Indigenous People and the Millennium Development Goals

The Millennium Development Goals (MDG) are a set of targets developed by the UN regarding global development. The MDG’s were developed in collaboration with representatives from countries all over the world, and the aim was to accomplish these goals by 2015.

The MDG’s appear, on the surface, to be universally good. That’s the first sign that they should be more closely examined.

The article Indigenous Peoples and the Millenium Development Goals: Perspectives from Communities in Bolivia, Cameroon, Guatemala, Nepal was published in 2006. Using interviews and case studies, the writers examined how indigenous people viewed the MDG’s and whether the process of meeting these goals was actually helping them.

The overall jist of the article is that the MGD’s do not approach quality of life in ways that are meaningful to indigenous people. In fact, the pursuit of these goals was sometimes perceived as harmful and reinforcing structural causes of poverty.

An underlying theme of the article was that land security is of crucial importance to indigenous communities. Another theme was the need for culturally appropriate interventions.

Goal #1 Eradicate poverty and hunger

Indigenous people did not measure poverty in terms of income. In fact, many of them did not use money in their day to day lives. Instead they measured poverty experientially: loss of land and resources, loss of cultural and collective identity, discrimination and racism, and social exclusion.

For them, land security is not only about having a place to live and grow or find food. It’s a way to connect with ancestors and spirits, to access traditional medicines, and to have a place in the world. The absence of those things is true poverty.

Goal #2 Universal Primary Education

Communities interviewed identified a need for bilingual and intercultural education. Without this, education is experienced as a method of forced assimilation.

They also highlighted the need for adult education, especially around literacy and basic math. This would be helpful in trade (the local market) and law (especially around land rights) to avoid being cheated.

Goal #3 Gender Equality

The communities did not identify this as a priority. However, they did note that the process of globalization often undermined traditional women’s roles in the community and family.

Goals #4/5/6 Health

Many of those in the communities said that health interventions were often culturally inappropriate and wouldn’t be accessed. In fact, some of the targets (like giving birth in a hospital) were seen as negative outcomes.

Goal #7 Environment Stability

Communities saw this as a very important goal since land security was so important to them. However, sometimes efforts to protect the land resulted in making that land inaccessible to indigenous people.

#8 Global Partnership

Those interviewed found this to be too abstract and irrelevant. They did discuss, though, that involvement with the world outside their community usually had a negative outcome and left them feeling powerless and insecure.



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