UNDP and Indigenous Peoples


There are more than 370 million Indigenous peoples living in some 90 countries. It is estimated that they constitute 15 percent of the world’s poor, and one third of the 900 million people living in extreme poverty in rural areas. In vast numbers, indigenous peoples live in some of the world's most resource rich areas, but their own forms of conservation and resource management have been historically undervalued. Too often development projects and programmes undertaken near to and within their lands result in degradations to the environments upon which their physical and cultural survival depends, violate their human rights, and exclude them from equitable benefits.

Around the world, discrimination and structural inequalities disproportionately affect indigenous peoples. Human development and peace is not possible where discrimination, injustice, and social exclusion prevail, and where there is a lack of recognition that all groups bring value to society through their different worldviews.

Indigenous communities can be adversely affected by local and global development processes, since their distinct visions, concerns and ways of life can be ignored by policy makers. In recent years, international and national legal and policy frameworks have emerged to address adverse effects on indigenous peoples and to advocate for the effective participation of indigenous peoples in matters that concern them in national and local governance.

Development strategies must be designed to overcome marginalization and ensure the rights of indigenous peoples.  This can only be achieved with the full participation and consent of indigenous communities and it must be recognized that the nature of their aspirations for development, resources and services may be fundamentally different from those of other peoples.

With the adoption of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, an important step was taken to create further momentum on indigenous rights. The United Nations has committed its unwavering support to a future where all indigenous peoples will enjoy peace, human rights and well-being, and has responded to indigenous peoples’ demands, welcoming them as partners.

In 2014, during the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples, the UN Secretary General was asked to develop a UN-wide plan to implement UNDRIP. This UN System Wide Action Plan (SWAP) will guarantee that the UN advocates with one voice for indigenous peoples rights and implements programmes in a coordinated way. UNDP is proud to participate in the development of the SWAP and support consultations with indigenous peoples and UN member states all around the world.

Our recently approved Social and Environmental Standards will help to ensure that UNDP projects protect and foster full respect for human rights of Indigenous Peoples under international and national law.

UNDP’s work with indigenous peoples is thus an integral part of its broader work towards sustainable human development and is thus guided and shaped not only by specific policies, but by the comprehensive and complementary body of international and in-house instruments, policies, operations and procedures on development, gender, human rights, environment and climate change.

UNDP is committed to creating spaces for and ensuring the meaningful participation of indigenous peoples at the local, national, regional and international levels to ensure that their voices are heard, that they contribute to policy-making and monitor policy implementation. With its liaison with government partners in development contexts, UNDP has an important role to play in facilitating dialogue with indigenous peoples and in advancing their rights and concerns globally.

For UNDP, the engagement of indigenous peoples and their organizations is critical in preventing and resolving conflicts, enhancing democratic governance and human rights, reducing poverty and sustainably managing the environment.

Our stories

Featured Publications
Implementing the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

This handbook for parliamentarians presents good practices in relation to the recognition and exercise of indigenous peoples’ rights in different regions of the world.

Fast Facts: Indigenous Peoples

UNDP’s engagement with indigenous peoples is grounded on its overall vision to help countries achieve the simultaneous eradication of poverty and significant reduction of inequalities and exclusion.

View more
thumbnail

"The interests of the indigenous peoples must be part of the new development agenda in order for it to succeed. […]  Let us work even harder to empower them and support their aspirations." 

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

Fast Facts on Indigenous Peoples