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Indigenous Peoples

Olivier Petitjean

10 / 2009

Indigenous peoples and their struggles are at the core of the global issues and challenges of today.

In the frontline of the current globalisation and of its crisis

Above all, indigenous peoples today are still the victims of racism, discrimination and economic exploitation. Even if in some countries indigenous movements have succeeded in asserting their rights and gaining social and political power, in most cases their communities are still threatened - threatened in their livelihood, in their land, in their health and well-being, in their social and cultural identity, in their dignity.

In the last years, indigenous peoples fighting for their rights have made significant advances, but also met significant setbacks. These peoples have been at the frontline of the big commodities boom of this decade. Often they have lost large tracks of lands either to big agro-export estates (cattle, soy) or to mining and energy industries. In any case, they also suffered from the resulting water and air pollution.

What is even worse is that indigenous peoples might well be also the first victims of the financial crisis (in so far as it triggered a transfer of investments and speculation towards commodities) and of climate change mitigation policies. Already, several cases are documented where big multinational corporations appropriated indigenous peoples’ land and resources in the Global South, in order to improve their « carbon footprint » or to recast themselves as protectors of forests.

Opportunities for everyone

But indigenous peoples are not only important as victims. They also are the precious bearers of different life-styles and livelihoods, different kinds of relation to the environment, different cultural, social, economical and political perspectives. Throughout history, indigenous peoples have collectively reinvented themselves, their traditions and their common livelihood, both perpetuating them and adapting them to new challenges. By doing this, they keep open opportunities for the future of all.

25 fiches

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