United Nations (UN) Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today urged the world to step up efforts to improve living conditions of the planet’s indigenous communities and to protect them, saying they continue to suffer discrimination and poverty despite a United Nation declaration that aims to promote their rights.
Throughout the Americas indigenous people are defined as those that were there before Christopher Columbus arrived on their land. Numerous Latin and South American countries have large indigenous populations, for example, there are 12 million indigenous people in Mexico, constituting 10% of the country’s population. Bolivia and Peru are thought to have the largest populations with close to 50% of all their citizens being indigenous.
Ban Ki-moon pointed out that the first-ever UN report on the State of the World’s Indigenous Peoples in January this year came up with alarming statistics. In some countries, indigenous peoples are 600 times more likely to contract tuberculosis than the general population. In others, an indigenous child can expect to die 20 years before his or her non-indigenous compatriots.
UN’s High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillary, is encouraged by the fact that in a number of countries, new tools have been created to give voice to indigenous peoples in decision-making and to stamp out human rights violations.