Indigenous peoples

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Towards a UNESCO policy on engaging with indigenous peoples

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.

 

The 202nd session of the UNESCO Executive Board will discuss the revised draft of the UNESCO policy on engaging with indigenous peoples. More information on the Executive Board can be found here. The revised draft that will be discussed can be found here in English, French, Spanish, Russian, Arabic and Chinese.

A second information session on the draft policy was held on 12 July 2017 at the UNESCO headquarters, Paris. The presentation made by the Secretariat can be downloaded here.

Following the decision at the 201st session of the Executive Board to organize consultations on the UNESCO Policy on engaging with indigenous peoples, Member States were invited to submit comments on the draft policy found in the Annex to 201 EX/6.

The compilation of comments in original languages as of 13 July 2017 can be found here. This supersedes the earlier version that was online from 7 to 13 July 2017.

List of Member States, Permanent Observers and UN bodies from whom comments were received:

Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Holy See, Norway, the Philippines, the Russian Federation, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Sweden, Turkey, Uganda, Ukraine, the United States of America and the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues

Resources:

The 201st session of the Executive Board saw a first discussion on the UNESCO policy on engaging with indigenous peoples. At the end of the debates, the Executive Board decided the following:

UNESCO policy on engaging with indigenous peoples (201 EX/6; 201 EX/41)

The Executive Board,

1. Having examined document 201 EX/6,

2. Bearing in mind the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples,

3. Expresses its gratitude to the Director-General for the efforts made to propose a UNESCO policy on engaging with indigenous peoples;

4. Notes the recent proclamation by the United Nations General Assembly of 2019 as International Year of Indigenous Languages, and welcomes the Director-General’s decision to accept the invitation for UNESCO to serve as lead agency for the Year, within existing resources;

5. Appreciates the presentation of the draft UNESCO policy on engaging with indigenous peoples;

6. Considers that the draft UNESCO policy on engaging with indigenous peoples might serve as a basis for further consultations with Member States;

7. Requests the Director-General to organize the above-mentioned consultations so as to prepare a revised draft to be presented to it at its 202nd session;

8. Encourages Member States to make voluntary financial and in-kind contributions to support UNESCO’s activities for indigenous peoples. (201 EX/SR.10)

 

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.

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.

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.

Today, policy frameworks and standards for human rights and development are evolving rapidly. In particular, the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples was adopted by the UN General Assembly in September 2007, while in 2008 the UN Development Group (UNDG) issued the UNDG Guidelines on Indigenous Peoples’ Issues. Indigenous peoples, governments and other actors legitimately demand that UN agencies take clear policy positions in relation to indigenous peoples’ rights and issues as they relate to their respective mandates.

UNESCO similarly embarked on a process to elaborate a house-wide policy on engaging with indigenous peoples. 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.

Knowledge Systems, Knowledge Diversity, Knowledge Societies: Towards a UNESCO Policy on Engaging with Indigenous Peoples

  • Introductory Speech by Ms. Gretchen Kalonji, Assistant Director-General of UNESCO’s Natural Sciences sector, speaking on behalf of Ms. Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO (Audio recording)
  • Ms Pilar Alvarez-Laso, Assistant Director-General for the Social and Human Sciences, and co-chair of the event (Audio recording)
  • Speech by Ms. Myrna Cunningham Kain (Nicaragua), Chair of the UN Permanent Forum (flash video)
  • Speech by Mr. Vital Bambanze (Burundi), Chair of the UN Expert Mechanism on Indigenous People (flash video)
  • Speech by Mr. James Anaya (USA), UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (flash video)
  • Discussions (between audience and panel) following the speeches from the panel (flash video)