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Interview to Dev Kumar Sunuwar from Nepal

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30 November 2016
Dev Kumar Sunuwar, president of  Indigenous Media Foundation, Nepal at the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples at the United Nations, Geneva
Dev Kumar Sunuwar, president of Indigenous Media Foundation, Nepal at the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples at the United Nations, Geneva

Indigenous Peoples of Nepal at the United Nations


Dev Kumar Sunuwar is an Attorney and an Investigative Journalist in Nepal, has an experience of working in media for over 8-years assuming different posts from Radio, TV, newspaper, magazine and online as investigative journalists. He is the president of Indigenous Media Foundation and co-founded of Indigenous TV and a couple of community radio in Nepal. Apart from involving in media sector, he has been teaching ‘public international law’ at Kathmandu School of Law.

We met Dev Kumar Sunuwar in July 2016 for the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (EMRIP) at the United Nations in Geneva.


What is the reason why you are here at the Expert Mechanism?

I came here to speak about our community to raise our voices, especially to internationalise the problems that indigenous people of Nepal are facing. So, one of the aims to come here is that in order to raise our voices and internationalise the voices of indigenous peoples at the grassroots.


The EMRIP at the Room XX of the Geneva UN
The EMRIP at the Room XX of the Geneva UN

About your organization, which kind of work make?

I'm the chairperson of Indigenous Media Foundation, an organization of indigenous journalists. We have come together so that we could set up some sort of radios, televisions, and we could create some sort of platform for other community members come together and have their voices. We have been working for at least a couple of years, we have a community radio in Nepal, we have a recently set up community television, and we're trying our best to provide a platform for Indigenous peoples to have their say through these different media.


How is the situation of the Indigenous people in Nepal?

The government of Nepal has recently adopted a new constitution. It was adopted in September 2015, and the constitution of Nepal has denied to ensure the rights of indigenous peoples. To tell you a little about Indigenous Peoples, almost 38 of the total population are Indigenous Peoples. The  government has legally recognized some 59 ethnic groups as Indigenous Peoples. In Nepal, some hundred and twenty-three languages are spoken, almost 98 percent of those hundred and twenty-three languages are spoken by Indigenous Peoples. So, in terms of language diversity, cultural diversity, the indigenous peoples are custodians of those languages, cultures and life styles and everything. The government has denied their rights to accept in the constitutional, and Indigenous Peoples are fighting in order to ensure their rights. Still, the longer struggle is taking place in terms of identity, in terms of their rights, everything else.

But more than this, the one of the issues that I raised in the EMRIP is that the development agreements made by the multilateral corporations or the international corporations, for instance World Bank, Asian Development Bank, agencies wich founded the government to set up some sort of hydro power in the name of development.

Rosalba Nattero interviewing Dev Kumar Sunuwar
Rosalba Nattero interviewing Dev Kumar Sunuwar

Those business enterprises have violated the Indigenous People's right to land, their territories, natural resources. The international legal framework ensure that, those legal framework ensure that they conduct that sort of development works with consultation with indigenous people, but those international corporations have been conducting that sort of work without consulting, or without taking consent from those concerned communities, so that their rights have been violated. One of our voices was to help, I mean to, for the EMRIP to order to the government, to our government to conduct that sort of activities with the consultation, that sort of things.


Nepal has very very ancient traditions. How do you transmit these traditions to the young people?

In Nepal obviously, for instance I'm young, still I feel that I'm still young. My forefathers taught me, obviusly Indigenous Peoples are oral community, we do not have written forms and we have been translating, are transferring everything, our indigenous knowledge, languages, ways of living, our systems, everything, through the word, orally, or taking young or even kids together in every festival, or in every sort of gathering, teaching them the ways of living, ways of our speaking, ways of cooking, ways of wearing, everything else. So that we have a kind of social mingling together, so that we have been transferring every knowledge to the younger kids. For instance, my forefathers taught me, I'm teaching my friends, even my children or those sort of kids, we are taking together in every sort of activities.


Dev Kumar Sunuwar with Giancarlo Barbadoro, president of Ecospirituality Foundation
Dev Kumar Sunuwar with Giancarlo Barbadoro, president of Ecospirituality Foundation

Do you think that the work of the United Nations for Indigenous People can help also Indigenous People of Nepal?

Yes, obviously Nepal is one of the member of the United Nations, so Nepal has obligations. Nepal has ratified a lot of conventions, a number of conventions. In relation to Indigenous Peoples, it has voted yes to the United Nations Declaration on The Rights of Indigenous Peoples, so that Nepal government has obligations to ensure the Indigenous Peoples rights. And the question is, whether this sort of UN event helps to ensure their rights or not? Obviously, when we come here and we raise our voice directly with the United Nations systems or independent experts, and through the independent experts and special rapporteurs we are raising our voices, and through them we are forcing our government to ensure our rights. So, we are having direct negotiations with the government, but government has ignored us, so that we are taking, we are requesting our help with the United Nations systems to help us. In this way we are getting help through this United Nations mechanism to ensure our rights back home.


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