Poverty in an indigenous context

Rather than simply stating that indigenous peoples are poor, it seems more appropriate to talk about impoverishment processes. Indigenous peoples and activists have remarked that indigenous peoples do not consider themselves to be poor, many in fact dislike being labelled as such because of its negative and discriminatory connotations. On the contrary, they consider that they have resources, unique knowledge and know-how and that their cultures have special values and strength. But they often feel impoverished as a result of processes which are out of their control and sometimes irreversible.

These processes have dispossessed them of their traditional lands, restricted or prohibited their access to natural resources, resulted in the breakdown of their communities and the degradation of their environment, thereby threatening their physical and cultural survival. In the case of India, Tiplut Nongbri writes that, "it is significant that tribal poverty is highest in states where the people have lost control over land". She also shows how poverty can be linked to access to forests and non-timber produce, and how the recent decisions taken by the Indian Supreme Court empowering the government to bring all forests under working plans and evict encroachers will have disastrous effects on the livelihood of tribal people in general, and of tribal women in particular.

(Extract from Indigenous Affairs 1/2003 - editorial by Diana Vinding)

Website references on indigenous peoples and poverty reduction strategies

Human rights dimension of poverty

UNDP's general poverty reduction program. There is also a link to the new UNDP unit International Poverty Centre (IPC).

Information about OECD's poverty reduction policy, DAC Guidelines on Poverty Reduction and the DAC Network on Poverty Reduction (POVNET)

Gives access to the main reports on EU Policy on Indigenous Peoples & Development.

Besides many important themes and links the site brings the World Bank's Revised Operational Policy and Bank Procedure on Indigenous Peoples (the Bank's mission of poverty reduction and sustainable development) - OP/BP 4.10

About the Asia Development Bank's policy on poverty and poverty reduction

Gives access to the Rural Poverty Knowledgebase of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD)

Gives access to IFAD's regional strategies for rural poverty reduction


IWGIA - International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs - is a global human rights organisation dedicated to promoting, protecting and defending indigenous peoples’ rights. Read more.

Indigenous World

IWGIA's global report, the Indigenous World, provides an update of the current situation for indigenous peoples worldwide. The Indigenous World 2019.

Contact IWGIA

Prinsessegade 29 B, 3rd floor
DK 1422 Copenhagen
Phone: (+45) 53 73 28 30
E-mail: iwgia@iwgia.org
CVR: 81294410

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