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As UN marks World Indigenous Day, Minority Rights Group International warns of Trouble in Paradise

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This summer as millions of holidaymakers set off to wildlife parks and nature reserves across the world few are aware of the damage their vacations cause to indigenous communities whose lands and livelihood are lost in the name of tourism, an international human rights group says.

On World Indigenous Day, 9 August 2007,Minority Rights Group International (MRG), warns that in many countries with tourism industries, minority and indigenous communities have been forced out of their land in order to build wildlife and nature resorts. They continue to be denied access to their ancestral homes and rarely benefit from the income generated through tourism.

“Often tourists choose the eco-friendly option because they are sensitive to the environment but they are oblivious to the extent and impact of displacement of indigenous communities in such cases,” says Cynthia Morel, MRG’s legal officer.

In Kenya, for instance, pastoralist communities such as the Maasai and the Endorois were forcefully evicted from their ancestral lands without proper compensation to build the world famous Game and Nature Park Reserves that attract thousands of tourists every year.

Kenya is not an isolated case. Botswana’s native Basarawa groups have been violently removed, in some cases by armed police at gunpoint, to build and expand the world-famous Central Kalahari Game Reserve for tourists.

Earlier this year MRG launched a campaign pushing for holidaymakers – and countries promoting environmentally-friendly tourism – to be more aware of the impact of eco-tourism on indigenous communities in the destinations they travel to.

“Often the communities get only a miniscule percentage of what the tourism industry generates. People are overwhelmingly marginalised in the process of development and holidaymakers need to be more conscious about this,” Morel says.

The campaign aims to ensure that countries promoting eco-tourism don’t infringe on the rights of indigenous groups and that the profits of tourism trickle down to local communities.

Notes to editors

  • Minority Rights Group International (MRG) is a non-governmental organisation working to secure the rights of ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities and indigenous peoples worldwide.
  • For more information or to arrange an interview with Cynthia Morel please contact the MRG Press Office on press@minorityrights.org.

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