June 19, 2020

The Impact Of COVID 19 On Indigenous Rights

“We urge Member States and the international community to include the specific needs and priorities of indigenous peoples in addressing the global outbreak of COVID 19." ~ Chair of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, Anne Nuorgam.

In this episode of the HJ Talks About Abuse podcast, Alan and Regina Paulose discuss the impact of coronavirus on indigenous peoples from a human rights perspective.

Indigenous peoples experience a high degree of socio-economic marginalization and are at disproportionate risk in public health emergencies, becoming even more vulnerable during this global pandemic, owing to factors such as their lack of access to effective monitoring and early-warning systems, and adequate health and social services.

As lockdowns continue in numerous countries, with no timeline in sight, Indigenous peoples who already face food insecurity, as a result of the loss of their traditional lands and territories,  confront even graver challenges in access to food. With the loss of their traditional livelihoods, which are  often  land-based, many Indigenous peoples who work in  traditional occupations and subsistence economies or in the  informal sector will be adversely affected by the pandemic.  The situation of indigenous women, who are often the main providers of food and nutrition to their families, is even graver.

Yet, Indigenous peoples are seeking their own solutions to this pandemic. They are taking action, and using traditional knowledge and practices such as voluntary isolation, and sealing off their territories, as well as preventive measures – in their own languages.

WEF: A 15-year-old boy from a remote region of the Brazilian Amazon, near the border with Venezuela, died of COVID-19 on April 9. A member of the 35,000-strong Yanomami people, the boy was the first known death among Brazil’s indigenous communities in the current pandemic. There are now growing fears that COVID-19 will wreak havoc across the Amazon

Alan and Reg question the effectiveness of the UN and ask

  1. How does the UN protect indigenous rights if at all?
  2. What role does the UN have?
  3. Are there legal obligations and rights?
  4. Who speaks for indigenous peoples?
  5. What can indigenous peoples do to protect and promote their human rights?
  6. What can we learn in the COVID 19 context from indigenous peoples?

In answering these questions they explore whether there are wider implications for mankind given the impact globally of the virus and the environment and should we wring our hands in despair, or look forward with optimism?

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