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Wednesday, November 23, 2011

UNDP-CHTDF undermines Indigenous Peoples’ Rights in Bangladesh- protest letter from CAJPA

Following is the letter from CAJPA that was sent to UNDP-Bangladesh protesting UNDP's misuse of term:

Loving-kindness                     Equanimity                             Peace                                      Progress
A registered nonprofit community benefit association formed by the Indigenous peoples (Jumma) migrated to USA from the CHTs region of Bangladesh in conformity with the Corporation Law of the State of California.
United Nations Development Program, Bangladesh       Chittagong Hill Tracts Development Facility
                       (UNDP’B)                                                            (UNDP-CHTDF)
UN Offices, 18th Floor                                                         IDB Bhavan, 7th Floor               
IDB Bhavan, Sher-e-Bangla Nagar                                     E/8-A, Begum Rokeya Sharani, Agargaon,
Agargaon, Dhaka-1207                                                       Sher-e-Bangla Nagar, Dhaka-1207
Email: registry.bd@undp.org                                              Email: info.chtdf@undp.org       
Fax: (880-2) 8113196                                                          Fax: (880-2) 913 2656               
Subject:             UNDP-CHTDF undermines Indigenous Peoples’ Rights in Bangladesh in organizing Cultural Diversity Festival-2011
It is somewhat disappointing and disgusting that UNDP, Bangladesh is using the words ‘ethnic minorities’, ‘small ethnic group’, and ‘tribal’ in lieu of Indigenous Peoples of Bangladesh against UNDP principles and values during the management of Cultural Diversity Festival 2011.
It is clearly dictated in ‘UNDP and Indigenous Peoples: A Practice Note on Engagement – 2001’ that there are 4 criteria to distinguish Indigenous Peoples from General Population:
  1. Indigenous peoples usually live within (or maintain attachments to) geographically distinct ancestral territories;
  2. They tend to maintain distinct social, economic, and political institutions within their territories;
  3. They typically aspire to remain distinct culturally, geographically and institutionally rather than assimilate fully into national society; and
  4. They self-identify as indigenous or tribal.

Self-identification as indigenous or tribal is usually regarded as a fundamental criterion for determining whether groups are indigenous or tribal, sometimes in combination with other variables such as “language spoken,” and “geographic location or concentration.”

 The rationale for UNDP engagement with indigenous peoples and their organizations is grounded in UNDP’s mandated areas of work; processes and agreements of development cooperation; and the aspirations of indigenous peoples.

Furthermore, the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between UNDP and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCHR) signed 14 March 1998 stresses the importance of working in partnership towards the advancement of the goals of the International Decade of the World’s Indigenous People and the Third International Decade against Racism.

According to United Nations Development Group Guidelines on Indigenous Peoples’ Issues, February 2008, the characteristics of Indigenous Peoples are:

  • Peoples whose social, cultural and economic conditions distinguish them from other sections of the national community, and whose status is regulated wholly or partially by their own customs or traditions or by special laws or regulations.
  • Peoples who are regarded as indigenous on account of their descent from the populations which inhabited the country, or a geographical region to which the country belongs, at the time of conquest or colonization or the establishment of present state boundaries and who, irrespective of their legal status, retain some or all of their own social, economic, cultural and political institutions.
  • The Convention also states that self-identification as indigenous or tribal shall be regarded as a fundamental criterion for determining the groups to which the provisions of this Convention apply.

Under the above principles and guidelines, Indigenous Peoples of Chittagong Hill Tracts and other parts of Bangladesh have all the criteria of internationally accepted Indigenous Peoples. The mal-purpose of terming them other than Indigenous Peoples is to deprive them from the genuine Rights and Privileges of Indigenous Peoples.

You might be familiar with the shocking history of CHTs, the ancestral territory of Indigenous peoples. In 1950s, two-thirds cultivable and inhabitable lands of CHTs had been made under water through building Kaptai Dam that displaced seventy five percent of the total indigenous population into hills and jungles without written settlement. And since 1980s, these indigenous populations are being disturbed and forcefully displaced again from their lands by settling Bangalee populations from plain land. In 1950s when there was only 2 percent of the total population of CHTs was Bangalee, now they are more than 50 percent. Recently, Ancestral Identity is being taken away from the Indigenous Peoples via 15th Amendment. What a deplorable condition!     

UNDP as an UN Organization could follow the principles of United Nations to uphold, promote and encourage the Indigenous Peoples of CHTs and others parts of Bangladesh, but not to suppress or depress them.  
Maung Thowai Nu Ching                                                       Debashis Chakma
President                                                                                   General Secretary
NB: CAJPA PAD is attached herewith with the subject
1614 N. California Street, San Bernardino, CA 92411

We care for Jumma Identity, Culture and Heritage


More details about UNDP's Cultural Diversity Festival 2011 could be found from our previous posts:



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