Why are indigenous people left out of the sustainable development goals?

Despite promises to leave no one behind, the UN drafting committee has little to say about halting threats to indigenous peoples survival. On his blog at the Guardian Jonathan Glennie explains why development can be considered a threat as much as an opportunity.


The great danger in compiling a list of priorities for international development, which is what most of the development industry has been preoccupied with for the past couple of years, is the dreaded “shopping list” or “Christmas tree”. This is where everyone’s pet problem is included and we don’t have a list of priorities at all, but a list of almost everything wrong with the world.

So I write this article with some caution. All told, I think the drafting committee for the sustainable development goals (SDGs), which will replace the millennium development goals (MDGs) after 2015, has done a decent job. The fact that there are still 17 goals (which is too many) is a consequence of the pressing problems that global co-operation can help to fix, rather than an inability to prioritise.

Nevertheless, there is a gaping hole. Indigenous people are conspicuous only in the fleeting nature of references to them. In the draft of the SDGs released last month by the open working group, they get only two quick mentions: in goals on hunger and education, between commas in one of those lists that the UN so loves – they appear alongside youth, disabled people, women, family farmers and pastoralists.

Tags: Press releases

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