Global governance

We support indigenous peoples in accessing and benefiting from local and regional human rights mechanisms as well as the UN system and its global agendas.

A UN Permanent Forum is dedicated to indigenous peoples’ agendas; a UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples was adopted in 2007, and a Special Rapporteur is watching the realisation of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Much has been achieved by indigenous peoples since they started advocating for their right to participate in international decision-making processes. Indigenous peoples have succeeded in adopting an international legal framework, the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Institutional mechanisms and procedures mandated to promote and protect indigenous peoples’ rights have been established, such as the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the Special Rapporteur.

At the international level, indigenous peoples have crawled up the latter in the UN system: It started with the establishment of the Working Group on Indigenous Populations in 1984 at the lowest level of the UN system, and now indigenous peoples are on the verge of getting a special status at the highest level of the UN.

At the local and regional level, indigenous peoples have organised themselves and have also gained influence and spaces within the regional human rights mechanisms as the Inter-American Human Rights System and the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights.

Indigenous peoples are still being left behind

On the local level, the rights of indigenous peoples are still not fully realised. The situation of indigenous peoples remains alarming in many countries: From land rights to women’ rights, indigenous peoples are highly challenged on the ground.

Every year, reports written by IWGIA show that the human rights of indigenous peoples are being violated and that indigenous rights defenders are increasingly threatened and many continue to be arrested or even murdered.

The Sustainable Development Goals work for indigenous peoples

For indigenous peoples, the 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development provides an opportunity to access all of their rights. The targets include six explicit references to indigenous peoples.

The 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development is grounded on the principles of human rights, human dignity, non-discrimination, equality and participation that are essential for indigenous peoples’ access to all of their rights. This includes the 2030 Agenda’s overarching aim of “leaving no one behind”.

The inclusion of indigenous peoples in the review process and realisation of the SDGs is necessary to prevent indigenous peoples from being left behind.

IWGIA supports the interlink between the local and the global

The linking of international commitments and national laws and is one of the biggest challenges for indigenous peoples.

Therefore IWGIA is enhancing the bridging of the existing gap by supporting the initiatives of indigenous peoples’ organisations to empower them to flag their cases in relevant international forums. They bring documentation, cases and updates from the ground to encourage change at the local level.

The aim is to link decisions and policies adopted at the global level with the development of laws and policies at the local and regional level. 

Collecting data on indigenous peoples' rights and the SDGs

With support from the EU, the online platform called the Indigenous Navigator have been developed for collecting community-generated data and information that visualises and identifies existing gaps in the implementation of indigenous peoples’ rights.

Indigenous Navigator provides tools to analyze and document indigenous peoples’ human rights and development, and uncover the important links between the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the commitments put forward in the Sustainable Development Goals and targets, and in the Outcome Document of the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples.

Through the indigenous Navigator questionnaires, communities can generate their own data and make them available on an online data portal. This will allow other actors to access in-depth information about indigenous peoples’ situation.

The Indigenous Navigator is aimed at raising indigenous peoples’ awareness of their rights through systematic data generation, and empowering them to claim their rights by using their data in dialogue with policy-makers and development stakeholders at the local, national and global levels.

The Indigenous Navigator is a collaborative initiative developed by Asia Indigenous Peoples’ Pact (AIPP), Forest Peoples’ Programme (FPP), International Labour Organization (ILO), Tebtebba Foundation, Danish Institute for Human Rights (DIHR) and International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs (IWGIA) with support from the European Union (EU). You can explore the tools here:

Indigenous Peoples innovative process of establishing UNPFII and IWGIA's role in it

In May 2002, United Nations Permanent Forum for Indigenous Issues (UNPFII) held its first official meeting in New York. This was as a result of a groundbreaking process where indigenous peoples in nearly a decade pushed the boundaries for how United Nations functioned and overcame difficult obstacles for their full and equal participation on the way.

Continue Reading

In memory of Erica-Irene Daes

Dr. Erica-Irene Daes, an academic, diplomat, UN independent expert and strong human rights defender, was undoubtedly one of the main protagonists in the significant progress achieved over the last four decades in relation to recognising Indigenous Peoples as subjects of international law. She passed away the 12th of February, 2017.

Denmark is still standing with indigenous peoples

You have to look a bit before you will find it. But on page 33 in the new Danish development strategy you will find indigenous peoples rights as a key priority in the human rights area. The new strategy has been adopted by all the parties in the Danish Parliament except one.

All this means, that Maasai, Inuit, Karen, and Indians can still count on support and engagement from Denmark in the fight for their rights.


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
CVR: 81294410

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