Skip to main content

About the mandate

Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples

Under the basic principles of universality, equality and non-discrimination, Indigenous Peoples are entitled to the full range of rights established under international law. Their equal worth and dignity must be assured both through  individual and collective rights. This has led to the development of a specific body of international instruments to recognise and protect the rights of Indigenous Peoples. 

Human Rights Council resolution 51/16 requests the Special Rapporteur:

  1. To examine ways and means of overcoming existing obstacles to the full and effective protection of the rights of Indigenous Peoples, and to identify, exchange and promote best practices;
  2. To gather, request, receive and exchange information and communications from all relevant sources, including Governments, Indigenous Peoples and their communities and organizations, including Indigenous women’s organizations, on alleged violations and abuses of the rights of Indigenous Peoples;
  3. To formulate recommendations and proposals on appropriate measures and activities to prevent and remedy violations and abuses of the rights of Indigenous Peoples;
  4. To work in close cooperation and coordination with other special procedures and subsidiary organs of the Human Rights Council, in particular with the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, relevant United Nations bodies, the treaty bodies and regional human rights organizations;
  5. To enhance engagement with and participate in the annual sessions of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues and of the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples to ensure complementarity between their work;
  6. To develop a regular cooperative dialogue with all relevant actors, including Governments, relevant United Nations bodies, specialized agencies, funds and programmes, and with Indigenous Peoples, national human rights institutions, non-governmental organizations and other regional or subregional international institutions, including on possibilities for technical cooperation at the request of Governments;
  7. To promote the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and international instruments relevant to the advancement of the rights of Indigenous Peoples.

In carrying out these different activities, the Special Rapporteur is also requested to pay a special attention to the human rights and fundamental freedoms of, inter alia, Indigenous children, women, young persons, older persons, persons with disabilities and persons in vulnerable situations and to mainstream a gender perspective into the performance of the mandate, as well as to consider relevant recommendations of world conferences, summits and other United Nations meetings and the recommendations, observations and conclusions of the treaty bodies. The Special Rapporteur is requested to submit a report on the implementation of his/her mandate to the Human Rights Council and the General Assembly in accordance with its annual programme of work.

The resolution renewing the mandate also requested the Special Rapporteur to participate in relevant international dialogues and policy forums on the rights of Indigenous Peoples and related issues, including on the consequences that climate change has for Indigenous Peoples, to undertake thematic research and to develop cooperative dialogue with States, intergovernmental organizations, civil society and other stakeholders on effective and sustainable practices and possible solutions.

Thematic studies

As part of his mandate, the Special Rapporteur conducts studies on issues or themes that are of concern to indigenous peoples across borders and regions of the world. Thematic studies are helpful in identifying major issues and for providing recommendations for subsequent positive practical action and reform. Past thematic studies have included examination of the following topics, among others:

  • Attacks and criminalisation of Indigenous human rights defenders
  • The implementation of domestic laws and international standards to protect Indigenous rights
  • The relationship between formal State law and customary Indigenous law
  • International norms concerning Indigenous peoples
  • Autonomy and self-governance

Undertaking thematic studies frequently involves the organization of consultations and the participation in conferences or symposiums on specific human rights issues.

Promotion of good practices

The Human Rights Council has directed the Special Rapporteur to “identify… and promote best practices.” In this regard, the Special Rapporteur has focused on working to advance legal, administrative, and structural reforms at the domestic level to implement the standards of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and other relevant international instruments. Such national reforms are long and complex and require a strong commitment, both financial and political, on the part of Governments.

In working towards the promotion of good practices, the Special Rapporteur engages in the following types of activities:

  • Providing assistance and encouragement for constitutional and legislative reform initiatives to harmonize such initiatives with relevant international standards
  • Monitoring the implementation of recommendations made by the Special Rapporteur and other mechanisms, including through follow-up country visits
  • Encouraging steps toward improving relations between indigenous peoples, States, and other stakeholders through agreements and other constructive arrangements
  • Participating in seminars and conferences that address indigenous peoples’ human rights, attended by Governments, non-governmental organizations, indigenous peoples and their leaders, and other interested parties
  • Promoting behavior by business enterprises that is respectful of indigenous rights

Information on these activities and the contributions the Special Rapporteur endeavors to make to developing good practices can be found in Special reports, as well as in parts of the Annual reports.