Observations on the Human Rights Situation of Indigenous People in Nepal in Light of the
UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
Second Cycle of Universal Periodic Review of Nepal
23rd session of Human Rights Council
This joint submission has been prepared second Universal Periodic Review of Nepal in November 2015. The human rights situation of indigenous peoples in Nepal has seen little improvement since its first UPR in 2011.
According to the 2011 census, indigenous nationalities (Adivasi Janajati), as they are known in Nepal, comprise 35.81% of the total national population of about 26.5 million, although indigenous peoples’ organizations claim a larger figure of more than 50%. The 2011 census, like earlier census, came under strong criticisms from indigenous peoples for inaccurate reporting. The census reported decrease in indigenous population from 37% to 35% while completely omitted a number of identified indigenous groups and presented contradictory data, such as greater number of an indigenous language speakers than respective indigenous people. Further, while government agencies have begun disaggregation of data by ethnicity and gender since 1991 census, there is need for greater disaggregation of all relevant national data.
Currently, 59 groups are recognized as indigenous nationalities but the official list is contested. The Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights expressed concern in 2008 about the “lack of clarification about the criteria used by” National Foundation for Development of Indigenous Nationalities (NFDIN), the indigenous development agency of the Government of Nepal, to recognize indigenous peoples and the implications of this recognition. The Government formed a taskforce, including indigenous representatives, to re-examine the official list that submitted its report to the Prime Minister in 2011 with recommendations for inclusion of further groups. However, the Government is yet to take any action on the report.
Discrimination, based on historical oppression and exclusion, against indigenous peoples remains deeply rooted in Nepal. Land and forest-related practices and laws of Nepal have hindered the development of indigenous communities leading to a litany of human rights issues, including in the name of ‘development’. Even though they constitute a significant proportion of the population, throughout the history of Nepal indigenous peoples have been marginalized in terms of socio-economic conditions, including cultural and language rights and political participation. Demands for rights of indigenous peoples, particularly in relation to lands and resources and political participation, have been met with violence and criminal persecution. More