Anniversary of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

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Anniversary of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

©IFAD/G.M.B.Akash

There are more than 370 million self-identified indigenous people in some 70 countries around the world. Worldwide, they account for 5 per cent of the population, but represent 15 per cent of those living in poverty.

The Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on 13 September 2007. It marked an important milestone in the recognition of dignity, well-being and rights of the world’s indigenous peoples. It established minimum international human rights standards, such as self-determination, the right to land, territories and resources and to free, prior and informed consent.

Building partnerships among indigenous peoples’ communities

For over 30 years, IFAD has supported programmes and projects that benefit indigenous peoples. In 2006, the Indigenous Peoples Assistance Facility (IPAF) moved from its former home at the World Bank to IFAD. It is an innovative financial mechanism that builds partnerships among indigenous peoples’ communities and enables them to design, approve and implement projects through grass-roots organizations. The mechanism provides grants of up to US$50,000. So far, 126 projects in 48 countries have been funded through IPAF.

IPAF serves as a listening and learning instrument and has proven to be useful in identifying indigenous peoples’ needs and supporting their proposed solutions and innovations. The IPAF fosters indigenous peoples’ self-driven development within the framework of the UNDRIP. Free, prior and informed consent is required for the implementation of each project.

A holistic approach to development

The vast majority of IPAF initiatives have a holistic perspective and address issues which are comprehensive and social-ecologically inclusive. Projects promoting livelihood opportunities, economic growth and food security also endeavour to protect biodiversity, natural resources, traditional cultures and indigenous rights, and aim to allow inclusion in society and participation in decision-making processes.

For instance, an IPAF project, approved in 2015, targeted the Bedzang Pygmy. It raised awareness about land tenure and achieved collective and individual property rights. It provided training to increase availability of nutritious food in the diet, and promoted the plantation and nurturing of fruit trees in their territories, improving the nutritional well-being of the Bedzang.

In India an eco-village model was developed for the reversal of ecological degradation of indigenous lands and commons by combining traditional knowledge systems with agro-ecological models. Empowerment and recognition of women's role as traditional keepers of the commons was a strong component of the initiative.

Where tradition and innovation meet

One of the challenges of raising awareness of cultural identity and indigenous peoples’ rights is documenting cultural and historical heritage. Using modern mapping technologies, such as global positioning system (GPS) and geographic information systems (GIS), can provide a graphic representation of the different world views and practices that indigenous peoples. With training on how to use and interpret these images, communities can use this information in territorial claims and formulate use plans to manage natural resources.

IFAD's commitment to indigenous peoples issues

IFAD's support to indigenous peoples is reflected in the Policy on Engagement with Indigenous Peoples. It focuses on protecting their rights and the right to live according to their cultural values, while involving them in fully participatory processes that include their free, prior and informed consent.

Read more on how IFAD is working with indigenous people