The aspiration of Indigenous Peoples to exercise their right to autonomy fuels many of their present-day political struggles and, in some countries, Indigenous autonomies have been recognised by the state, especially in the Arctic region and Latin America.

A number of states have also transformed their national legislation to accommodate Indigenous Peoples’ right to territorial autonomy. However, this change has often been undermined in practice by the dynamics of neoliberal economic globalisation, in particular through land dispossession by extractive companies. In most countries, important challenges still need to be addressed before Indigenous Peoples can exercise their right to self-governance.

Asserting autonomy is a social, economic, cultural and political process that goes beyond the recognition and exercise of rights within a territorially defined space. It implies a relationship of equality with outside actors and, above all, it provides the basis for the sociocultural and political survival of Indigenous Peoples as peoples with selfdetermination. This political process is interrelated with all of the major challenges facing Indigenous Peoples, from food resilience to rural to urban migration to the exercise of Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) in accordance with community protocols and practices. Addressing these and other challenges, such as those that will arise as a result of the COVID-19 context, is only possible if Indigenous autonomy is strengthened.

The development of autonomous FPIC protocols or policies is one central pillar of exercising autonomy and provides external actors with culturally appropriate rules for rights-based engagement with Indigenous Peoples. Developed by Indigenous Peoples themselves, these protocols are one important manifestation of their right to self-determination and autonomy. We will promote and support the development of such protocols throughout Latin America and beyond.

The main focus of our work over the next five years will be to strengthen Indigenous governments, providing technical assistance, promoting discussions on different aspects of the implementation of autonomies and facilitating the exchange of experiences between regions and Indigenous Peoples. We will place particular emphasis on the participation of Indigenous youth, including addressing the consequences of growing migration (especially of young people) to urban centres.


Documenting: We will place special emphasis on the systematisation and dissemination of experiences of autonomy. We will analyse the processes of asserting autonomy, involving different segments of the Indigenous population, academia and the general public, and this will be documented through a range of communication media, including books, digital publications, video and radio programmes, and social media.

Advocating: IWGIA will support advocacy efforts to educate the general public about experiences of Indigenous governments, influence local and national policy makers and public servants as well as international institutions, and facilitate multi-stakeholder partnerships to operationalise Indigenous visions for development and territorial self-governance and autonomy. We will engage international human rights mechanisms in promoting the right to autonomy and its realisation in practice.

Supporting empowerment: We will promote the establishment of territorial governance by providing support to organisational strengthening and technical assistance, and by facilitating the exchange of experiences between regions and Indigenous Peoples aimed at discussing visions and concrete modalities. We will also focus on the participation of young people in this process.

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IWGIA - International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs - is a global human rights organisation dedicated to promoting and defending Indigenous Peoples’ rights. Read more.

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Indigenous World

IWGIA's global report, the Indigenous World, provides an update of the current situation for Indigenous Peoples worldwide. Read The Indigenous World.

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