BRAZZAVILLE, Republic of The Congo – 21 November 2011 – Government officials, heads of UN agencies, and representatives of indigenous peoples are attending a week-long workshop intended to raise awareness and improve implementation of the rights of the country’s indigenous peoples.
“Although indigenous people number about 350 million in the world living in over 70 countries, they tend to be an invisible group because they are poor, marginalized and are often not recognized by their own countries,” observed Ms. Sonia Smallacombe, Social Affairs Officer in the Secretariat of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues in New York, who opened the workshop. Ms. Smallacombe is herself an indigenous woman of the Marimanindji peoples of North Australia.
The Republic of the Congo is the first country in Africa to conduct such a strategic and comprehensive training intended to advance the rights indigenous peoples.
UNICEF Country Representative Ms. Marianne Flach said that UNICEF initiated the training because of the organization’s commitment to equity and the protection of the rights of vulnerable indigenous peoples, who in the Congo occupy the lowest rung as regards human rights and access to basic social services.
During the training, heads of the UN agencies will deepen their understanding of the law and get tools for integrating indigenous issues in the development process.
Likewise, 20 government officials will reflect on the challenges of implementing the national action plan for the country’s indigenous populations that include the Babongo, Baaka, Mikaya, Bagombe and the Babi and live mainly in the rainforests.
In addition, 25 indigenous people’s representatives, including the National Network of Indigenous Peoples of the Congo, will be trained on how to facilitate their communities in realizing their rights.
The five-day training will cap with all participants coming together to chart a roadmap to advance implementation of rights of indigenous peoples and to ensure a system of their meaningful consultation in matters affecting them.
This year the Republic of the Congo passed a land mark law, Protection and Promotion of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which defines their civil, political, social, cultural and property rights. However, for the country’s long neglected indigenous peoples, the law will only be meaningful if it is implemented.
Estimated at about 2-10% of the Congolese people, indigenous people have very limited access to basic social services such as health and education compared to other citizens and face discrimination and marginalization.
The United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII) conducted the week-long training.
UNICEF works in 190 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence. The world’s largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS. UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments. For more information about UNICEF and its work visit: www.unicef.org
For additional information, please contact:
M. Jean Marie Ouenabio, Communication Section
Tel: + 242 05 551 26 87