The world needs to march to the beat of a different drum when it comes to measuring development. So say representatives gathered at the UN for The 14th session of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues. Their meeting coincides with others which are considering Post 2015 Development Goals.
It seemed to be consensus that money isn’t everything. Repeatedly, speakers stated that you cannot assess the quality of peoples’ lives through economics alone. Indigenous peoples are often forgotten when quality of life is gauged by wealth and the consumption of commodities, it was pointed out. Others said that using Gross Domestic Product (GDP, or the total value of goods and services produced in a year in a country) as a measure does not address inequalities. Further, wealthy states can marshal assets but cannot extrapolate from economic data how health, education, welfare inform the use of resources, a speaker said. National averages make people invisible, one mentioned.
A mosaic of ideas for more holistic evaluation of development emerged. Suggestions focused upon measurements which consider people enhancing their own and their community’s capabilities as well as reflect their freedom and ability to make a wide range of choices which influence well-being for themselves and their communities. Best measurements would be qualitative as well as quantitative, they said. Further, it could include the human rights idea that no person is left behind. Cultural values should be integrated into all aspects of sustainable development. The inclusion of indicators related to work life, women and children, social networks, environment, personal security, health, crime rates, ecology, and spiritual well- being were among other areas of determining development mentioned.
Concerns raised during the week, outside of development goals, related to climate change, women and children’s issues, the vision of indigenous youth, oceans and fisheries, health, agricultural practices, industrial effects on indigenous peoples, and the importance of protecting cultural, spiritual, language, ecological, educational, and justice traditions.
There are about 370 million indigenous people in the world. The United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII) is an advisory body to the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), with a mandate to discuss indigenous issues related to economic and social development, culture, the environment, education, health and human rights.