In recent years, there have been significant advances in international thinking and action on indigenous issues and rights, including the landmark adoption of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in 2007.
The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights has played an important role in these developments and indigenous issues and the implementation of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples remain a priority for the OHCHR.
The Office contributes actively to the Inter-agency Support Group on Indigenous Issues, notably to roll-out the UN Development Group Guidelines on Indigenous Peoples Issues. It conducts training on indigenous issues for UN Country Teams and for OHCHR field presences.
The Office also builds capacity amongst indigenous peoples, including through its fellowship programme for indigenous representatives, offered in four languages. Furthermore, the Office services the Board of Trustees of the Voluntary Fund for Indigenous Populations, composed of five indigenous representatives. The Fund supports the participation of representatives of indigenous communities and organizations in the annual sessions of the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues.
In addition, the Office assists the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous peoples, and it also supports the new Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, including by organising its sessions. Following the inaugural session of the Mechanism, the Office organized an inclusive workshop to contribute to the Expert Mechanism’s study on the right of indigenous peoples to education, which was submitted to the Human Rights Council in September 2009.
The Office carries out a range of country specific and regional activities to advance the rights of indigenous peoples. It provides support for legislative initiatives and pursues thematic work on issues such as extractive industries and on the rights of isolated indigenous peoples.
United Nations Indigenous Peoples’ Partnership
The United Nations launched a new initiative to promote and protect the rights of indigenous peoples, aiming to strengthen their institutions and ability to fully participate in governance and policy processes at the local and national levels. The initiative named the UN Indigenous Peoples’ Partnership (UNIPP) was launched on 20 May 2011 at the side-lines of the 10th Session of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues. It will function through a Multi-Donor Trust Fund with the primary aim of supporting joint UN programmes at the country level, in partnership with indigenous peoples.
UNIPP Policy Board held its inaugural session on 20 July 2011 in Geneva, where the Policy Board adopted governance and operational documents, along with strategic priorities. The Policy Board identified focus countries and key thematic priorities: legislative review and reform; access to justice and strengthening of indigenous customary law and justice systems; access to land and ancestral territories; the impact of extractive industries on indigenous peoples; the right to education and health, and the rights of indigenous women, children and youth.
The United Nations‐Indigenous Peoples’ Partnership is a collaborative framework established by the International Labour Organization (ILO), the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
UNFPA recently signed on to the partnership after its launch in New York.
UNDG Guidelines on Indigenous Peoples issues
The United Nations Development Group approved Guidelines on Indigenous Peoples' Issues on 1 February 2008. The Guidelines are designed to assist UN Country Teams integrate indigenous peoples' issues into country policies and programmes. The Guidelines were drafted by a group on UN organizations and specialized agencies under the aegis of the Inter-Agency Support Group on Indigenous Peoples' Issues.