Reaching the MDGs requires addressing the plight of the world's socially excluded groups, including indigenous people, ethnic minorities, and linguistic groups. They make up a sizable proportion of the world's people and an even greater share of the world's poor. Turning the situation around will therefore require widespread and sustainable economic growth, as well as specific interventions to reach them.
Most MDG indicators for indigenous people and ethnic minorities are worse than population averages. This is true for under-five mortality, adult literacy, school enrollment, completion, and achievement, gender equity, water deprivation, child nutrition, and, especially, poverty reduction.
Most countries in Latin America with sizable indigenous populations, for example, show almost no poverty reduction for those groups.
Attaining the MDGs for indigenous people and ethnic minorities requires innovative approaches. They may be hard to reach because they live in remote locations with poor transport. They may also suffer from social and economic discrimination and government neglect. So assisting them may require more complex interventions than those for the general population. The lack of data also complicates the design and evaluation of programs. The more successful programs, such as those in Asia, have extended economic opportunities, as well as providing cash or in-kind assistance, thus allowing these groups to use the targeted assistance more effectively. Other countries may need to target these groups more tightly and raise the quality of services by increasing the accountability of service providers to their clients.
More in-depth research on this topic is available in the World Bank report Indigenous Peoples, Poverty, and Development (2010), a study that offers a "global snapshot" of a set of indicators for indigenous peoples vis-à-vis national demographic averages.