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World Marks Indigenous Day

As the world marks “Indigenous Day” today, Minority Rights Group International is urging holiday makers to put pressure on governments and individuals whose activities it says have deprived the less privileged of livelihood due to tourism. The group says indigenous people are more often forced out of their lands in favor of development and tourism industries.

Cynthia Morel is a legal cases officer with Minority Rights Group International. From London, she tells reporter Peter Clottey more about what her organization is doing to mark World Indigenous Day today.

“Our focus in this particular year, we will be looking at the issue of tourism, and also balancing that with the rights of the indigenous people,” Morel said.

She called for a compromise between development and the rights of indigenous people.

“Basically, the problem that started in many respects, especially in the legal front since the 1970’s between a lot of the countries in Africa; namely Kenya began its program to establish national parks, games reserves etcetera. And it’s a problem that continues to the present day, and probably, into the future unless governments, and civil society, and indigenous people alike strike a new balance between the very good opportunities with tourism, and also the important need of balancing indigenous peoples rights to their ancestral land in the process,” she pointed out.

Morel said her organization has embarked on a campaign indigenous people.

“One of the key things that brought on our campaign called Trouble in Paradise, is a case that we have launched before the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights since 2003. And we are expecting a judgment this year in November. This community in particular was dispossess of their land in the 1970’s, and what they’ve been looking for is not necessarily to stop tourism because they see many benefits in showing their land to people from outside and in diversifying the economy etcetera. But the main thing they wanted to drive home wishes that there needs to be new practices, which make tourism a sustainable practice in their area,” Morel noted.