UN Launches First Global Partnership to Advance Rights of Indigenous Peoples

20 May 2011

New York - The first global UN inter-agency initiative to promote and protect the rights of indigenous peoples was launched today on the occasion of the 10th Session of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues. The initiative, called the United Nations-Indigenous Peoples’ Partnership (UNIPP), is a commitment to the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and calls for its full realization through the mobilization of financial cooperation and technical assistance. “We see this Partnership as an important step in the efforts of indigenous peoples everywhere for the full realization of their human rights” said Mirna Cunninghan, Chair of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues. “We look forward to our continued work with the UN so that the voiceless will be heard and that we can bring about dignity and respect for the diversity of our cultures, traditions, histories and aspirations.”

The aim of the UNIPP is to secure the rights of indigenous peoples, strengthen their institutions and ability to fully participate in governance and policy processes in the local and national levels, including conflict prevention in regard to ancestral land and use of natural resources. Many indigenous communities are witness to exploitation of these lands and resources by extractive industries – in many cases without regard to their rights. The UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (2007) and ILO’s Indigenous and Tribal People’s Convention (No. 169) adopted in 1989, are widely recognized as the key international instruments for promoting and protecting the rights of indigenous peoples.

Indigenous peoples are victims of historical injustices that have led to their disproportionatesuffering from poverty, discrimination, ina ccessibility to legal remedies and life on the margins of society. There are more than 370 million indigenous peoples in some 90 countries accounting for 15 percent of the world’s poor and one-third of the 900 million people living in extreme poverty. Indigenous people also tend to experience low levels of education, increased health problems, higher crime rates and human rights abuses. 

Globally, indigenous children are less likely than other children to be in school and more likely to drop out of school. Indigenous girls are at even greater risk of being excluded from school. Furthermore, indigenous children often face a lifetime of discrimination and exclusion, deepening their disadvantages and perpetuating the cycle of poverty. In Latin America, for example, child mortality is significantly higher among indigenous children than nonindigenous children. In the Pacific region, a lack of food security poses a threat to indigenous peoples since agriculture  the main food source – is becoming increasingly vulnerable owing to heat stress on plants and salt water incursions, especially in small island states.

The newly launched UNIPP will help address these problems and other social, economic and political issues by working with governments and indigenous peoples’ organization through various means including training, promotion of dialogue, the establishment of consultative processes, legislative review and reform, as well as conflict prevention. UNIPP brings together the experience and expertise of the Internationa Labour Organization (ILO), the UN Development Programme (UNDP), the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF).

Over generations, indigenous peoples have developed highly specialized knowledge, livelihood strategies, occupations and cultures, which are closely linked to lands, territories and natural resources. In the context of today’s crisis, indigenous knowledge is critical to the search for new solutions, which link human development, human rights, peace and environmental sustainability. Indigenous peoples are in a unique position to contribute to addressing the most pressing environmental and social challenges of our time. Their partnership is an essential requirement, and something which UNIPP seeks to promote.

Contact Information

Kevin Cassidy
International Labour Organization (ILO)
Tel: +1 646 707-2956;
cassidy@ilo.org

Carolina Azevedo
UNDP New York
Tel: + 1 212 906 6127;
carolina.azevedo@undp.org

Janine Kandel
UNICEF New York
Tel: + 1 212 326-7684;
jkandel@unicef.org

Antti Korkeakivi
Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR)
Tel: + 41 79 221-8070;
akorkeakivi@ohchr.org

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