EGM: Indigenous Peoples and Pandemics, 7-11 December 2020


Indigenous woman at health clinic

Every year, the Indigenous Peoples and Development Branch within the Division for Inclusive Social Development of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs organizes an international expert group meeting (EGM) on a theme recommended by the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues and endorsed by the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC).

Although this year’s annual session of the Permanent Forum was unable to take place in New York owing to the COVID-19 pandemic, in an online meeting, it decided that the theme for the 2020 session of the Forum will be “Indigenous Peoples and Pandemics.”

The expert group meeting will focus on the situation of indigenous peoples specifically during COVID-19, taking into consideration the significant challenges already faced by indigenous populations.


Throughout centuries, indigenous peoples worldwide have experienced the introduction of epidemics and pandemics brought to their communities by outsiders. Furthermore, indigenous peoples are often disproportionately affected by epidemics and other crises, and indigenous women and girls are even more negatively affected due to gender, ethnicity and scarce economic resources.

The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed pre-existing inequalities in all regions across the globe, where some social groups and peoples have been hit much harder than others. Indigenous peoples are more vulnerable to the direct (health) and indirect (economic, food security) effects of COVID-19, with generally higher infection and death rates than the overall population.

Owing to the ongoing spread of COVID-19, the EGM is scheduled to take place online during the week of 7-11 December 2020. The meeting will consist of five sessions, each one with a duration of two hours over the course of 5 days. Translation will be available in English, Spanish, Portuguese and French.

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  • Assessing the challenges that indigenous peoples face in addressing pandemics and their effects.
  • Documenting and disseminating good practices of indigenous peoples, Member States and other stakeholders in combating the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Identifying concrete programmatic and policy responses to address the specific situation of indigenous peoples in addressing the direct and indirect effects of the pandemic.
  • Raising awareness and action to address the concerns and challenges faced by indigenous peoples regarding the adverse impacts of the pandemic on their well-being.
  • Drawing lessons from actions taken by governments, NGO’s and academia to engage with indigenous peoples to respond to the consequences of the pandemic.
  • Preparing policy recommendations.

The meeting will result in a report that will form part of the official documentation for the 2021 session of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues.

Proposed themes and dates:
Monday, 7 December, 9 AM EST (New York time)  

Session 1: Indigenous Peoples, Pandemics and the Right to health

Tuesday, 8 December, 9 PM EST (New York time)
Session 2:
Socio-economic impacts and consequences of pandemics on Indigenous Peoples

Wednesday, 9 December, 9 PM EST (New York time)
Session 3:
Self-determination, participation rights and access to information

Thursday, 10 December, 9 AM EST (New York time)
Session 4: 
Indigenous peoples’ innovations, responses and traditional knowledge 

Friday, 11 December: 9 AM EST (New York time)
Session 5: 
Building back better: Opportunities and challenges for Indigenous Peoples, states, academia and civil society to lay together the foundations for a different future


Registration will be open to Indigenous Peoples’ Organizations, Member States, NGOs in consultative status with ECOSOC, academic institutions, and UN entities.