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Too poor to count? The world’s poorest peoples slip through the poverty reduction net

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Despite being amongst the poorest of the poor, minorities and indigenous peoples are slipping through the net of worldwide initiatives to end poverty. Extreme poverty combined with discrimination and marginalization within society, means that minority and indigenous peoples are often ‘too poor to count’ and are excluded from Poverty Reduction Strategies, states Minority Rights Group International (MRG). On the eve of the 2005 World Summit at the UN in New York, MRG called for a re-doubling of efforts to ensure success of the MDGs for the world’s most vulnerable and impoverished peoples.

A new publication by Minority Rights Group International, PRSPs, Minorities and Indigenous Peoples, has highlighted the neglect of minority and indigenous peoples, for whom poverty is both an economic and a social condition perpetuated at the highest political level. Discrimination against them is both a cause of extreme poverty, and results in their exclusion from policies to eliminate it. MRG highlights that they are seldom invited to participate in the formulation of Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers (PRSPs), which are thus inappropriate to their needs, and may even harm them, further widening disparities between communities.

‘While statistics may demonstrate overall progress in the alleviation of poverty, they may also hide the fact that some of the poorest groups are being left further and further behind. Without short and long-term measures to reduce this disparity, including education and public service provision, they may become the hidden victims of a process that was established to help them,’ stated Corinne Lennox of Minority Rights Group International.

MRG welcomed strong opposition from most UN members to US proposals to remove references to the MDGs from the draft summit document. Its new publication aims to assist minorities and indigenous peoples to find their place in a process of poverty reduction through active engagement strategies that confront their current exclusion. Guidelines and examples of good practice are also being taken directly to states to sensitize them to the need for socially inclusive poverty alleviation processes. According to MRG, all too often consultation with minorities is ‘cosmetic’, and minority assistance programmes may be included on paper only, merely to trigger the resumption of donor funding.

Minority and indigenous peoples are sometimes deliberately overlooked by states. They may also be failed due to symbolic participation that does not fully take their needs and concerns into account, or excluded due to statistical failures that do not reveal their comparatively desperate situation. Core to MRG’s message is the need for effective participation, ‘disaggregated’ data to reveal their plight, and close monitoring and evaluation of situations of minority and indigenous peoples and the implementation of policies to assist them.

Notes for editors

  1. PRSPs, Minorities and Indigenous Peoples: An Issues Paper is published by Minority Rights Group International in August 2005.

For further information, please contact the MRG Press Office on press@minorityrights.org.

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