21 February, 2019

UN & IPs in Developing Countries: An Evolving Partnership

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UN & IPs in Developing Countries: An Evolving Partnership

Since the turn of the millennium, the UN system has made solid progress to strengthen its attention and support to indigenous peoples, with the establishment of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues and the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, the appointment of a UN Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples—and the adoption of UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. These developments confirm the relevance and importance of indigenous issues to the core purposes of the United Nations, and provide the UN system with a common normative framework and specialized mechanisms to promote implementation within Members States and the UN system itself.



The UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) was adopted by the UN General Assembly in 2007. The adoption provided a renewed impetus for the promotion of indigenous peoples’ rights, as it facilitated and enhanced UN inter-agency collaboration and motivated a proliferation of institutional policies on support to indigenous peoples.

In September 2014, the UN General Assembly has organized the High Level Plenary Meeting, known as the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples (WCIP). The objectives of the WCIP are to share perspectives and best practices on the realization of the rights of indigenous peoples, including to pursue the objectives of the UNDRIP.

At the Global Indigenous Preparatory Conference, held in June 2013 in Alta, indigenous representatives from all regions of the world identified UN system action for the implementation of the rights of indigenous peoples, as one of four core themes to be addressed at the WCIP. The Preparatory Conference recommended, inter alia, that:

  • All UN agencies, programs and funds engaging in activities impacting on Indigenous Peoples appoint an officer, or establish a team of officers on a permanent and full-time basis, with particular responsibility to ensure that all such activities are responsive to and adapted for the particular situation of Indigenous Peoples and to provide training and capacity building for all new and existing UN staff regarding Indigenous Peoples’ rights;
  • All UN agencies, funds and programmes engaging in activities impacting on Indigenous Peoples form advisory councils or forums composed of representatives of Indigenous Peoples including women, youth and persons with disabilities to engage in dialogue and provide advice on policy making and country and regional level operations;
  • States, UN agencies and donor groups ensure that the rights of Indigenous Peoples are respected in development aid cooperation.

In order to take stock of efforts already undertaken by the UN system for the realization of the rights of indigenous peoples; to identify best practices; and to provide recommendations for further action, Tebtebba, in collaboration with Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact, has undertaken the present review of UN system efforts for the realization of indigenous peoples’ rights.

Specifically, the review focuses on:

  • The institutional efforts of the UN system to promote and apply UNDRIP through financial cooperation and technical assistance;
  • The Common Country Analysis and UN Development Framework (CCA/UNDAF) and related technical assistance programs in a sample of African, Asian and Lain-American countries to assess the country-level efforts to promote and apply UNDRIP.

Given the magnitude of the task to undertake a review of the entire UN system, as well as the constraints in terms of available time and resources, it was decided to initially focus on an illustrative sample of UN agencies and developing countries across Africa, Asia and Latin America. To that effect, the review team initially sought the input from four UN agencies that have particular experience and mandates pertaining to indigenous peoples, namely the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), the International Labour Organization (ILO), the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). These agencies kindly contributed to the review by submitting information and allowing the team to undertake follow-up interviews.

In parallel, country-specific case studies were undertaken in Bangladesh, Bolivia, Cambodia, Namibia, Nicaragua and Kenya, looking at the efforts of the full range of UN agencies to address indigenous peoples’ issues at the country level. The UN Resident Coordinators and Country Teams in the concerned countries kindly facilitated these studies.

While the contributions of these agencies and country teams were extremely important, the review has also taken into account other significant experiences from other agencies and countries through comprehensive desk review of policies, programs and projects. However, the review has not been able to comprehensively and in details document or pay justice to the numerous, diverse and important efforts of the UN system to work with and address indigenous peoples. It is also beyond the scope of this review to make an assessment of the results and impact of the individual initiatives. It is, however, hoped that the examples highlighted in this review can serve as a catalogue of ideas to inspire both indigenous representatives and UN officials. Moreover, the examples presented here have served to identify more general contributions, shortcomings, best practices, opportunities and barriers, which has led to a number of general recommendations, which hopefully can inspire further action.

The team of consultants who collaboratively worked on the review are Maria Eugenia Choque Quispe (Bolivia), Birgitte Feiring (overall coordination and editor), Binota Moy Dhamai (Bangladesh), Johnson Ole Kaunga (Kenya), Dennis Mairena (Nicaragua), Sille Stidsen (editorial assistance), Sek Sophorn (Cambodia), Abhilash Tripura (Bangladesh) and Joram Jurgen |Useb (Namibia).

The team would like to express its appreciation of the openness and constructive collaboration they met from UN agency staff, both at country-level and at headquarters, which reflects the developing partnership between indigenous peoples and the UN system.



   Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, UN Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples
   Joan Carling, Secretary General, AIPP

Executive Summary

Chapter One: Policies and Safeguards
1.1     The UN Declaration Sets the Overall Framework for the UN System
1.2 Mechanisms to Promote Indigenous Peoples’ Rights
1.3     Institutional Policies on Indigenous Peoples
1.4     UNDP Social and Environmental Standards
1.5     Experiences, Good Practices and Recommendation: Policies and Safeguards

Chapter Two: Inter-Agency Collaboration
2.1     The Role of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues
2.2     Global and Regional Inter-Agency Collaboration
2.3     Inter-Agency Cooperation at the National Level
2.4     The UN Indigenous Peoples’ Partnership
2.5     Experiences, Good Practices and Recommendations: Inter-Agency Collaboration

Chapter Three: Mechanisms for Consultation and Participation of Indigenous Peoples
3.1 The Indigenous Peoples’ Forum at IFAD
3.2 Funds to Facilitate Participation
3.3     Involvement in Governance Structures
3.4     Regional and National Mechanisms for Consultation
3.5     Making participation Effective at Country-Level
3.6     Experiences, Good Practices and Recommendations: Consultation, Participation and Consent

Chapter Four: Targeted Programs and Funds
4.1     Global and Regional Technical Cooperation Programs
4.2     Small Grants Facilities
4.3     Experiences, Good Practices, Recommendations: Targeted Programs and Funds

Chapter Five: Mainstreaming within Agencies
5.1     Overall Programming and Monitoring
5.2     Monitoring Programme Impact
5.3     Financial Allocations
5.4     Staff Resources
5.5     Staff Training
5.6     Staff Diversity
5.7     Experiences, Good Practices and Recommendations: Mainstreaming

Chapter Six: Programming at Country-Level
6.1     Addressing Indigenous Peoples in Country-Level Programming
6.2     Targeting Indigenous Peoples in Country Programs
6.3     Overcoming Barriers and Facilitating Dialogue
6.4     Experiences, Good Practices and Recommendations: Country-level Programming

Annex: Outcome Document of the WCIP


Download .pdf version here.