How We Work

23 Dec 2013


Strengthened engagement with indigenous peoples through partnerships and coordination


To promote the rights of indigenous peoples and to mainstream indigenous issues, UNDP participates actively in the work of relevant UN bodies and is engaged in supporting efforts to advance indigenous peoples’ rights and to internally ensure coordination and coherence on indigenous peoples’ issues.


UNDP supports the work of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues and implements the recommendations of the Forum with its UN partners. UNDP also actively participates in the Inter-Agency Support Group on Indigenous Issues (IASG) which was established to support and promote the mandate of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues.


The establishment of the UNPFII in 2000 came after a ten-year process of international consultation following the Vienna Conference of 1993. The Forum has a broad mandate, namely to discuss economic and social development, culture, the environment, education, health and human rights and to advise the Economic and Social Council and the United Nations system on all matters pertaining to its mandate, promote the coordination and integration of indigenous issues in the United Nations system, raise awareness about indigenous issues and produce information materials on indigenous issues. More than 1,500 indigenous participants from all parts of the world attend the annual sessions of the UNPFII in New York, in addition to representatives from some 70 countries and around 35 UN agencies and inter-governmental entities.


UNDP participates in and supports the work of the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (EMRIP). EMRIP was established in 2007 by the Human Rights Council, the UN’s main human rights body, as a subsidiary body of the Council. The Expert Mechanism is made up of five independent experts and provides the Human Rights Council with thematic advice, in the form of studies and research, on the rights of indigenous peoples as directed by the Council. The Expert Mechanism may also suggest proposals to the Human Rights Council for its consideration and approval.


UNDP collaborates with the Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples in advancing the rights of indigenous peoples and to provide guidance and disseminate information on indigenous issues. The Special Rapporteur promotes good practices concerning the rights of indigenous peoples, reports on the overall human rights situation of indigenous peoples, addresses specific cases of alleged violations of the rights of indigenous peoples and conducts or contributes to thematic studies of special importance to the promotion and protection of the rights of indigenous peoples.


To ensure system-wide coordination on indigenous issues, the United Nations Development Group (UNDG) has developed the UNDG Guidelines on Indigenous Peoples' Issues (2008) with the purpose to assist the UN system in mainstreaming and integrating indigenous peoples' issues in UN system processes and activities.


UNDP is also supporting the UNPFII in preparing for the High-Level Plenary Meeting of the 69th session of General Assembly in September 2014, to be known as the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples. The main objective of the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples is to share perspectives and best practices on the realization of the rights of indigenous peoples and to pursue the objectives of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.


An innovative practice: United Nations Indigenous Peoples’ Partnership (UNIPP)


In May 2011, four United Nations entities: the International Labour Organization (ILO ), the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and UNDP launched the UN Indigenous Peoples’ Partnership (UNIPP), the first global inter-agency initiative to support country efforts to advance indigenous peoples’ rights. UNIPP is a commitment to the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the ILO Convention 169 Concerning Indigenous and Tribal Peoples in Independent Countries and also seeks to address the various recommendations made by the UNPFII over the years that stress the importance of greater coordination and joint action by UN organizations at the local level to support the effective implementation of indigenous peoples’ rights. As a UN collaborative framework, the primary goal of UNIPP is to focus on developing national capacities to promote effective dialogue and partnership to fulfill these rights at the country level.


The Governments of Denmark, Finland and Ireland have contributed to the Fund with an estimated US$ 1.7 million, most of which has been allocated to six inception country projects in Congo, Cameroon, Bolivia, Nicaragua, the Central African Republic, Nepal and the Southeast Asian region. Some of the key thematic areas of intervention of these projects include: legislative review and reform; democratic governance and indigenous peoples’ institutions; access to justice; access to land and ancestral territories; natural resources and extractive industries.


Country-level programmes will be supplemented by thematic, regional and global undertakings that can strengthen the implementation of indigenous peoples’ rights through research, networking, and capacity-development efforts. UNIPP will primarily comprise joint country-level programmes whereby participating UN organizations collaborate around common programmatic goals. The complementary priority lines of support are: capacity development for the realization of indigenous peoples’ rights; and, consultative mechanisms and participatory processes with the state and with United Nations country teams.


UN REDD and indigenous peoples


Approximately 70 million indigenous peoples depend on forests for their livelihoods and another 350 million rural people reside in or near them. Many of these communities have long-standing relationships with forested land and have customary rights that are legally recognized.


The active involvement of indigenous peoples and other forest-dependent communities in forest management produces positive results, such as lower rates of deforestation. However, indigenous peoples and other forest-dependent communities are often disproportionately impacted by ecosystem degradation, and these groups, despite being rights-holders, often lack political power and voice.


In order to uphold basic human rights and to increase the success of REDD+, it is imperative to enable these groups to participate in REDD+ decision-making at the local, national and international levels. The UN-REDD Programme has a specific focus on indigenous peoples and other forest-dependent communities, while also encouraging broader multi-stakeholder processes.


The UN-REDD Programme supports a number of different activity areas in support of this goal at the global and at the national levels. The UN-REDD Programme also works closely with the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility (FCPF) to ensure harmonization of approaches.


To ensure effective engagement, UN-REDD developed joint Guidelines on Stakeholder Engagement in REDD+ Readiness with a Focus on Indigenous Peoples and Other Forest-Dependent Communities which were developed collaboratively between the UN-REDD Programme and the World Bank hosted Forest Carbon Partnership Facility (FCPF). They provide guidance to countries in their work on stakeholder engagement in REDD+ in activities supported by both or either initiative.


In 2013, UN-REDD also launched the Programme Guidelines on Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) and its associated Legal Companion which outlines existing international law and emerging state practice affirming that indigenous peoples have the right to effective participation in the decisions, policies and initiatives that affect them and that FPIC is a legal norm that imposes duties and obligations on the states.


The Guidelines outline a normative, policy and operational framework for seeking and obtaining FPIC in the context of REDD+. There will be periodic updates to this version based on the application of the Guidelines, increased informa­tion and experience related to the application of FPIC more generally, and continued input and feedback from governments, indigenous peoples and forest-dependent communities, practitioners, experts and partners.


Parliamentary development and indigenous peoples


Under the focus area of parliamentary development, UNDP supports activities on indigenous peoples’ political representation. They aim at understanding and promoting effective representation of minorities and indigenous peoples in Parliaments.


Furthermore, the Global Programme for Electoral Cycle Support (GPECS) aims at strengthening institutional capacity of electoral management bodies to plan, manage and deliver democratic elections. GPECS in Latin America focuses on political participation of indigenous peoples with particular emphasis on indigenous women and youth. For example, GPECS has facilitated the first network for electoral communication for indigenous people in Latin America and the Caribbean.