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Millennium Development Goals will be missed if aid continues to fail minorities, says MRG

16 September 2010


Minorities and indigenous peoples are among the most in need but have so far benefited the least from the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), says Minority Rights Group International (MRG) in a meeting organised by the British Embassy in Budapest on Thursday. The international human rights organisation insists an immediate change is needed in the implementation of development policies; otherwise the MDGs will be missed for these vulnerable groups.

The event takes place a few days prior to the UN Summit next week in New York when world leaders gather to discuss further steps to eradicate global poverty by 2015.

“Minorities make up a substantial part of those for whom global commitments so far have not brought progress. It is high time for governments to adjust focus on the poorest of the poor if they are to come close to meeting the global goals by 2015,” says Neil Clarke, Head of Europe and Central Asia Programmes.

Minorities often live in remote areas with poor infrastructure or come from poorer households, factors which aggravate MDG-related statistics. Discrimination, personal abuse or language barriers can worsen economic and social deprivation of child and adult minorities.

In India, 41 per cent of all out-of-school children and 120 million illiterate people are from scheduled castes or tribes, Dalits or Adivasis. Dalit children are often segregated in classrooms and during school meals and are more likely to be subjected to corporal punishment by teachers.

Minorities can easily become targets of violence in conflicts, forced from their homes and relocated in slums. This happened during the conflict in Iraq when large numbers belonging to religious minorities were displaced either inside the country or as refugees and asylum-seekers in other countries. Mainly due to this conflict, the number of people living in slums in the Middle East increased from 2.9 million in 2000 to 10.7 million in 2010.

International development assistance, however, often fail to reach poor households and remote or conflict-stricken regions. Donors are often less willing to carry out large-scale programmes or investment in regions which do not hold out hopes for immediate success. Governments may also lack the capacity to involve the civil society of minorities and indigenous communities in planning and decision-making. Without their involvement, impact on the ground is less viable.

“Effective aid allocation and meaningful participation by minorities are more important than ever if states want the most marginalised communities to attain the ambitions of the MDGs. But if their voices and issues will not be heard, the world will be less likely to be on track with the MDGs,” adds Clarke.

Participation by minority and indigenous women would be crucial to attain the poverty reduction, education and health targets in particular. Women are more affected by rises in unemployment and violence. They may face discrimination also from their own communities: they can be denied the right to own land or may be subject to harmful customs such as female genital mutilation. Women are, however, currently underrepresented in political and social decision-making processes.

“New Member States must fulfil their commitments made with their accession to the EU and increase development assistance to Sub-Saharan Africa. Hungary and Poland will be assuming the EU Presidency in 2011. They must take the lead on ensuring that New Member States take active role in EU-Africa policy,” says Janina Ochojska, President of the Management Board of Polish Humanitarian Action (PAH).

The global amount of international development assistance dropped by $2.7 billion in 2009; this affects Africa in particular. Overall, countries are far from reaching the UN target for official aid. Member States acceding to the EU after 2004, including Hungary and Poland, are far behind the level set to be achieved by 2010.

Notes to the editor

  • Facts and figures about post-economic crisis prospects for the 8 MDGs are attached.
  • The human rights-based approach is a set of principles to be implemented in development strategies. The five basic principles are: linkage to human rights, accountability, empowerment, participation and non-discrimination. See more in MRG’s guide on HRBA.
  • Poverty reduction strategies (PRSPs) are development strategies promoted by the World Bank and IMF. These strategies intend to involve civil society in consultations. See more in MRG’s recent paper on PRSPs.
  • Minority Rights Group International (MRG) is a non-governmental organization working to secure the rights of ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities and indigenous peoples worldwide.

Interview opportunities:

  • Neil Clarke, Head of Europe and Central Asia Programmes, Minority Rights Group International
  • Zsófia Farkas, Human Rights and Development Officer, Minority Rights Group International
  • Janina Ochojska, President of the Management Board, Polish Humanitarian Action (Polska Akcja Humanitarna, PAH)

For further information or to arrange interviews contact:

Bernadett Sebály
M: +36 70 217 2601
T: +36 1 327 7032
email: [email protected]