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Indigenous Peoples' Participation

Indigenous peoples’ control over and participation in decision-making on all matters that affect their lives and future forms the core of their right to self-determination and the basis for their enjoyment of the full range of human rights.

As policies and decisions that potentially affect the lives and well-being of indigenous peoples are made not only at local and national but also regional and global levels, IWGIA is supporting indigenous peoples to access and lobby decision-making bodies and fora at all levels.

Activities include support to advocate for legislative and policy changes at national level, participation in regional and international fora and strategy development for implementation of the right to self-determination.

Below you can find examples of the types of projects and processes that IWGIA support in order to promote and protect indigenous peoples' right to participation and self-determination:


The right to participate in decision-making

In 2009, the UN Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (EMRIP) was requested by the Human Rights Council to carry out a study on indigenous peoples and the right to participate in decision-making.

In January 2010, IWGIA supported the organization of an international seminar in Thailand with the objective of providing substantial input from indigenous experts into the conducting of the two-year thematic study on indigenous peoples’ participation in decision-making processes.

The contributions to the study presented at this seminar proved to be fundamental in the preparation of the study and, together with other submissions, it formed the basis of EMRIP’s 1st progress report, which was discussed during the 3rd session of the EMRIP and presented for its formal approval at the 15th session of the UN Human Rights Council in September 2010.

“Given that the right to participate in decision-making is a fundamental right for the promotion and protection of the rights of indigenous peoples, we expect that the study will be able to help guarantee indigenous peoples’ enjoyment of this right and, in this way, have a positive impact on the lives of indigenous peoples in all parts of the world.”

José Carlos Morales, Chairperson of EMRIP


Promoting the dialogue between African states and indigenous peoples

In 2010, 16 indigenous representatives were supported to participate in the ordinary sessions of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ rights (ACHPR). Participation is central to encouraging and assisting the ACHPR to uphold its focus on indigenous peoples’ rights when examining periodic reports on the human rights situation of African states. IWGIA supports the writing of shadow reports and assists the Commissioners in asking substantiated and critical questions on indigenous peoples during dialogues with States and in the drafting of the concluding observations. For example, at the 49th Ordinary Session, IWGIA collaborated with ADCPM from Burkina Faso to produce a complementary report that raised important questions on the situation of pastoralists’ communities e.g. related to the violent attacks against the Peuls and national laws on pastoralism.

“I am very pleased with my experience at the 49th session of the ACHPR. The complementary report on the situation of nomadic pastoralists’ communities has been circulated around and we have received many congratulations for our work in protecting the rights of pastoralists’ communities. All this has been possible because I had the chance to go to Banjul to talk about the reality of those communities. I thank you for your support. Banjul was fantastic!”

Issa Diallo, Director of the ACDPM, Burkina Faso


Recognition of indigenous peoples' rights in the constitutional process in Nepal

In Nepal, a new constitution is currently being drafted which will define the future of indigenous peoples’ relationships with the State. Since 2008, IWGIA has supported the Lawyers’ Association for Human Rights of Nepalese Indigenous Peoples (LAHURNIP) to advocate and lobby for the inclusion of indigenous peoples’ rights. This project has contributed to the formation of a “Mega Front”, bringing together indigenous peoples’ organizations, indigenous NGOs, indigenous political parties and academics around the common agenda of getting recognition of indigenous peoples’ rights and, in particular, their right to self-determination, enshrined in the new Constitution.


Kenya's new constitution: a step forward in the promotion and protection of indigenous peoples' rights

In Kenya, a new and substantially revised Constitution has been under debate for a number of years, and IWGIA has supported indigenous peoples’ organizations to effectively participate and input into the national discussions to ensure that the new Constitution will protect the fundamental rights of indigenous peoples in Kenya. The final discussions took place in 2010, and IWGIA supported Mainyoito Pastoralist Integrated Development Organization (MPIDO) to mobilize the pastoralist communities in Kenya to take part in the final discussions and to be active during the national referendum on the new Constitution. In August 2010, the new Constitution was adopted and it is seen by indigenous peoples as a great step forward in the promotion and protection of their rights.