Report on the impact of COVID-19 on the rights of indigenous peoples

Closed 19 June 2020
Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous Peoples
To inform his report to the 75th session of the UN General Assembly.

Pursuant to resolution 42/20 of the Human Rights Council, the Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples will dedicate part of his report to the General Assembly to assess and report on the impact of the COVID-19 on the rights of indigenous peoples. The report will study existing initiatives undertaken by States, indigenous peoples and others to ensure that the rights and specific needs of indigenous peoples are considered and addressed in the fight against the pandemic. It will also identify protection gaps which require Member States and their partners' attention.

The Special Rapporteur is calling for inputs from Member States, indigenous peoples representatives bodies and organisations, civil society actors, health workers and agencies, national human rights institutions and other stakeholders, to contribute to the preparation of his report, which will be presented to the General Assembly in October 2020.

The Special Rapporteur is concerned that COVID-19 is both highlighting and exacerbating current and ongoing human rights situations faced by many indigenous peoples. This report will enable the Special Rapporteur to collect, present and to bring these critical concerns to the attention of the General Assembly and the Human Rights Council for their consideration and action. Indigenous peoples are over-represented among the poor and suffer higher rates of malnutrition, combined with impacts of environmental contamination and in many cases, lack of access to adequate health care services as a consequence, many have reduced immune systems, respiratory conditions and other health conditions, rendering then particularly vulnerable to the spread of disease.

Curfews, lockdowns, quarantine and other imposed isolation measures imposed as a response to the pandemic may cause additional hardships for access to basic economic, cultural and social rights. Increased State security measures imposed during emergency situations as this may also directly impact indigenous communities.

The impact of COVID-19 on indigenous peoples should be researched and documented to guide States' responses and to ensure these exceptional times do not exacerbate or justify impunity for violations of indigenous peoples' rights. Bearing in mind the importance of human cultural diversity and innovation in surviving crises such as pandemics, the national and international COVID-19 responses may also find answers in traditional indigenous knowledge and practices.

The Special Rapporteur will seek to present examples of good practices, of indigenous participation and consultation in implementing solutions and responses to the COVID-19 pandemic. This report will assist States better understand the specific impacts of the crisis, and prepare targeted responses with the participation, vision and approaches of indigenous peoples.

The Special Rapporteur will take stock of emerging guidance on the topic, including the Inter-Agency Support Group on Indigenous Peoples' Guidance Note, the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) Note on considerations to be given with regards to indigenous peoples during the COVID-19 pandemic, the FAO statement on indigenous peoples' health and the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples statement, and also draw from positions taken at the regional level, such as the press statement by the African Commission's Working Group on Indigenous and the Inter American Commission's statement and resolution 1/2020 on Pandemic and Human Rights in the Americas.

Potential issues to be addressed in the report:

  • Incidence, mortality rates and increased risk of infection in indigenous communities
  • Disparities and obstacles to adequate healthcare, water, sanitation and information, and lack of culturally appropriate and accessible services.
  • Participation of indigenous peoples in the elaboration of State and provincial response to the pandemic as well as implementation of programs and policies developed by Indigenous programs and institutions
  • Impacts of lockdown, quarantines and other responses on access to food, livelihoods, education and justice
  • Availability of information in indigenous languages
  • Impact of the pandemic and related responses on indigenous women, elders, children and persons with disabilities.
  • Discrimination and disproportionate impacts of State restriction, confinement measures and other pandemic-related policies on indigenous peoples
  • Impact of national emergency measures on land security, land tenure and increased vulnerability to land grabbing and imposed development impacting indigenous peoples' lands and waters during the COVID-19 pandemic
  • Indigenous communities living in voluntary isolation
  • Role of indigenous peoples' healing models and traditional knowledge systems in developing effective responses

Questionnaire for responses by States, indigenous peoples and other actors:

  • How does the State collect and analyse information on the impact of COVID-19 on indigenous peoples and individuals? Is disaggregated data on indigenous peoples, including health impacts, available?
  • Please provide information and specific examples showing the increased risks and/or disproportionate health impact of the pandemic on indigenous peoples. What measures have been taken to provide health care and other forms or urgent assistance for remote communities?
  • How are indigenous peoples supported in their own initiatives to fight the pandemic, protect health and provide assistance in their own communities? What lessons can be learnt from indigenous traditional practices and community-based programs in lock down and emergency?
  • How are indigenous peoples given the possibility to shape the national COVID-19 response to ensure it does not have discriminatory effect on their communities? Is their input sought and respected in the programs that could affect them?
  • How is information about COVID-19 and prevention measures disseminated in indigenous communities? Is such information available in indigenous languages?
  • Please provide examples of good practices and targeted measures to redress the disproportionate impacts of the pandemic on indigenous peoples' health. If these are being carried out by State, provincial and local governments, please explain how these measures were designed in consultation and implementing free prior and informed consent with the indigenous peoples concerned in order to ensure that such measures are adapted to the cultural and other specific needs of these indigenous communities.
  • Please provide information on the economic, social and cultural impact of lockdowns, quarantines, travel and other restriction of freedom of movement on indigenous communities. Please provide information on measures taken to ensure indigenous communities do not experience discriminatory impacts on their access to livelihoods, food and education. How are indigenous peoples taken into account in the development of assistance and relief programmes? Where are the gaps if any?
  • Please provide information on how indigenous women, older persons, children, persons with disabilities and LGBTI persons are or may be facing additional human rights challenges during the pandemic. Please provide information on targeted measures taken to prevent intersecting forms of discrimination, and ensure indigenous women, children, older persons, persons with disabilities and LGBTI persons' access, protection and services with due regards to their specific needs within indigenous communities.
  • Please provide information on how States of emergency may contribute to threats or aggravate ongoing human rights violations against indigenous peoples, including with regards to the freedom of assembly and the protection of their traditional lands and resources. What measures have been taken to protect the lands, territories and resources of indigenous peoples against invasions and land-grabbing by external actors during the pandemic?

Inputs received

The Special Rapporteur would like to thank all who contributed to the creation of this important compilation of resources. Note to submitting entities: Only submissions which have indicated consent for publication will appear on this page. 

If you have a question regarding the posting of your submission, please write to with "Submission GA report" in the title until 14 November 2020.


Independent Institutions:

  • Bolivia – Defensoría del Pueblo
  • Colombia – Procuraduria General
  • Argentina – Defensoría del Pueblo de la Nación
  • Mexico – Comisíon Nacional de los Derechos Humanos

Indigenous organisations and Civil Society:

Intergovernmental Organisations:

  • Organisation of American States

Individual Contributions :