Hopes high for second indigenous decade

Kathmandu, August 9:

August 9 is marked as the World Indigenous Day. And the first International Decade for the World’s Indigenous People (1995-2004) has gone by without indigenous nationalities knowing much about it. The second decade began in January 2005. Sociologist Krishna Bahadur Bhattachan said, “If the government fails to address the problems of indigenous communities by 2014, the situation will go beyond control.” The first decade did not produce much result because the body formed under Ramananda Prasad Singh became defunct soon as it failed to get support from any sector. Even the national-level committee formed under the then Education Minister, Mod Nath Prashrit, could not convene a single meeting. “It happened because the government was not committed and the political situation was not favourable,” said senior human rights activist Malla K Sundar. However, intellectuals and activists agreed a significant achievement of the last World Indigenous Decade was formation of the National Foundation For the Development of Indigenous Nationalities (NFDIN). They also agreed the awareness level of the indigenous people has risen in these 10 years, while the government has recognised the indigenous issues as political ones.

NFDIN vice-chairman Prof Santa Bahadur Gurung said though the first decade passed off before they could take clear stands on the goals and objectives declared by the UN Assembly, a plan of action (PoA) was being prepared to make this decade successful. A task force under Prof Gurung has been working for the last three months. Based on last decade’s experiences, a national committee would be formed to carry out action-oriented programmes this time. He said there is a need to draft a reservation outline and to ratify the ILO convention 169 on indigenous issues. He added indigenous people, who make up around 40 per cent of Nepal’s total population, could help bring about peace in the country, and it is essential they be brought into the mainstream. Sundar said Nepal should not blindly follow what UN dictates, but that we should have our own plans to be implemented according to our needs. Former general secretary of Nepal Federation of Indigenous Nationalities, Bal Krishna Mabuhang, who drafted a PoA for NFDIN, has recommended the immediate formation of a Second International Indigenous Decade National Organising Committee, and be given full authority.