NEWS 2004


"Indigenous Peoples Among Earth`s Poorest"

Respect for cultures needed in development, World Bank Head Says

WASHINGTON - "Indigenous people account for some of the poorest and most excluded populations on the planet," World Bank President James Wolfensohn says. Speaking September 23 at a World Bank forum on trends in development involving indigenous peoples, Wolfensohn said the bank recognizes that respect for different cultures is integral to development efforts.

Too often, he said, recognition of culture has been seen as a "luxury" and not central to development. 

Indigenous peoples` "close ties to land and natural resources may expose them to different types of risks and levels of impact," he said. 

The exclusion of native people from the rest of society must end, said Mateo Martinez, head of the Fondo Indigena, an indigenous development fund for Latin America and the Caribbean. Martinez also spoke at the forum, which was part of the official program celebrating the September 21 opening of the National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI) in Washington. 

The bank sponsors an indigenous peoples leadership capacity-building program for Andean countries in cooperation with the Bolivia-based Fondo Indigena, Andean governments and indigenous groups. 

The Andean program is part of the bank`s larger Global Fund for Indigenous Peoples initiative, according to a September World Bank newsletter. The initiative currently has 150 projects, Wolfensohn said. The bank`s first policy recognizing the needs of indigenous people was formulated in 1982, he said. 

During questioning, Wolfenson also said the bank currently budgets more than $10 million a year for projects that respond to global warming. The issue is of great interest to native peoples because climatic changes affect their farm-based incomes and wear on cherished lands and honored places. 

At the forum, Richard West, director of the new NMAI, said that the knowledge and "sense of balance" of indigenous people can help recuperate traditional values "not currently present in the global society." 


Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Departement of State, September 24, 2004