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COVID-19 and indigenous peoples

OHCHR and indigenous peoples

In the face of such threats, indigenous peoples have demonstrated extraordinary resilience.

United Nations Secretary-General, António Guterres, 9 August 2020.


The COVID-19 pandemic is disproportionately affecting indigenous peoples - in some cases even posing a critical threat to their survival - underlying structural inequalities and pervasive discrimination.

Reaction by States to the pandemic has been mixed, with some States rolling out COVID-19 programmes specifically focusing on indigenous peoples. Others have been providing a more limited level of support and some States are failing to adopt specific policies and at times neglecting to include indigenous peoples in general COVID-19 responses.

At the same time, indigenous peoples, as active agents and drivers of change, are finding their own solutions to respond to the health crisis, relying on traditional knowledge and practices, through their own representative institutions or self-government. Response and recovery efforts must recognize and incorporate indigenous traditional knowledge into decision-making, including their traditional indigenous medical practices.

The design of COVID-19 response and recovery measures must be respectful of the rights of indigenous peoples, including the requirement to obtain their Free, Prior and Informed Consent when developing and implementing measures affecting them. At the same time, indigenous peoples’ representatives, leaders and traditional authorities need to be included in any entity or process dedicated to COVID‐19 response and recovery.

To leave no-one behind, the key role of indigenous peoples in addressing the COVID 19 pandemic must be recognized, and their rights, needs and priorities must be promoted and protected. The disaggregation of statistics related to indigenous peoples’ situation is essential for developing culturally appropriate targeted actions and reliable results.