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Indigenous Peoples the world over are paying a high price for decades of unsustainable development that continues to this day. The global rush for economic growth has led to increased demand for land and natural resources, with Indigenous Peoples’ land being a primary target.

As a result, some Indigenous Peoples are at risk of losing their remaining lands and territories, and suffering all the social, economic and cultural threats and losses that will inevitably follow. Land dispossession will lead to the loss of Indigenous Peoples’ traditional livelihood practices and the inter-generational transfer of Indigenous knowledge, and will undermine their social organisation, traditional institutions and cultural and spiritual practices; all of which can cause poverty, food insecurity, social disintegration and loss of identity and human dignity.

The stigmatisation of Indigenous Peoples and criminalisation of their activities reflects a shrinking democratic space in far too many states. An increasing number of attacks by extractive companies and other developers, including conservationists and green investment initiatives, are being detected against defenders of lands and forests. These defenders are protecting biodiversity-rich ecosystems that have been the homes of their people since time immemorial. Land grabbing and invasions lead to mass forced evictions of Indigenous Peoples from their traditional lands and territories, as well as other gross human rights violations. State and corporate actors do not recognise or respect the right to Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC). Instead, Indigenous dissent is used to legitimise violence, killings, and impunity.

While these trends are highly worrying, there are also windows of opportunity for safeguarding land tenure security emerging in some countries in the form of new laws and policies that Indigenous Peoples can use.

The world has become a more dangerous place for human rights defenders. IWGIA’s support for partners on the ground who are mobilising and protesting the injustice they face is now more important than ever. We will strengthen our focus on providing secure and safe ways to continue working, building support and solidarity networks, providing adequate training and legal support, and facilitating urgent responses to rights defenders at risk in order to address the threats.


Documenting: We will increase and consolidate efforts to get land rights and related human rights violations exposed and denounced at all levels – local, national, and international. This will be done through regular monitoring and fact-finding missions and rigorous documentation through such interventions as urgent alerts, briefing papers, video documentaries, radio reports and human rights reports. Over the next five years, we will place particular emphasis on documenting and analysing the root causes of the violations in order to understand and be better equipped to address them.

Advocating: We will work with Indigenous Peoples, international human rights mechanisms and alliances to identify duty-bearers, including the home states of corporations, the corporations and states themselves, and the financial actors investing in them. We will engage in and support efforts to hold duty-bearers accountable, demand that violations are stopped and endeavour to ensure that effective redress and protection measures are put in place.

Supporting empowerment: We will support Indigenous communities (women, men and youth) in their efforts to defend their land rights and to achieve land tenure security. Over the next five years, we will invest additional focus in improving the security of Indigenous Peoples, especially those who actively engage in the defence of their rights and natural resources and are directly addressing the shrinking civic space that many of our partners are increasingly experiencing.

  • Five alarming land grabbing cases

    Extractive industries remain a concrete threat to indigenous communities and this year's The Indigenous World 2018 describes many cases of land grabbing from indigenous peoples. In this article we take a closer look at some of the examples.

  • Indigenous peoples’ rights key in stemming Amazon fires

    Indigenous peoples in the Amazon rainforest are on the front line of defending themselves and their land from the rapidly spreading fires. A majority of the tens of thousands of fires are happening in Brazil, though fires are also raging in Bolivia where 10,000 km2 of forests (an area the size of...

  • Indigenous autonomies – reflections over the current trends

    To create a room for indigenous peoples to discuss and analyse their experiences around autonomy and self-government, the international seminar "Right to Autonomy and Indigenous Self-Government as a manifestation of the Right to Self-Determination of Indigenous Peoples" was held on March 11, 12...

  • Photo: Pablo Toranzo/ ANDHES

    New green powers in the global land grab violate indigenous peoples’ rights

    LAND RIGHTS: Industries and investors lead the global land grab for new agribusiness and green projects at the cost of local communities and indigenous peoples. A new report guides you through the complexities and the legal frameworks related to human rights and today’s scramble for land.

  • Putla: A 75-year-old woman indigenous rights defender

    The global rush for natural resources is one of the biggest threats against indigenous peoples’ as they often live in remote areas which are still rich on natural resources. Unfortunately, indigenous peoples are increasingly being criminalised – or even killed – when defending their rights. In...

  • UN: Mining must respect indigenous rights

    James Anaya, the UN Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous people, says it is important to stop multinational companies from working under varying levels of human rights standards. "One of the things I'm exploring is to what extent they hold themselves to the same standards, or are held to...

  • Voices of Water - Indigenous peoples on the International Water Day

    Today we celebrate the annual International Water Day. Worldwide happenings, events and meetings are taking place; from small indigenous communities to international policymakers within the United Nations. The focus is mutual for everyone; to bring attention to the importance of fresh clean water.

  • Indigenous peoples in Latin America claim territorial self-governance

    Having their own indigenous local governments is one of the most significant claims made by indigenous peoples in Latin America. IWGIA fully supports this demand and together with regional partners and local institutions strengthened the momentum through a two-day international seminar in October...

  • Signs that indigenous land rights are key for sustainable development

    2017 can be read as the beginning of an era that offers substantial opportunities for the world to change its relationship with indigenous communities, their ancestral land, and identities.

  • Self-determination of indigenous peoples

    What is most widely implied in the term self-determination is the right to participate in the democratic process of governance and to influence one’s future – politically, socially and culturally. Self-determination embodies the right for all peoples to determine their own economic, social and...

  • Land grabbing

    Land grabbing is the large-scale acquisition of land for commercial or industrial purposes, such as agricultural and biofuel production, mining and logging concessions or tourism Land grabbing involves land being purchased by investors, often foreign investors, rather than producers. This is done...

  • IWGIA raises awareness about land grabbing through Danish Radio

    Yesterday IWGIA's land grabbing seminar was the basis for a spot in the Danish radio programme Orientering, featuring IWGIA’s Executive Director Orla Bakdal in the studio. The spot also included interviews with Elifuraha Laltaika from Association for Law and Advocacy for Pastoralists (ALAPA), Tanzania...

  • Securing indigenous and community land rights in the future we want

    Land rights were a key part of the agenda at the Post-2015 Inter-Governmental Negotiations on SDGs and Targets held in New York recently. Inspired by the ethos that the world must “leave no one behind”, United Nations (UN) member states met to discuss an ambitious new set of Sustainable...



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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