Indigenous Peoples' Forum at IFAD

Speaking from the floor at the Indigenous Peoples' Forum. ©IFAD/Giulio Napolitano


Indigenous peoples around the world have repeatedly asked for a more systematic dialogue with United Nations agencies. In response, IFAD has taken a series of initiatives to establish such a dialogue. The IFAD Policy on Engagement with Indigenous Peoples, approved by the Executive Board in September 2009, includes partnership with indigenous peoples as one of the key instruments to deploy its principles of engagement.

To institutionalize that partnership, the global meeting of the Indigenous Peoples' Forum at IFAD convenes every second February in connection with the Governing Council, IFAD's main decision-making body. A series of regional workshops lead up to each global meeting, ensuring that the Forum reflects the diversity of perspectives and recommendations gathered from indigenous peoples around the world.

Through these consultations with indigenous peoples' representatives at the national, regional and international levels, the Forum aims to improve IFAD's accountability, enhance its development effectiveness and exercise leadership among development organizations. It is a unique initiative within the UN system.

Objectives of the Forum

IFAD is not new to such a consultation process. In establishing the Indigenous Peoples' Forum, IFAD built on the experience derived from its Farmers' Forum, an ongoing dialogue on rural development and poverty reduction among small farmers' and rural producers' organizations, IFAD and governments.

From IFAD's perspective, the objectives of the Indigenous Peoples' Forum are to:

  • Discuss the assessment of IFAD's engagement with indigenous peoples among IFAD staff, member states and indigenous peoples' representatives
  • Consult on rural development and poverty reduction
  • Promote the participation of indigenous peoples' organizations in IFAD's activities at the country, regional and international levels.

The Forum focuses on indigenous peoples' involvement in the development of IFAD's country strategies, project design, implementation and monitoring processes, and in policy dialogue and advocacy. These activities help IFAD to implement its Policy on Engagement with Indigenous Peoples and translate the policy's principles into action on the ground. The Forum also promotes accountability by encouraging indigenous peoples' representatives to provide feedback on IFAD's operations.

Founding workshop and principles

The first step towards establishment of the Indigenous Peoples' Forum at IFAD was a workshop organized by IFAD with the support of the International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs in February 2011. At the two-day event, representatives of indigenous peoples' organizations and IFAD discussed the possible direction, scope, objectives and structure of the Forum, including governance and participation criteria.

The workshop produced a statement with clear direction and guidelines on the Forum's management. Every other year, the statement said, the global meeting of the Forum will bring together 20 to 30 indigenous peoples' representatives, including:

Beyond IFAD's direct partnership with indigenous peoples, the Forum was also mandated to promote partnerships and networks more broadly by actively linking indigenous peoples' grassroots, national and regional organizations to their international representatives and to UNPFII.

Finally, participants in the founding workshop agreed upon a roadmap for the ensuing two years, which culminated in the first global meeting of the Forum.