The president of Brazil’s Funai (Fundação Nacional do Àndio – National Indian Foundation), Mércio Gomes, is participating today in the 61st meeting of the United Nations (UN) Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, in Geneva, where he will present the Indianist policy of President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva’s Administration.
Gomes will tell the participants that Brazil has made progress in identifying indigenous lands and that at present 12.5% of the territory is recognized as areas traditionally belonging to indigenous communities.
“But guaranteeing the land is not enough; it is necessary to ensure the self-sustainability of each community through the provision of education, health, and food security,” the Funai president contends.
Another point that Gomes will impart at the meeting is that the five guidelines of the Indianist policy of President Lula’s Administration are based on the assurance of lands, health, education, ethno-development, and indigenous participation in Brazilian society.
48 indigenous territories, covering an area of 16.5 million hectares, received final ratification during the first two years of the current Administration.
Funai recognized 604 indigenous territories, 480 of which have been demarcated or homologated or are in the process of being demarcated, while 124 are in the process of being identified or recognized. The goal is for all these lands to be identified by the end of 2006.
There are 430 thousand Indians presently living in Brazil. Around 150 thousand are of school age and attend class in their own villages or nearby municipalities.
The federal government transfers funds through the Ministry of Education to enable states and municipalities to act in this area. The system of quotas in federal universities permits 1.3 thousand Indians to attend universities.
The Brazilian government also attempts to provide indigenous peoples with conditions of production and ensure that production increases occur in a manner compatible with the social equilibrium of indigenous communities.
The goal is to achieve self-sustainability and the production of a surplus that permits their inclusion on an equal basis in Brazilian society. “Ethno-development is the greatest challenge facing a development policy on behalf of indigenous peoples,” Gomes affirms.
During the meeting a report from the commission that is drafting the Universal Declaration of Rights of Indigenous Peoples will be presented.
According to the president of the Funai, since there is still no consensus, it is likely that the text will remain under debate before being submitted to the UN General Assembly.
“The countries are expected to request more time to discuss the matter and arrive at a consensus,” Gomes says.