• Indigenous peoples in Cambodia

    Indigenous peoples in Cambodia

    Cambodia is home to 24 different indigenous peoples and constitute 2-3% of the national population


We focus on defending indigenous peoples’ land rights, promoting inclusion in climate action and participation in local and international decision-making processes. Read more about our focus areas below.

Tags: Land rights, Gobernanza Global, Acción Climátca

IWGIA's focus areas

We work through a global network of indigenous peoples' organisations and international human rights bodies. We promote the recognition, respect and implementation of indigenous pepoles' rights to land, cultural intergrity, inclusion in climate action and participation in local and international decision-making processes on their own terms.

Our ambition is that by 2030 we have a world where systematic discrimination is no longer tolerated, where indigenous peoples’ rights are respected and their knowledge valued in climate change and conservation actions, and where indigenous peoples determine the future of their land.

Land rights

Land rights

Loss of land and natural resources threaten the survival of indigenous peoples. For indigenous peoples losing land means losing culture, history and identity.

IWGIA empowers indigenous peoples to operationalise territorial self-governance and advocate for securing their land rights.

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Climate action

Climate action

Given their dependence on nature, indigenous peoples are some of the first to face the consequences of climate change, but they also hold traditional knowledge that can help mitigate climate change.

IWGIA promotes the inclusion of indigenous peoples in global, national and local climate action.

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Global governance

Global governance

The future of indigenous peoples depends on their inclusion in processes that affect their lives.

IWGIA supports indigenous peoples in benefitting from regional human rights mechanisms, global agendas and the UN system.

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Land Rights

Land rights and territorial self-governance for indigenous peoples

Loss of land and natural resources undermine economic security, sociocultural cohesion and human dignity of indigenous peoples around the world. Territorial self-governance and legal strategies are helping to protect indigenous peoples and their land.

Indigenous peoples worldwide share the connectedness with nature. The culture and identity of indigenous peoples are rooted in their land. Losing it means a loss of identity.

Therefore indigenous peoples have long stood at the frontline of resistance against deforestation; mineral, oil, and gas extraction; and the expansion of plantations, dams and infrastructure.

By uniting and organising themselves, indigenous peoples are protecting their territories from the influx of businesses, settlers, other dominant or armed groups. However, indigenous peoples’ resistance has in many cases been answered with brutality and even murder.  

Losing land

The global race for economic growth and the increasing material consumption and trade have consequences for indigenous peoples. Their lands and territories have been appropriated, sold, leased or simply plundered and polluted by governments and private companies.

Many indigenous peoples have also been uprooted from their land through discriminatory government policies or armed conflict.

With the loss of land and natural resources follows a loss of traditional livelihood practices. With that the inter-generational transfer of traditional knowledge, the undermining of social organisation and traditional institutions, and of cultural and spiritual practices. All of which causes poverty, social disintegration, and loss of human dignity.

Land grabbing and lack of recognition

Land grabbing causes forced evictions and other forms of gross human rights abuses, which happen on a large scale in Africa and Asia. Land grabbing is driven by very strong forces and is exacerbated by the fact that many indigenous peoples suffer from a weak legal protection of their lands.

In Africa and Asia, very few countries have ratified ILO Convention 169, and almost no countries have legal frameworks providing for the recognition and protection of indigenous peoples’ lands. Where legal frameworks exist, the implementation is very weak or non-existent.

Indigenous peoples in many cases share collective land rights, but this ownership of the lands is not properly documented or officially recognized. Therefore indigenous peoples’ lands are often seen as fertile ground for natural resource exploitation since there is no ‘visible’ use or occupation of the land.

Almost all countries in Latin America have ratified ILO Convention 169, but real consultation based on the principle of Free, Prior and Informed Consent rarely occurs. 

Due to their political and economic marginalization, indigenous peoples have in general little control over their lands and territories and the way these are being governed.

Territorial self-government and legal victories

In Latin America, indigenous peoples have in countries such as Peru and Bolivia won territorial self-governance building on the fundamental principle of self-determination within the international indigenous peoples’ rights legal framework.

Greenland's self-rule has been an important source of inspiration for the self-governing territories.

In Africa, Asia and Russia, there are discussions on decentralization, local governance and political representation of indigenous peoples. Within the legal and governing systems such as the African Court and Human and Peoples Rights, indigenous peoples have won historic victories of the right to land.



Indigenous peoples in climate action

Indigenous peoples across the world face the consequences of climate change. Indigenous peoples must, therefore, be heard and included in global, national and local climate action.

Indigenous peoples are particularly vulnerable to climate change and yet the least responsible. Indigenous peoples have a lifestyle, hold traditional knowledge and are highly motivated to drive solutions to overcome climate changes.  

Many of our world’s ecosystems and biodiversity areas are being protected and nurtured by indigenous peoples. The contributions to climate mitigation and traditional knowledge of indigenous peoples are increasingly being acknowledged and referred to in international agreements and declarations.

Indigenous peoples face climate change

Rising temperatures, rising sea levels and unpredictable weather hit indigenous peoples from the Amazon to the islands of Myanmar dramatically.

Indigenous peoples often live in our world’s most biodiversity-rich areas, rely on existing ecosystems and depend on nature. But widespread changes in our climate disrupt indigenous peoples’ way of living and damage their livelihoods.

Many indigenous people are being forced to relocate as their traditional lands become uninhabitable due to climate change.

Indirect consequences of climate action

Extreme weather and rising sea levels pose a direct threat to indigenous peoples’ lives and societies.

Some mitigation measures may also have undesirable direct and indirect consequences for indigenous communities.

Renewable energy projects and climate action plans are sometimes developed without including or consulting indigenous peoples. The lands of indigenous peoples are seen as fertile ground for the establishment of biofuel plantations, wind power projects and hydroelectric dams.

The construction of large-scale energy projects often happens without their ‘Free, Prior and Informed Consent’ – the international principle that states that indigenous communities must be informed and heard on issues that affect their lands and lives.

The consequences for indigenous peoples are further marginalization, dispossession and displacement.

The Paris Agreement and the Global Goals

In 2015 the Paris Agreement was adopted as a global action plan to avoid climate change. Indigenous peoples are mentioned in the Paris Agreement:

“Parties should respect, promote and consider their respective obligations on (…) the rights of indigenous peoples.”

In COP21 – the UN Climate change conference that took place in France in 2015 – it was decided to establish a knowledge-sharing platform on climate action for indigenous peoples.

In 2016, UN member states agreed on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development with the ambition of “leaving no one behind”.

IWGIA sees the international commitments as a window of opportunity for truly including the knowledge, experiences and rights of indigenous peoples in climate action.


IWGIA - International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs - is a global human rights organisation dedicated to promoting, protecting and defending indigenous peoples’ rights. Read more.

Indigenous World

IWGIA's global report, the Indigenous World, provides an update of the current situation for indigenous peoples worldwide. The Indigenous World 2019.

Contact IWGIA

Prinsessegade 29 B, 3rd floor
DK 1422 Copenhagen
Phone: (+45) 53 73 28 30
E-mail: iwgia@iwgia.org
CVR: 81294410

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