D. Indigenous people

Basis for action

6.21. Indigenous people have a distinct and important perspective on population and development relationships, frequently quite different from those of the populations with which they interrelate within national boundaries. In some regions of the world, indigenous people, after long periods of population loss, are experiencing steady and in some places rapid population growth resulting from declining mortality, although morbidity and mortality are generally still much higher than for other sections of the national population. In other regions, however, they are still experiencing a steady population decline as a result of contact with external diseases, loss of land and resources, ecological destruction, displacement, resettlement and disruption of their families, communities and social systems.

6.22. The situation of many indigenous groups is often characterized by discrimination and oppression, which are sometimes even institutionalized in national laws and structures of governance. In many cases, unsustainable patterns of production and consumption in the society at large are a key factor in the ongoing destruction of the ecological stability of their lands, as well as in an ongoing exertion of pressure to displace them from those lands. Indigenous people believe that recognition of their rights to their ancestral lands is inextricably linked to sustainable development. Indigenous people call for increased respect for indigenous culture, spirituality, lifestyles and sustainable development models, including traditional systems of land tenure, gender relations, use of resources and knowledge and practice of family planning. At national, regional and international levels, the perspectives of indigenous people have gained increasing recognition, as reflected, inter alia, in the presence of the Working Group on Indigenous Populations at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development, and the proclamation by the General Assembly of the year 1993 as the International Year of the World's Indigenous People.

6.23. The decision of the international community to proclaim an International Decade of the World's Indigenous People, to commence on 10 December 1994, represents a further important step towards fulfilment of the aspirations of indigenous people. The goal of the Decade, which is the strengthening of international cooperation for the solution of problems faced by indigenous people in such areas as human rights, the environment, development, education and health, is acknowledged as directly related to the purpose of the International Conference on Population and Development and the present Programme of Action. Accordingly, the distinct perspectives of indigenous people are incorporated throughout this Programme of Action within the context of its specific chapters.

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