March 31, 2023

ROME (Feb. 15, 2017) — In a private meeting with indigenous peoples’ representatives, Pope Francis stressed the need to  reconcile development, both social and cultural, with the protection of indigenous peoples and their territories, “especially when planning economic activities that may interfere with their cultures and their ancestral relationship to the earth,” he said.

The 36-member delegation, which included representatives from the UN’s International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), were in Rome to take part in the Third Global Meeting of the Indigenous People Forum of IFAD.

During the morning meeting, the Pope emphasized the need for governments to pay attention to indigenous identity, and to generate guidelines and development approaches that include young people and women.

“For governments this means recognizing that indigenous communities are a part of the population to be appreciated and consulted, and whose full participation should be promoted at the local and national level,” he said.

Mirna Cunningham, President of the Center for Indigenous Peoples’ Autonomy and Development (CADPI), headed the delegation.

“I think the Pope’s words are important,” she said. “He went straight to the point. We have to remember that technological and economic development is not progress in itself and IFAD can play a very big role with technical and financial support to ensure that these measure are considered with indigenous peoples.”

Antonella Cordone, Coordinator for Indigenous and Tribal Issues Policy and Technical Advisory Division at IFAD, said that “recognizing and institutionalizing indigenous peoples’ rights is essential, but we also have to work to set self-implementation strategies to support local economies. Otherwise we risk that indigenous peoples’ societies will disappear.”

Members of the delegation brought gifts to illustrate the work of indigenous peoples around the world, including an alpaca coat from Bolivian Andes, a blanket from the Igorot people in the Philippine Cordillera, and a bible translated into Miskitu from Nicaragua.

On 10th and 13th February, IFAD hosted the Third Global Meeting of the Indigenous Peoples Forum, bringing together representatives of indigenous peoples organizations and leaders of partner organizations to discuss the ongoing challenges faced by these communities.

IFAD invests in rural people, empowering them to reduce poverty, increase food security, improve nutrition and strengthen resilience. Since 1978, we have provided US$18.5 billion in grants and low-interest loans to projects that have reached about 464 million people. IFAD is an international financial institution and a specialized United Nations agency based in Rome – the UN’s food and agriculture hub.

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