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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.