GENEVA (25 October 2019) – The Republic of the Congo is leading the region in terms of legal recognition of the rights of indigenous peoples, but needs to step up work to put its commitments into practice, the UN Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples has said at the end of a visit to the country.
“Indigenous peoples continue to face significant discrimination, exclusion and marginalisation, including in their access to health services, education, employment and political participation,” said Victoria Tauli-Corpuz.
“During my visit I was told by indigenous community members about the stigma they face when seeking to access medical care. I saw first-hand the dire state of medical facilities and the high incidence of preventable diseases in their territories. Healthcare services need to be more accessible and should be designed to take gender-based and cultural issues into account.”
The Special Rapporteur also addressed issues including education, justice, employment, conservation and political participation, in a preliminary statement at the end of her visit.
On education, Tauli-Corpuz said the existence of National Action Plans had not prevented high drop-out levels among indigenous children, for reasons including stigma, costs and curricula that did not take into account indigenous lifestyle and culture, or the importance of mother-tongue education for young children.
The Special Rapporteur also highlighted significant problems with employment. “Indigenous peoples are for multiple reasons excluded from opportunities to work with forestry and conservation, while they are regularly arrested by eco guards on charges of poaching,” she said.
“Measures to conserve wildlife and the environment must be developed and implemented in consultation with the indigenous peoples who are affected by them, and must not deprive them of their own means of subsistence and development. I urge the government to fund income-generating activities which recognise and contribute to strengthening indigenous peoples’ culture and traditional livelihoods.”
During her visit, the Special Rapporteur held meetings in Brazzaville, visited indigenous communities in several parts of the Sangha department, and met indigenous representatives from the Lekoumou, Pool and Plateaux departments.
The final report from her mission will be presented to the Human Rights Council in September 2020.