Indigenous Peoples

Indigenous peoples live in all regions of the world and own, occupy or use some 22% of global land area. Numbering at least 370-500 million, indigenous peoples represent the greater part of the world’s cultural diversity, and have created and speak the major share of the world’s almost 7000 languages. Many indigenous peoples continue to be confronted with marginalization, extreme poverty and other human rights violations. Through partnerships with indigenous peoples, UNESCO seeks to support them in addressing the multiple challenges they face, while acknowledging their significant role in sustaining the diversity of the world’s cultural and biological landscape.

In its current Medium-term Strategy (2008-2013), UNESCO places the needs of indigenous peoples amongst its priority areas for response.


UNESCO has broad mandates in the fields of education, natural sciences, social and human sciences, culture, and communication and information. Its policies, programmes and projects provide opportunities and have significant impacts (positive and negative) for indigenous peoples worldwide.

The 2030 Agenda commitment to ‘Leave no one behind’ brings new impetus to ensure that indigenous peoples’ priorities are heard. Following the adoption of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples by the UN General Assembly in September 2007, and the UN Development Group (UNDG) Guidelines on Indigenous Peoples’ Issues issued in 2008, it is increasingly important that UN agencies, including UNESCO, consider how to provide guidance on engaging with indigenous peoples. In this light, UNESCO’s draft policy on Engaging with Indigenous Peoples seeks to outline a house-wide approach that will guide all of UNESCO’s programme sectors in their interactions with indigenous people’s organizations. more...

Information session with Member States, July 2017

A second information session on the draft policy will be held 12 July 2017 in the UNESCO headquarters, Paris.


Consultation with Member States, May-June 2017

Following the discussions at the 201st session of the Executive Board to organize consultations on the UNESCO Policy on Indigenous Peoples, Member States have been invited to submit comments on the draft presented before 29 June 2017.

Executive Board discussion on the policy, April 2017

The 201st session of the Executive Board saw a first discussion on the UNESCO policy on engaging with indigenous peoples. more...

Information meeting, February 2017

An information session with Permanent Delegations to UNESCO was held on 2 February 2017, in preparation for the item’s consideration at the 201st session of the Executive Board in April 2017. more...

Drafting process

Over the last four years, UNESCO has held several consultations and meetings with indigenous peoples’ representatives and UNESCO staff in Santiago (Chile), Luanda (Angola), Chiang Mai (Thailand), New York (USA), Geneva (Switzerland) and Paris (France). Nearly 150 experts, both internal and external, have provided their inputs and contributed to the shaping of this draft.

Launch of policy drafting process

UNESCO’s work on developing a policy on engaging with indigenous peoples was launched during the 36th General Conference, at an event organized on 10 November 2011 within the framework of the 10th Anniversary of the UNESCO Declaration on Cultural Diversity and the Celebration of World Science Day 2011 for Peace and Development. more...


About the Day

The International Day of the World's Indigenous Peoples, celebrated each year on 9 August, marks the day of the first meeting, in 1982, of the UN Working Group on Indigenous Populations of the Subcommission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights.

Lead Assistant Director-General: Flavia Schlegel, ADG for the Natural Sciences UNESCO

Focal Point for Indigenous Peoples: Douglas Nakashima, Chief, Section for Small Islands and Indigenous Knowledge (indigenouspeoples [at]

Focal points for Programmes and Central Services:

- Culture: Edmond Moukala (for World Heritage) and Susanne Schnuttgen

- Communication and Information: Irmgarda Kasinskaite

- Education: Mari Yasunaga

- Natural Sciences: Douglas Nakashima

- Social and Human Sciences: Golda El-khoury

- Africa: Vincenzo Fazzino

- Gender: Cvetan Cvetkovski

- Strategic planning: Iulia Nechifor