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, French and Portuguese.


Concept Note

Click here to read concept note.



  • 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.



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

Please note that as the event has passed, registration is now closed.


Session Themes, Dates and Agenda
Monday, 7 December, 9 AM EST (New York time)  

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

  • From an historical point of view, how have indigenous peoples dealt with epidemics, pandemics and their related impacts in the past? 
  • What are the preexisting health conditions for indigenous peoples and the limitations to access health services?  
  • What are the best practices of culturally appropriate health services for indigenous peoples during the pandemic? 

Opening remarks

  • Anne Nuorgam, Chair of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues 
  • Francisco Calí Tzay, Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples


  • Dr. Lana Potts, Medical Doctor, Indigenous Health and First Nation Expert
  • Gabriela Pimentel & Martin Oelz, International Labour Organization (ILO); and Robie Halip, Indigenous Peoples Major Group
  • Ana Riviere-Cinnamond, Regional Adviser, Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO)

General discussion

Chandra Roy Henriksen, Chief, Indigenous Peoples and Development Branch/Secretariat of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, UN-DESA

Session 1 Facebook Live >>>

Presentations from Monday’s session

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

  • What are some of the impacts of the pandemic on indigenous peoples related to livelihoods, poverty, inequality, migration, access to education, sanitation, housing, etc.?
  • How has the pandemic affected indigenous women, youth, children, elders, persons with disabilities and Indigenous Peoples living in voluntary isolation?
  • How has the pandemic impacted pre-existing threats to indigenous peoples, such as climate change, extractive industries, natural disasters and human rights violations?


  • Sônia Guajajara, Articulation of Indigenous Peoples of the Amazon, Brazil
  • Mayfereen Ryntathiang, President of Grassroot Organization Meghalaya, India
  • Kristen Carpenter, Member of the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and Professor, University of Colorado
  • Adan Pari, Education Officer, United Nations Children´s Fund (UNICEF)
  • Pratima Gurung, General Secretary, Indigenous Persons with Disabilities Global Network

General discussion

Geoffrey Roth, Member of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues & Interim Executive Director, Native Americans in Philanthropy

Session 2 Facebook Live >>>

Presentations from Tuesday’s session

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

  • Are Indigenous Peoples included or consulted in national decision-making processes, policies or strategies regarding the pandemic?
  • Do Indigenous Peoples have access culturally appropriate information about the pandemic in their own languages?
  • Are national health authorities collecting and sharing information, including statistical data about the Indigenous Peoples related to the pandemic? 
  • What are some good practices related to Indigenous Peoples’ rights to participation and inclusion? 


  • Pallab Chakma, Executive Director, Kappeeng Foundation, Bangladesh
  • Dr. James Makokis, Saddle Lake Cree Nation, Canada
  • Boris Miranda, BBC Multimedia Reporter covering Latin American issues
  • Dr. Aleeta Fejo, Indigenous General Practitioner Registrar Network, Australia
  • Joyce Godio, Global Research Coordinator, Indigenous Peoples Rights International, The Philippines 

General discussion

Brian Keane, Chair of the Board of Directors, Land is Life

Session 3 Facebook Live >>>

Presentations from Wednesday’s session

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

  • What are some of the initiatives, responses, contributions and good practices initiated by Indigenous Peoples to combat pandemics, such as traditional health and emergency protocols, governance, livelihood and sustainability, information and data gathering?
  • How has cooperation between indigenous organizations, governments, international organizations, academia, NGOs and civil society worked during the pandemic?
  • Have culturally appropriate public health policies been designed by, for and with indigenous peoples in the context of the pandemic?


  • Justino Piaguaje, Siekopai Nation Leader, Ecuador
  • Ihab El Masry, Veterinary Epidemiologist, Food and Health Organization (FAO) & Dr. Juan Lubroth, Doctor of Veterinary Medicine / PhD Epidemiology and Public Health at Lubroth One Health Consultancies
  • Daria Egereva, Center for Support of Indigenous Peoples of the North
  • Sandra del Pino & Adrian Diaz (PAHO); and Nemo Andy, Health Advisor, CONFENIAE
  • Dr. Evan Adams, Deputy Chief Medical Officer of Public Health, Indigenous Services Canada

General discussion

Darío José Mejía Montalvo, Member of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues

Session 4 Facebook Live >>>

Presentations from Thursday’s session

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

  • Does the pandemic present opportunities for indigenous peoples and governments to re-imagine important aspects of society, including the role of government and institutions, how we work, go to school, prepare our food and our relationships between peoples and with our environment, etc.?  
  • How should social protection responses and policies be tailored to meet the current and future needs of indigenous peoples?


  • Francisco Calí Tzay, Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
  • Dr. Myrna Cunningham, President, Indigenous Fund for Latin America and the Caribbean
  • Minnie Grey, Executive Director, Nunavuk Regional Board of Health and Social Services
  • James Ford, Professor, University of Leeds & Ingrid Artoma Rojas, Carol Zavaleta, Maria Osipova, Didas Namanya

General discussion

Tove Søvndal Gant, Member of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues

Session 5 Facebook Live >>>

Presentations from Friday’s session




Outreach and Social Media 

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