less than the wider workforce.
According to the ILO, there are more than 5,000 distinct indigenous communities worldwide, in some 90 countries.
Regionally, Latin America and the Caribbean are home to the highest proportion of indigenous and tribal people, at 8.5 per cent of the total population – far more than the entire population of Colombia.
Data from nine countries in this same region also showed that these indigenous communities constituted almost 30 per cent of the extreme poor – the highest proportion across all global regions.
Mirroring this trend elsewhere, ILO underlined that in Africa, the more than 77 million indigenous people there – six per cent of the wider population – accounted for 24 per cent of the continent’s extreme poor.
In Asia and the Pacific, the region’s 335 million indigenous people comprised over seven per cent of the total population, and almost 16 per cent of the extreme poor, based on data from five countries.
The trend was also identified to a lesser extent in Northern America, where the over seven million indigenous people constituted over two per cent of the wider population and 3.5 per cent of the poorest members of society.
Let them be heard
ILO believes that indigenous people’s views need to be heard in order to put in place sustainable social justice policies that are detailed in Convention No. 169.
These will help to tackle the problems that indigenous people face, including poverty, inequality, conflict and climate change, the UN organization believes.
Nonetheless, although “several countries” have designated agencies for indigenous affairs and have made the “greatest progress” so far, there have been too few opportunities for engagement with minority communities to date, the ILO maintains.
CAR: Displacement reaches 120,000 amid worsening election violence
“Worsening” election violence in the Central African Republic (CAR) has forced 120,000 people from their homes, the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, said on Friday.
In an appeal for an immediate end to all bloodshed – which has included deadly clashes with UN peacekeepers – UNHCR also said that mass displacement has continued outside the country since the 27 December Presidential poll, reversing a trend of people returning to CAR in recent years.
“What is clear is the situation has evolved, it has worsened, we have seen that the number of refugees has doubled in just one week”, said spokesperson Boris Cheshirkov, during a scheduled press briefing in Geneva.
Despite attempts by rebel groups to obstruct presidential and legislative elections, on 27 December, nearly two million Central Africans successfully cast their votes.
UNHCR and partners in CAR “are gathering reports of abuses by armed groups, including of sexual violence, attacks on voters and pillaging”, Mr. Cheshirkov continued, underscoring the agency’s call “for an immediate return of all parties to meaningful dialogue and progress towards peace”.
“We were reporting 30,000 refugees last Friday, today it’s already 60,000, and much of that is the increase we’ve seen in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). This is coming with reports of intensified violence, people are being forced to move from their home and the situation has not calmed down for the moment.”
‘Fear and dread’
Echoing concerns for the deteriorating situation, the UN-appointed independent rights expert for CAR called on Friday for the arrest and prosecution of all those “who continue to fuel violence” there.
Because of them, the country’s people live in “fear and dread”, said Yao Agbetse, before deploring the fact that Central Africans “were unable to exercise their right to vote and that many were victims of torture or ill-treatment and death threats for exercising their right to vote in the first round of elections”.
Calling out the so-called Coalition of Patriots for Change (CPC), Mr Agbetse alleged that the group had “obstructed the country’s electoral campaign in December, prevented the deployment of election materials, disrupted the mobilisation of voters to carry out their democratic right and burned polling stations”.
The CPC had also recruited children for its work, the rights expert maintained, “a crime under international law”.
Several localities were targeted, including Kaga Bandoro, Bossangoa, Batangafo, Bozoum, Bocaranga, Koui, Carnot “and other locations in the centre, west, and east of the country”, along with the capital, Bangui on 13 January, said the rights expert, who reports to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.
In his statement, Mr Agbetse noted that CAR’s “already fragile humanitarian situation” had worsened, with “more than half of the population in vital need of humanitarian assistance”.
The premises of some humanitarian organisations had been ransacked, he added, while basic necessities “are becoming scarcer and their prices are soaring in Bangui because of insecurity on the supply routes to the capital”.
Today, schools and training centres are closed outside the capital “and pastoralists and farmers can no longer carry out their activities because of insecurity and fear. Ultimately, food insecurity and extreme poverty are likely to worsen,” Mr. Agbetse said.
10,000 cross in just 24 hours
On Wednesday alone, 10,000 people crossed the Ubangui river that separates the two countries, UNHCR’s Mr. Cheshirkov said.
He added that in addition to the 50,000 refugees in DRC, another 9,000 have reached Cameroon, Chad and the Republic of Congo in the past month.
In an appeal for funds, the spokesperson said the inaccessible terrain and poor infrastructure along the Ubangui river where people have sheltered, has complicated aid access.
“UNHCR was already seeking $151.5 million this year to respond to the CAR situation. The needs of the recently displaced Central Africans are mounting, and we will soon face a substantial funding shortfall,” Mr. Cheshirkov explained
Inside the Central African Republic, another 58,000 people remain displaced.
Ethiopia: Safe access and swift action needed for refugees in Tigray
The head of the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) on Wednesday expressed his deep concern over the humanitarian situation in the Tigray region of Ethiopia, including its impact on Eritrean refugees hosted there.
The conflict between the Ethiopian Government and regional forces of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) began in early November, when the Prime Minister ordered a military offensive after rebels attacked a federal army base. Government forces reported that the region had been secured at the end of November, but TPLF resistance has continued amid accusations of extrajudicial killings and rights abuses.
Despite some positive developments in accessing and assisting vulnerable populations, since the start of the Government operation, UNHCR’s repeated requests to access the Shimelba and Hitsats refugee camps have gone unanswered.
“I am very worried for the safety and well-being of Eritrean refugees in those camps”, said UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi. “They have been without any aid for many weeks”.
UNHCR continues to receive many reliable reports and first-hand accounts of ongoing insecurity and allegations of grave and distressing human rights abuses, such as killings, targeted abductions and forced return of refugees to Eritrea, said Mr. Grandi.
Moreover, the agency has learned of additional military incursions over the last 10 days that are consistent with open-source satellite imagery showing new fires and other fresh signs of destruction at the two camps.
“These are concrete indications of major violations of international law”, the High Commissioner spelled out.
Ethiopia has long given refuge to people fleeing conflict and persecution.
The federal Government has provided assurances of measures are to minimize the impact of the conflict on civilians.
“I have impressed upon the Ethiopian leadership, the urgency of ensuring the protection of refugees, preventing forced return and keeping refugee camps safe from attacks and other threats from armed actors”, said Mr. Grandi.
Equally distressing, he said, is that UNHCR teams have been unable to assist the thousands of Eritrean refugees who continue to flee the camps in search of safety and support.
“Refugees arriving on foot to Shire town in Tigray are emaciated, begging for aid that is not available”, recounted the High Commissioner.
Against the backdrop that refugees who had reached Addis Ababa are being returned to Tigray, some against their will, he reiterated the UN-wide call for “full and unimpeded access” to explore “all options to safely provide desperately needed assistance”.
In line with the humanitarian principles of impartiality and neutrality, UNHCR stands committed to work with the Ethiopian Government in protecting and assisting those forced to flee.
“We remain available to seek solutions – together – to the current humanitarian problems in a spirit of collaboration and constructive partnership”, said the UNHCR chief. “Safe access and swift action are needed now to save thousands of lives at risk”.
Earth Observation Data Could Represent A Billion-Dollar Opportunity For Africa
Earth observation [EO] data provides a billion-dollar opportunity for economies on the African continent, one that could create jobs and build new resilience after COVID-19.
The newly released report Unlocking the Potential of Earth Observation to address Africa’s critical challenges lays out the multiple economic benefits from EO data. The report was written in collaboration with Digital Earth Africa, an initiative that is a world first in providing freely accessible data that maps the entire African continent.
This report marks the first known time the potential impact of EO for Africa has been quantified. According to estimates, EO could be worth up to $2 billion a year thanks to:
1. A strengthened EO industry. Improved use of EO data could lead to an extra $500 million in yearly EO sales along with new job opportunities and increased fiscal revenues.
2. Boosted agricultural productivity. Better data could potentially be worth an extra $900 million a year, thanks to water savings and productivity gains for farmers, not to mention reduced pesticide usage.
3. Better regulation of gold mining activity. Data allows countries to crack down on illegal mining, providing a potential savings of at least $900 million from reduced environmental damage and fiscal evasion.
The report shows the opportunity available in EO data to strengthen economies and reach sustainability goals. EO data can help governments make more informed decisions regarding water, agriculture, food security and urbanization. Advancing new collaborations between public and private efforts can incentivize data sharing to develop EO industries on the continent even further.
Dr Adam Lewis, Managing Director of the Digital Earth Program welcomes the findings of the report as the first of its kind to quantify the potential benefits of the program. “Through collaboration with key partners both within Africa and across the globe, we have made significant progress in turning this potential into a reality. Over the last 12 months the program has met a number of milestones in improving access to data and services within Africa. Working with Amazon Web Services as well as international space agencies and the private sector, we have been able to provide access to locally stored analysis-ready satellite data within Africa.” Adam said.
“We are proud to support Digital Earth Africa’s efforts to make Earth observation data more easily accessible to African nations,” said Ana Pinheiro Privette, Lead for Amazon Sustainability Data Initiative. “Through the Amazon Sustainability Data Initiative, Amazon is making available petabytes of Earth observation data, which provide valuable insights for communities to manage climate impacts including increased floods and droughts.”
Valuing the impact of EO is an emerging practice globally, with recent reports covering the Asia Pacific, Australia, the European Union and the UK, but this is the first such report for Africa. The report was developed following examination of the readiness of African countries to effectively and efficiently grow their geospatial capabilities, integrated with study of the potential economic benefit of EO data adoption on specific sustainable development focus areas.
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