Our work on Indigenous Peoples

The OHCHR Indigenous Peoples and Minorities Section provides particular expertise on indigenous peoples’ rights. It supports the High Commissioner and the Office as a whole in relation to its broader activities that relate to indigenous peoples. Through its initiatives and guidance, OHCHR seeks to continue empowering indigenous peoples in the protection and promotion of their rights.

Besides co-ordinating a fellowship programme for indigenous young people, it supports the UN Voluntary Fund for Indigenous Peoples. It is also the secretariat of the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Support to the Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples is provided by the OHCHR Special Procedures Branch.

Historic progress

The rights of indigenous peoples have been progressively given more attention by the UN system, from the establishment of the United Nations Working Group on Indigenous Populations in 1982, the International Labour Organization (ILO) Convention on Indigenous and Tribal Peoples, 1989 (No. 169) to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples of 2007 (UNDRIP), as well as the outcome document of the 2014 World Conference on Indigenous Peoples.

The World Conference and UN-SWAP

As requested by the 2014 World Conference on Indigenous Peoples, a System Wide Action Plan on indigenous peoples (UN-SWAP) was developed in 2015 with the support of the Inter-Agency Support Group on Indigenous Issues (IASG) for ensuring a coherent approach to achieving the ends of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. 

It emphasizes action at the country level to promote implementation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and provide a framework to measure the support and progress of the United Nations’ work to advance the rights and wellbeing of the world’s indigenous peoples. Read more about the implementation of SWAP.

A Call to Action: Building an Inclusive, Sustainable and Resilient Future with Indigenous Peoples

In 2020, the fifth anniversary of the SWAP-Indigenous Peoples, the IASG saw the opportunity to revitalize the action plan and strengthen collective and coherent UN system efforts through a call to action on building an inclusive, sustainable and resilient future with indigenous peoples. The call to action was endorsed in November 2020 by the United Nations System Chief Executives Board for Coordination (CEB), the longest-standing and highest-level coordination forum of the United Nations system, composed of the Executive Heads of 31 United Nations system entities.

The Call to Action aims to:

  • Ensure more systematic participation of indigenous peoples in United Nations processes and initiatives that affect them;
  • Strengthen targeted actions at the country level to support the rights of indigenous peoples and learning from good practices;
  • Ensure greater accountability and visibility for the action plan; and
  • Strengthen the disaggregation of data on indigenous peoples to ensure greater visibility of indigenous peoples and their situation.

The 2020 Call to Action for Human Rights

The Secretary-General’s 2020 Call to Action for Human Rights and the decade of action and delivery for sustainable development are critical opportunities to make progress with indigenous peoples towards the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals and the rights enshrined in UNDRIP.

Furthermore, United Nations programming should be informed by the recommendations and reports of dedicated United Nations indigenous peoples’ mechanisms, treaty bodies, the Universal Periodic Review and Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council, and the ILO supervisory bodies.