Last Updated: Friday, 19 December 2014, 13:25 GMT

State of the World's Minorities and Indigenous Peoples 2009 - Nicaragua

Publisher Minority Rights Group International
Publication Date 16 July 2009
Cite as Minority Rights Group International, State of the World's Minorities and Indigenous Peoples 2009 - Nicaragua, 16 July 2009, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4a66d9aa2d.html [accessed 21 December 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

During 2008 efforts increased to end the statistical invisibility of minority populations in Nicaragua as an essential step towards achieving their basic human rights, and especially their right to education. This involved a programme to document some 250,000 indigenous children and adolescents who did not figure in national demographic data. Among other rights restrictions, public schools would not accept them without birth documents.

The initiative is the fruit of a five-year effort by human rights groups and universities on the Caribbean Coast of Nicaragua who became concerned that around 500,000 youngsters in indigenous communities in the North Atlantic Autonomous Region (RAAN) and the South Atlantic Autonomous Region (RAAS) had no birth certificates.

According to their research, nearly 40 per cent of all children in Nicaragua are unregistered. In the indigenous areas on the Caribbean Coast, and in central and northern Nicaragua, researchers found communities where none of the children and adolescents had ever been inscribed in the civil register. Many parents also lacked documents, requiring that the entire community become involved in helping relatives to remember information.

During the past four and a half years, the mission has inscribed 97,000 out of 100,000 children and teenagers in the RAAN, and in 2008 these efforts expanded to the RAAS, and the nearby province of Nueva Guinea, where the goal is to register a total of 150,000 minors. At the end of the first stage in late August 2008 several municipalities in the RAAS had already been declared free of unregistered children.

The socially complex process of on-site data collection, registration and issuing of birth certificates was carried out by the Centre for Human, Civil and Autonomous Rights (CEDEHCA) as part of the 'Right to a Name and Nationality' programme supported by Save the Children, Plan International, UNICEF, Nicaragua's Supreme Electoral Council (CSE) and regional and municipal authorities.

Low registration rates are linked to the extreme poverty affecting the country's indigenous people. Parents find it difficult to take time off from their subsistence fishing and farming activities and leave often-remote villages to register their children.

According to the University of the Autonomous Regions of Nicaragua's Caribbean Coast, indigenous people make up 8.6 per cent of the country's 5.4 million people, with Garífuna, Mayangna, Miskito, and Rama ethnic groups of the Autonomous Atlantic coastal region representing 5.3 per cent of the national total.

In addition to enabling greater access to health care and education, registration would also help to guarantee the political autonomy rights of the indigenous peoples of the region.

The Autonomous Caribbean Coast region is one of the poorest and most neglected parts of the country. There are almost no paved roads and communities are widely dispersed. For some, it was a five-day river journey to a child registration point.

The programme has already had an impact, helping to expand voter lists in some RAAN municipalities by as much as 33 to 45 per cent, as well as providing data that will help prevent people trafficking.

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