Indigenous Peoples Around the World

Indigenous peoples represent remarkable diversity – more than 5,000 distinct groups in some 90 countries. They make up more than 5 per cent of the world’s population, some 370 million people. Yet, they are among the most disadvantaged and vulnerable. Today, many indigenous peoples struggle to remain on their lands and retain the right to their natural resources. Other indigenous peoples have long since been removed from their lands, denied their languages and traditional ways, and have consequently been left impoverished.

Engagement with the United Nations

Indigenous peoples are effective advocates for their rights and they have engaged the United Nations since its establishment. Indeed, they also brought their concerns to the League of Nations earlier in the 1920s. However, little progress was made until the 1980s, when the Working Group on Indigenous Populations was established in Geneva and the ILO adopted Convention No. 169 on Indigenous and Tribal Peoples. The First International Decade of the World’s Indigenous Peoples was launched in 1994 followed by a Second Decade, which will end in December 2014.

During these two decades, the United Nations and indigenous peoples have made significant progress in their collaboration, with the establishment of the Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues. In 2007 the General Assembly adopted the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The Declaration sets out minimum standards for the survival, dignity and well-being of the indigenous peoples of the world.

The World Conference on Indigenous Peoples

The General Assembly, in its resolution 65/198 pdf of 21 December 2010, decided to organize a high-level plenary meeting of the General Assembly, to be known as the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples, in order to share perspectives and best practices on the realization of the rights of indigenous peoples, including pursuing the objectives of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

In its resolution 66/296, the General Assembly further decided that the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples would be held on 22 September 2014 and in the afternoon of 23 September 2014 in New York.

The World Conference was composed of two plenary meetings in the form of an opening and a closing session, three interactive round-table discussions and one interactive panel discussion, with the opening meeting beginning at 9 a.m. on 22 September 2014, followed, in the afternoon, by two round-table discussions taking place simultaneously.

To provide valuable input into the preparatory process for the World Conference, the President of the General Assembly organized on 17 and 18 June 2014 an informal interactive hearing with representatives of indigenous peoples and representatives of entities of the United Nations system, academic institutions, national human rights institutions, parliamentarians, civil society and non-governmental organizations, in accordance with the relevant provisions of the present resolution.

The World Conference resulted in a concise, action-oriented outcome document prepared on the basis of inclusive and open informal consultations with Member States and indigenous peoples.