The new manual “The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples – A Manual for National Human Rights Institutions”, by the the Asia Pacific Forum and the UN Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner, aims at increased engagement by national human rights institutions in ensuring that human rights, including indigenous peoples’ rights, become a reality.
We support indigenous peoples in accessing and benefiting from local and regional human rights mechanisms as well as the UN system and its global agendas.
A UN Permanent Forum is dedicated to indigenous peoples’ agendas; a UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples was adopted in 2007, and a Special Rapporteur is watching the realisation of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
Much has been achieved by indigenous peoples since they started advocating for their right to participate in international decision-making processes. Indigenous peoples have succeeded in adopting an international legal framework, the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Institutional mechanisms and procedures mandated to promote and protect indigenous peoples’ rights have been established, such as the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the Special Rapporteur.
At the international level, indigenous peoples have crawled up the latter in the UN system: It started with the establishment of the Working Group on Indigenous Populations in 1984 at the lowest level of the UN system, and now indigenous peoples are on the verge of getting a special status at the highest level of the UN.
At the local and regional level, indigenous peoples have organised themselves and have also gained influence and spaces within the regional human rights mechanisms as the Inter-American Human Rights System and the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights.
Indigenous peoples are still being left behind
On the local level, the rights of indigenous peoples are still not fully realised. The situation of indigenous peoples remains alarming in many countries: From land rights to women’ rights, indigenous peoples are highly challenged on the ground.
Every year, reports written by IWGIA show that the human rights of indigenous peoples are being violated and that indigenous rights defenders are increasingly threatened and many continue to be arrested or even murdered.
The Sustainable Development Goals work for indigenous peoples
For indigenous peoples, the 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development provides an opportunity to access all of their rights. The targets include six explicit references to indigenous peoples.
The 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development is grounded on the principles of human rights, human dignity, non-discrimination, equality and participation that are essential for indigenous peoples’ access to all of their rights. This includes the 2030 Agenda’s overarching aim of “leaving no one behind”.
The inclusion of indigenous peoples in the review process and realisation of the SDGs is necessary to prevent indigenous peoples from being left behind.
IWGIA supports the interlink between the local and the global
The linking of international commitments and national laws and is one of the biggest challenges for indigenous peoples.
Therefore IWGIA is enhancing the bridging of the existing gap by supporting the initiatives of indigenous peoples’ organisations to empower them to flag their cases in relevant international forums. They bring documentation, cases and updates from the ground to encourage change at the local level.
The aim is to link decisions and policies adopted at the global level with the development of laws and policies at the local and regional level.
Collecting data on indigenous peoples' rights and the SDGs
With support from the EU, the online platform called the Indigenous Navigator have been developed for collecting community-generated data and information that visualises and identifies existing gaps in the implementation of indigenous peoples’ rights.
Indigenous Navigator provides tools to analyze and document indigenous peoples’ human rights and development, and uncover the important links between the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the commitments put forward in the Sustainable Development Goals and targets, and in the Outcome Document of the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples.
Through the indigenous Navigator questionnaires, communities can generate their own data and make them available on an online data portal. This will allow other actors to access in-depth information about indigenous peoples’ situation.
The Indigenous Navigator is aimed at raising indigenous peoples’ awareness of their rights through systematic data generation, and empowering them to claim their rights by using their data in dialogue with policy-makers and development stakeholders at the local, national and global levels.
The Indigenous Navigator is a collaborative initiative developed by Asia Indigenous Peoples’ Pact (AIPP), Forest Peoples’ Programme (FPP), International Labour Organization (ILO), Tebtebba Foundation, Danish Institute for Human Rights (DIHR) and International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs (IWGIA) with support from the European Union (EU). You can explore the tools here: www.indigenousnavigator.org
Statement by Professor James Anaya Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples Twelfth Session of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues 22 May 2013, New York
With about half the world’s indigenous people living in cities -where connection to the wired world is comparatively easy - electronic media is playing a growing role in promoting their rights. “Thanks to the Internet, it only takes a couple of seconds for news related to indigenous communities to travel from one part of the world to the other,” says Karmen Ramirez Boscan, who runs the community website www.indigenousportal.com. “This is important not only for the different indigenous groups to communicate and exchange ideas but also to alert them in case the rights of a particular community are threatened,” says Ramirez Boscan, who grew up in the Wayuu community, one of 120 indigenous groups in Colombia. Boscan is a graphic designer who now lives in Bern, Switzerland, where she runs the website on a voluntary basis. “The news that can be found on our website is produced by indigenous people themselves. We have one editor for each part of the world. Our reports are translated into 5 languages,” she explains. She says there is a need for indigenous-run media. “Most of the reporting from mainstream media on indigenous peoples is either inaccurate or biased as they do not understand our culture and traditions,” she says. However, finding trained journalists among indigenous communities is not easy. “But we still manage to get quality reports. For instance, a few months ago, we started giving small video cameras to remote communities and they sent us video footage that was telling a lot about the problems that they face but also about their achievements.” The website has its own Facebook page but does not have a Twitter account yet: “It takes time to be on social media and I want to concentrate on the website first,” she explains. Workers’ rights in their own language Social media has been picking up among indigenous people, at least for those who have access to Internet and to modern technology. Many community leaders and indigenous rights’ advocates use Twitter as a way to attract the attention of a wider audience outside their communities. “Social media is a great way to exchange experiences among our communities but access to technology remains a challenge,” says Chief Wilton Littlechild, Chairperson of the UN Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Chief Littlechild – a leader of the Cree community from Western Canada - insists that the expansion of social media should be combined with the further development of community radio stations, which usually broadcast in the local indigenous language. These FM stations can bring the news to people living in remote areas, who sometimes have very limited education and who do not have access to a computer or a smartphone. Community-based media – be they basic or use the most up to date technology - are key tools for teaching indigenous people about their rights - including their rights at work - in their own languages. The ILO Indigenous and Tribal Peoples Convention, 1989 (No.169) emphasizes the importance of the rights-related to education and means of communications, as a way to empower indigenous communities.
In his statement on education at the 4th session of the General assembly open work group on sustainable development goals held this week in New York, the Danish Minister for Development Cooperation, Christian Friis Bach, directed attention to indigenous peoples’ access to education. The Minister stressed the importance of creating social protection schemes and focus on education in a manner that takes into account the specific challenges faced by marginalised groups, and amongst them, indigenous peoples.
In September 2012, the Danish Agency for Culture, the Greenland Government and IWGIA together hosted an International Expert Workshop on the World Heritage Convention and Indigenous Peoples as part of the Convention’s 40th Anniversary.
The highest percentages of indigenous people in proportion to the total national population are in China (36 percent), South Asia (32 percent) and Southeast Asia (10 percent), according to “Indigenous Peoples, Poverty, and Development”, a treatise on indigenous peoples in Asia, Africa and Latin America.