Images courtesy Wikimedia
Rigoberta Menchu, Nobel Prize winning Mayan activist, and Bolivian President Evo Morales recently spoke at the World Conference of Indigenous Peoples.

Poverty, Climate Change and Indigenous Rights In Morales and Menchu Speeches

Rick Kearns

Two of Latin America’s most prominent indigenous leaders urged the audience during the World Conference of Indigenous Peoples to push further for their rights and the inclusion of their philosophies in all educational systems, along with working to protect the earth and eradicate poverty.

Both Nobel Prize winning Mayan activist Rigoberta Menchu and Bolivian President Evo Morales addressed audiences at the Conference and related events in late September.

“I want to issue a call to all young indigenous people, wherever they are, to make use of the international tools and enact them on a national level,” Menchu said in reference to a resolution just passed at the conference that would “adopt measures at the national level that promotes indigenous communities and to continue improving their social and economic conditions.”

Menchu also emphasized a change in educational systems as a way of promoting equality and fighting against racism.

“It is essential to integrate the wisdom and knowledge of the indigenous people in a new approach to education in a multicultural context, and in order that we don't just reproduce the structures of colonialism and subjugation, we need a struggle against racism and discrimination,” she said.

Morales spoke about ending discrimination as well but he focused many of his comments on dangers related to both climate change and extreme poverty.

“The excessive orientation towards profit, without respect to Mother Earth nor in taking into account human needs… The continuation of this unequal system will lead to even more inequality,” he asserted.

Morales then said that the problems of poverty have been made worse by drastic weather events connected to climate change.

“Developing nations are suffering permanently from the assaults of the extreme phenomena, drastically eroding our advances in sustainable development and the eradication of poverty,” Morales stated.

“We must emphasize our deep concern,” he added, “with the developing countries that are not part of the Kyoto Protocol, from which they left or had not even signed.”

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