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Indigenous Peoples

Living in direct contact with the environment has given indigenous and tribal peoples substantial insights into the natural world and has rendered them specialists in sustainable natural resources management. At the same time, however, Indigenous and tribal peoples have to contend with continued and increasing pressures from both the environment and fellow human beings. They often constitute the poorest segment of the societies where they live. Their ways of life are in many cases threatened by economic growth and globalisation processes. Without attention to their special needs, entire societies can be irreparably damaged. Furthermore, indigenous peoples are disproportionately represented among the victims of human rights abuses, conflict, child labour, forced labour and trafficking. Indigenous women face additional gender-based marginalization and discrimination. Improving indigenous peoples’ situation is crucial to ensuring general respect for fundamental principles and rights at work, as outlined in the ILO’s Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work (1998).

If on one hand the application of the rights of indigenous peoples should be promoted and supervised, on the other it should be also ensured that indigenous and tribal peoples benefit from and participate in broader programmes to further decent work and international labour standards, and that indigenous economies are strengthened in the process. The ILO Convention No. 169 on Indigenous and Tribal Peoples, 1989 has been ratified by 22countries and is internationally recognized as the foremost instrument on the subject in force today. Such Convention, based on the fundamental concepts of consultation and participation, is a comprehensive instrument covering a range of issues pertaining to indigenous and tribal peoples, including land rights, access to natural resources, health, education, vocational training, contacts and co-operation across borders and conditions of employment. In 2007, furthermore, the UN General Assembly adopted the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which represents the highest international standard for the protection of indigenous peoples’ rights and livelihoods, urging governments to make more concerted efforts on their behalf.

FAO has developed a corporate Policy on Indigenous and Tribal Peoples that was approved in August of 2010. The policy provides a framework to guide FAO’s work where indigenous peoples are concerned, ensuring that the Organization will make all due efforts to respect, promote and include indigenous issues in relevant work.

The UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (PFII) is an advisory body to the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), with a mandate to discuss indigenous issues related to economic and social development, culture, the environment, education, health and human rights. The Inter-Agency Support Group on Indigenous Issues (IASG) was established to support and promote the mandate of the PFII within the United Nations system. It allows the UN system and other intergovernmental organizations to analyze recommendations made by the Forum with a view to facilitating comprehensive and coordinated responses. The IASG involves 31 members, including FAO and ILO.

In the frame of PFII and IASG activities, ILO research on poverty reduction processes and indigenous peoples was presented to PFII fourth and fifth sessions (2005 and 2006), and is now being followed up through concrete action at the national level. Over the last year, the ILO has also undertaken new research to document specific indigenous communities’ perceptions and assessment of the implementation of the MDGs. FAO has been undertaking various activities in relation to the recommendations of the PFII and indigenous peoples more generally. This work includes among other things, the Globally Important Indigenous Agricultural Heritage Systems (GIAHS) project, the delimitation of indigenous territories, the documentation of indigenous knowledge about agricultural systems and traditional foods, the development of guidelines on the right to food of indigenous peoples, the creation of small-scale enterprises, and consultative work on Indigenous Peoples Indicators in the framework of the SARD Initiativeand consultative work on Indigenous Peoples Indicators in the framework of the SARD Initiative.

Contacts

FAO Focal Point: Regina Laub, ESW (Regina.Laub@fao.org)

FILO Focal Ponit: Birgitte Feiring, NORMES (feiring@ilo.org)