Towards a UNESCO policy on engaging with indigenous peoples

©UNESCO. L-R. Max Ooft, Indigenous Kalinga, Suriname. Hindou Oumarou, Indigenous M'bororo pastoralist, Chad. Mechtild Rossler, Director of the Division for Heritage and the UNESCO World Heritage Centre, Culture Sector. Flavia Schlegel, Assistant Director General for the Natural Sciences Sector.

UNESCO has been working towards a policy on ‘Engaging with Indigenous Peoples’. An information session with Permanent Delegations to UNESCO was held on 2 February 2017, in preparation for the item’s consideration at the 201st session of the Executive Board in April 2017.

The 2030 Agenda commitment to ‘Leave no one behind’ brings new impetus to ensure that indigenous peoples’ priorities are heard. Following the adoption of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples by the UN General Assembly in September 2007, and the UN Development Group (UNDG) Guidelines on Indigenous Peoples’ Issues issued in 2008, it is increasingly important that UN agencies, including UNESCO, consider how to provide guidance on engaging with indigenous peoples. In this light, UNESCO’s draft policy on Engaging with Indigenous Peoples seeks to outline a house-wide approach that will guide all of UNESCO’s programme sectors in their interactions with indigenous people’s organizations.

The process of formulating this policy was launched during a side event organized on 10 November 2011 within the framework of the 10th Anniversary of the UNESCO Declaration on Cultural Diversity and the Celebration of World Science Day 2011 for Peace and Development.


©UNESCO. Hindou Oumarou speaks at the UNESCO information session "Towards a policy on engaging with indigenous peoples"

Over the last four years, UNESCO has held several consultations and meetings with indigenous peoples’ representatives and UNESCO staff in Santiago (Chile), Luanda (Angola), Chiang Mai (Thailand), New York (USA), Geneva (Switzerland) and Paris (France). Nearly 150 experts, both internal and external, have provided their inputs and contributed to the shaping of this draft.

The draft policy aims to articulate existing human rights standards taking into account the specific situation of indigenous peoples. Among others, these include:

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