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Development Account Projects

Enhancing the capacity of Governments and indigenous leaders to ensure social integration and inclusive development in Africa and Asia


Indigenous people constitute 15 per cent of the world’s poor and approximately one third of the world’s 900 million extremely poor rural people. Yet, because they live in fragile ecosystems increasingly under threat by the commercial exploitation of natural resources and unsustainable practices, they continue to suffer discrimination, marginalization, extreme poverty and conflict. The traditional livelihoods and ecological knowledge of indigenous peoples, as stewards of a great deal of the world’s biodiversity, can contribute significantly to the design and implementation of appropriate sustainable development policies and would be important partners in the planning and implementation of sustainable development.

The United Nations has recognized the need to address the vulnerabilities of indigenous peoples through various means. These have included, inter alia, the establishment of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The Declaration calls upon States to take appropriate measures for its implementation, including a review of existing legislation, policies and administrative programmes. Such measures will require that government officials and indigenous leaders be informed about the Declaration and related international instruments, and that practical measures be taken for its implementation, such as the establishment of mechanisms to facilitate the participation of those two groups.

Currently, such participatory mechanisms are often lacking, contributing to the risk of tensions between indigenous peoples and Governments. Indigenous leaders, on the one hand, tend to be effective activists at the local and national levels, yet lack the skills necessary to effectively engage in constructive dialogue with Governments. The general public and government officials, on the other, lack awareness of indigenous peoples’ rights, leading to limited capacity to engage with them and civil society in general.

Building on previous experience with training programmes, the Department of Economic and Social Affairs proposes training modules that bring indigenous leaders and government officials together as one possible way to move forward with respect to the implementation of the Declaration and related instruments. Building on such training, the project envisions the organization of policy dialogues between indigenous leaders and government officials that will lead to the development of strategies and initiatives for the implementation of the Declaration. These capacity development efforts will be focused on selected countries that have significant indigenous populations, organized in some form, and on Governments that recognize the need for the cooperative implementation of the Declaration. The project will focus on the Asia-Pacific region, which is home to about 70 per cent of the world’s indigenous people, yet reflects limited political participation and representation of indigenous peoples in national legislative processes, and on Africa, where indigenous peoples’ collective claims to land and natural resources are denied as a result of similarly limited recognition. The project will place a strong emphasis on indigenous youth and women. It will be implemented in close cooperation with ESCWA and ESCAP, as well as United Nations country teams.


To promote social integration and inclusive development in national programmes and policies based on the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in four selected countries in Africa and Asia

Expected accomplishments:

  • Enhanced capacity of local and national governments and indigenous leaders to develop policies and programmes that ensure social integration and inclusive development in selected target countries
  • Establishment of consultative mechanisms among government representatives and representatives of indigenous peoples’ organizations that contribute to legal frameworks, policies and administrative programmes that promote and implement the rights of indigenous people

Implementation status:

In progress.