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Call for inputs from the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples for his report to be presented at the 76th session of the UN General Assembly

Issued by

Special Rapporteur on the rights of Indigenous Peoples


21 July 2021

presented to



Issued by Special Procedures


Urbanization, Indigenous Peoples

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In the present report, the Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, José Francisco Calí Tzay, focuses on the enjoyment of human rights by indigenous peoples living in urban areas. He discusses the challenges and opportunities of urbanization with regard to its impact on human rights and provides recommendations on measures necessary to guarantee the full enjoyment of human rights by indigenous peoples living in urban areas, with a view to ensuring the effective and universal implementation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.


Pursuant to resolution 42/20 of the Human Rights Council, the Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples will dedicate his annual report to the General Assembly to the Situation of Indigenous Peoples living in Urban Areas. The report will review the reasons for urbanisation, its impacts and the initiatives undertaken by States, indigenous peoples and other stakeholders to ensure that the rights and specific needs of urban indigenous peoples are addressed.

The majority of the world's indigenous peoples live in urban environments. The Special Rapporteur will consider the specific causes and consequences of urbanisation. Voluntary migration may occur when indigenous peoples move to urban areas in search of employment and education opportunities, while others experience forced migration from evictions, land dispossession and militarization or due to environmental degradation and natural disasters caused by climate change.

Regardless of the reasons for migration, urban indigenous peoples continue to experience the legacy of colonisation and inter-generational trauma and face a unique set of challenges to their sense of identity, culture and connection to lands and resources. The study will also examine the impacts on indigenous peoples who occupy traditional territories that have transformed into metropolitan areas over time.

The need to address issues of poverty, racism, racial discrimination, marginalisation and to strengthen support for indigenous peoples living in urban areas is evident. In the mandate's view, it is essential to secure greater accountability of State and non-State actors for violations of the rights of urban indigenous peoples and to put in place measures to remove existing obstacles. States and other stakeholders have a responsibility to adopt legislation, policies and programs to provide collective protection mechanisms for urban indigenous peoples. These special measures and obligations must consider individual and collective rights and be developed in consultation with the affected communities.

Indigenous movements and organisations are critical to strengthen cultural cohesion and create a sense of belonging for urban indigenous peoples alienated from their communities and their lands. Across the world, indigenous peoples have organized themselves to form these support systems that play an important role when individual and collective rights are challenged by States.

The mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples has previously called on States to inter alia provide sufficient funding for services for indigenous peoples, including in the areas of education, health and child welfare and housing; to take into account the specific needs and circumstances of indigenous peoples living in urban centers; and to address the situation of indigenous day labourers and domestic workers in a culturally appropriate manner and in accordance with international labour and human rights standards.

Concerns over these issues have also been raised by other UN human rights mechanisms and specialized UN agencies. The Special Rapporteur on the right to housing dedicated a thematic report to indigenous peoples' rights in 2019 and noted that indigenous peoples are becoming increasingly urban and that when they migrate to urban centers "tend to live in marginal areas, often in informal settlements in substandard housing or, disproportionately, in homelessness" (A/74/183, 2019). UN-Habitat has considered the issue in a series of reports: "Securing Land Rights for Indigenous Peoples in Cities" (2011) "Urban Indigenous Peoples and Migration: A Review of Policies, Programmes and Practices" (2010) and "Housing Indigenous Peoples in Cities: Urban Policy Guides for Indigenous Peoples" (2009).

The needs of urban indigenous peoples must be understood and addressed from the particular framework of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and international and regional human rights instruments. These international legal sources recognise indigenous peoples' rights to their traditional lands, territories, natural resources, self-government, self-determination, and way of life which form the basis of their collective identity and their physical, economic and cultural survival. The above understanding of the nature of indigenous peoples' rights is necessary in the discussion of the measures necessary to provide access to essential services and other human rights guarantees for indigenous peoples living in urban areas.

The Special Rapporteur therefore issued a call to receive inputs to the annexed questions that will inform his upcoming report to be presented at the 76th session of the General Assembly in October 2021. The Special Rapporteur requested submissions from Member States and inter-governmental entities, UN agencies, indigenous peoples and organisations, civil society actors, humanitarian and development organizations, national human rights institutions, business representatives and other stakeholders, to contribute to the preparation of the report. All submissions will be published on the mandate webpage on the OHCHR website, unless otherwise indicated in your submission.



Urbanisation and indigenous peoples

1. What are the key factors driving the urbanisation of indigenous peoples? How has this impacted the social, economic and cultural cohesion of indigenous communities throughout the world?

2. Please provide examples of indigenous peoples continuously occupying traditional territories that have developed into metropolitan areas over time and the impact of the urbanisation on their collective rights.


    3. What are the effects of racism and racial discrimination on urban indigenous peoples? Consider access to essential services, employment, healthcare, education, child welfare, domestic violence services, law enforcement and encarceration.

      Identity, recognition and culture

      4. In what ways have indigenous peoples' collective culture and identity changed by adapting to living in urban areas? How can indigenous peoples maintain their traditional knowledge, language and connection to their traditions and ancestral lands when living in urban environments?

        At risk populations

        5. Some indigenous peoples are at even greater risk of human rights violations due to intersecting forms of discrimination including but not limited to women and girls, persons with disabilities, LGBTI persons, and children. Please explain the specific situations and views of these groups and the requirements needed to ensure that their rights are recognised and protected.

          Indigenous-led initiatives and State responses

          6. Please provide examples of resilience, best practices and strategies employed by indigenous movements or organisations to improve the living conditions of urban indigenous peoples.

          7. What are States currently doing to address the needs of urban indigenous peoples in both law and practice? Examples may include protocols to guarantee political representation, participation of urban indigenous peoples in decision making, social programs, urban planning, land use regulations, or support for indigenous-owned businesses and service providers. Please explain how the impact of these measures has improved the situation.

          8. What measures or policies can be adopted to remove existing obstacles facing urban indigenous peoples? For example, what is being done (by States or indigenous organisations) to ensure that urban indigenous peoples have access to: adequate healthcare; employment opportunities; culturally appropriate education and language instruction; housing, drinking water, sanitation and other critical infrastructure? Please specify if such measures exist but are not being adequately implemented.

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