UNDP and Indigenous Peoples

Indigenous peoples continue to be over-represented among the poor, the illiterate, and the unemployed. They number approximately 370 million, over 5 per cent of the world’s population, and make up 15 per cent of the world’s poor or one-third of the world’s 900 million extremely poor rural people.

Indigenous voices are recounting compelling stories of how they are combating centuries of injustice and discrimination, and advocating for the resources and rights that will preserve their cultures, languages, spirituality and traditions. They offer an alternative perspective on development models that exclude the indigenous experience. They promote the mutual respect and intercultural understanding that is a precondition for a society without poverty and prejudice. (Ban Ki-moon, 9th August 2012)

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 in September 2007, an important step was taken to create further momentum on indigenous issues. 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.

UNDP’s work with indigenous peoples is 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.

In 2001, UNDP adopted the policy UNDP and Indigenous Peoples: A Policy of Engagement (2001). It aims to:

  • Foster an enabling environment for promoting indigenous peoples’ participation in decision-making, co-existence of their economic, cultural and socio-political systems and developing inclusive government policies and programmes, and;
  • Integrate indigenous peoples' perspectives and concepts of development into UNDP’s work.

How We Work

Our stories


Putting an end to the racial divide

New York – Between 20 to 30 percent of the Latin America and Caribbean population is of African descent. Even though citizens of African ancestry comprise more than half of the population in countries like Brazil, throughout the region they still face discrimination and experience disproportionate lmore

International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples - 9 August

"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
2014 message on the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples

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Selected Resources
  • Fast Facts: UNDP and Indigenous Peoples (UNDP, 2009) English | Spanish
  • UNDG Guidelines on Indigenous Peoples' Issues (UNDG, 2008) English | French | Spanish
  • UNDP and Indigenous Peoples towards Effective Partnerships (UNDP, 2006) English
  • UNDP and Indigenous Peoples: A Policy of Engagement (UNDP, 2001) English | French | Spanish