Indigenous Peoples

AGORA moderator's picture

Indigenous (and tribal) people are primarily defined by self-identification, but there are some measures to which we can place on when a minority is indigenous. The ILO in its Convention 169 has defined such people as those that are distinct from the majority based on social, cultural and economic differences whose presence may pre-date a conquest or colonization and whom their own traditional customs or laws regulate.

Such peoples are traditionally some of the most discriminated against in a society where they exist. Their desire to maintain distinctiveness and a society based on their traditions and customs can often put them at odds with standard definitions of development.

No matter the number of MPs in a parliament that self-identify as indigenous, it is critical that a parliament work to ensure the views of indigenous peoples are reflected in the laws that are passed, especially those that have a direct impact on their lives.

Some countries have special provisions to encourage more indigenous people to be elected to parliament. This may include direct quotas and seats for such citizens. Others have rules that require direct consultation and even vetoes of laws that are directed at indigenous peoples.

No matter the means and tools available, parliament must make an extra effort to ensure such groups are fully consulted and have had ample opportunity to provide feedback on laws being considered for passage or on an oversight investigation being conducted. In order to do this special and specific activities must be considered to reach out to indigenous communities, both at the constituency level and at the sub-national and national levels.

In 2007 the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The adoption of the document was the culmination of 23 years of negotiations amongst member states and various representatives of indigenous peoples. Parliament should be active in the ratification of the document and to ensure the laws of the country reflect the intent of the declaration.