Indigenous World 2020: International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD)

The Indigenous Peoples’ Forum at the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) constitutes a unique process within the UN system and is a concrete way for IFAD to institutionalise consultation and dialogue with representatives of Indigenous Peoples’ institutions.

The forum focuses on monitoring and evaluating the implementation of the IFAD Policy on Engagement with Indigenous Peoples (2009)[1]

and supports IFAD in translating the policy's principles into action on the ground. The forum also promotes the participation of Indigenous Peoples in IFAD activities at country, regional and international levels, and at all stages of project and programme cycles. The overall process is guided by a steering committee composed of seven representatives of Indigenous Peoples’ organisations from the different regions and a representative, respectively, from the Indigenous Peoples Assistance Facility (IPAF)[2], the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII) and IFAD.

The global meeting of the Indigenous Peoples’ Forum convenes every other year, in conjunction with IFAD’s Governing Council, its main decision-making body. In preparation for each global meeting, regional consultation workshops are organised to ensure that the forum reflects the diversity of perspectives and recommendations gathered from Indigenous Peoples in the various regions.

Preparing for the 4th Global Forum:  The regional consultation workshops

The global Indigenous Peoples Forum meeting is the culmination of a unique process of dialogue and consultation with Indigenous Peoples at the regional level.

In late 2018, four regional consultation workshops were held – in Africa (Nairobi, Kenya), Asia (Bogor, Indonesia), Latin America and the Caribbean (Ciudad de Panama, Panama) and the Pacific (Fiji) – in preparation for the fourth global meeting of the Indigenous Peoples’ Forum at IFAD.

Within the thematic focus of the forum, the objectives of the workshops included: exchange knowledge, experiences and good practices on Indigenous Peoples’ knowledge and their innovations for climate resilience and sustainable development; identify challenges and opportunities to promote and support Indigenous Peoples’ knowledge and innovations; identify key elements for regional strategies to enhance IFAD’s support; and formulate action-oriented recommendations and draft regional action plans that will guide discussions during the fourth global meeting of the Indigenous Peoples Forum at IFAD

The workshops brought together: representatives of Indigenous Peoples organisations, institutions and communities; national and regional organisations involved in IFAD-funded projects; IFAD staff; (Indigenous Peoples Assistance Facility (IPAF) partners; UNPFII members; and government representatives.

The regional workshops also provided an opportunity for participants to assess the progress of implementation of IFAD’s Policy on Engagement with Indigenous Peoples, and to review the status of implementation of the recommendations of the third global meeting and the regional action plans agreed upon with IFAD regional divisions in 2017.

During the workshops, participants assessed progress in implementation of the IFAD Policy on Engagement with Indigenous Peoples and reviewed the status of implementation of the recommendations of the third global meeting and the regional action plans, as agreed upon with IFAD regional divisions in 2017.

Participants had the opportunity to exchange knowledge and experience on climate resilience and sustainable development. They further identified challenges and opportunities for strengthening good practices as sustainable solutions for the future, as well as key elements for enhancing IFAD’s strategies and supporting their implementation.

Based on the discussions, the regional workshops provided suggestions and action-oriented recommendations in relation to Indigenous Peoples’ knowledge and innovations on climate resilience and sustainable development, which they brought to the global meeting.[3]

Highlights of the 4th Global Forum of the Indigenous Peoples Forum at IFAD

The fourth global meeting took place on 12-13 February 2019[4], in conjunction with the forty-second session of the IFAD Governing Council.

The meeting brought together 38 Indigenous Peoples’ representatives, of which 45% were women and 24% were young people under 35 years of age. Indigenous representatives from Africa, Asia and the Pacific, and Latin America and the Caribbean attended the meeting in order to exchange views on developments in the partnership with IFAD.

Over 40 representatives from partner organisations such as NGOs, foundations, international organisations, UN agencies, research institutes and universities joined the meeting as observers.

The global meeting was officially opened by IFAD President Gilbert Houngbo, who highlighted the fund’s special commitment to Indigenous Peoples. In relation to the theme of the global meeting, the President Houngbo acknowledged that due to Indigenous Peoples’ deep connection with and dependence on ecosystems, they perceive the changes related to climate better than others. As custodians of 80% of the world’s remaining biodiversity, Indigenous Peoples have much to teach about how to respect, protect and conserve natural resources. He emphasised that the world needs Indigenous Peoples’ knowledge and innovations, which can provide valuable lessons on how to adapt to and mitigate climate change and increase resilience.

Interventions from members of the forum’s Indigenous Steering Committee further stressed the results achieved in the partnership and expressed their deep appreciation of IFAD's commitment and support in the past years. Several Indigenous representatives highlighted the opportunities offered by key developments in the global context to enhance the partnership between Indigenous Peoples and IFAD, such as the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Paris Agreement on climate change. Both offer important opportunities to engage in developing projects and programmes with clear targets and indicators for the sustainable development of Indigenous Peoples, and to contribute to strengthening resilience and adaption capacities of Indigenous Peoples using their traditional knowledge.

In her keynote address, Ms. Victoria Tauli-Corpuz (UN Special Rapporteur on the rights of Indigenous Peoples), particularly underlined how Indigenous Peoples in many parts of the world still face discrimination and are victims of the worst forms of impunity and criminalisation. She called for adoption of a zero-tolerance approach to the killing and violence against Indigenous Peoples Human Rights Defenders, and for addressing the root causes of attacks on them and their criminalisation, with the recognition of the collective land rights of Indigenous Peoples.

In relation to the theme of the forum, she said that Indigenous Peoples have the experience and knowledge systems to help address climate change. Therefore, they persist in their actions and advocacy and insist on using, sharing and transmitting their traditional knowledge to protect their ecosystems as crucial for resilience and adaptation. Within that context, it will be key to provide resources to further enhance the traditional knowledge, innovations and practices of Indigenous Peoples related to climate change mitigation and adaptation, including through the Green Climate Fund.

Partnership in progress

As is the practice at the global meetings of the Indigenous Peoples’ Forum, IFAD presented a report analysing the trends and developments in IFAD’s partnership with Indigenous Peoples in the respective biennium and taking stock of IFAD’s various experiences in collaborating with Indigenous Peoples, while investigating the forms of the ongoing collaboration and highlighting success stories and achievements. Among the experiences presented were the country policy engagement initiatives facilitated in 11 countries by IFAD and IWGIA.  

Promoting Indigenous Peoples’ knowledge and innovations for climate resilience and sustainable development: What can Indigenous Peoples and IFAD do together?

Many interventions and presentations by partners, such as the Green Climate Fund, UNESCO, the Indigenous Peoples Major Group on the Sustainable Development Goals, International Labour Organization (ILO) and Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO), enriched the discussion and enabled participants in the forum to debate and dialogue on issues of relevance to its theme, strengthen mutual knowledge and assess opportunities for improving linkages and developing synergies and partnerships.

Synthesis of Deliberations

Based on the discussions and contributions from the debates, the Synthesis of Deliberations of the 2019 global meeting of the Indigenous Peoples’ Forum at IFAD was adopted.

The Synthesis of Deliberations was read and discussed during the last plenary session of the forum and in presence of Indigenous Peoples’ delegates, IFAD Management and the representatives of IFAD Member States. Indigenous Peoples recognised the forum at IFAD as a unique process within the UN system. The forum enables participants to assess IFAD’s engagement with Indigenous Peoples, consult on rural development and poverty reduction, and promote the participation of Indigenous Peoples’ institutions and organisations in IFAD’s activities at the country, regional and international levels. Overall, these activities help IFAD to implement its policy and translate its principles into action on the ground, contributing to the implementation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP).

The Synthesis of Deliberation included recommendations to IFAD, governments and Indigenous Peoples.

On behalf of IFAD’s management, Mr. Donal Brown (Associate Vice-President, IFAD) welcomed the substantive Synthesis of Deliberations presented and emphasised that IFAD is committed to ensuring that the projects it finances will apply the principle of free, prior and informed consent. He also expressed his personal admiration for the work and advocacy conducted by representatives of Indigenous Peoples, who often put their lives at risk. He hoped that through their partnership, IFAD and Indigenous Peoples will contribute to creating a safe space for Indigenous Peoples to advocate for the issues that are of critical importance to the survival and well-being of not only Indigenous Peoples but all the human family.

Closing of the forum

The forum was closed by the Vice-President of IFAD, who in his closing remarks emphasised the need to allow broader and more active participation by Indigenous youth and the commitment of IFAD to join efforts to enhance the representation of Indigenous Peoples within the existing international policy forums. He further emphasised that IFAD recognises the vast traditional knowledge of Indigenous Peoples for the management of natural resources and for sustainable development, and that collaboration is needed to further enhance and promote that knowledge and to learn from it. He concluded by affirming that the forum is not merely a biennial event, but the basis for an ongoing dialogue.

Other events around the Global Forum

Indigenous Peoples’ Forum reception

On 13 February, IFAD hosted a reception for forum participants on the IFAD premises and a dinner at the restaurant of the Agricoltura Nuova cooperative.

Indigenous Peoples at IFAD’s Governing Council

On 14 February, the Synthesis of Deliberations was delivered to the forty-second session of the IFAD Governing Council held at FAO headquarters by Ms. Thin Yu Mon (Chin Human Rights Organisation, Myanmar).

Showcase of IPAF project photos (IPAF projects in Colombia and Ethiopia)

A mobile photo showcase on IPAF projects was organised on the premises of IFAD (lobby) and FAO (atrium) to share information on Indigenous Peoples’ traditions, livelihoods and culture through texts and photos. This mobile exhibition might be replicated at other venues, as well as in IFAD country offices or regional hubs.

Nutrition food booth

A nutrition food booth was produced as a contribution to the forum by Slow Food in collaboration with IFAD, aiming to emphasise the role of Indigenous food systems.

Meeting with Pope Francis

On 14 February, a delegation of Indigenous Peoples’ representatives attending IFAD’s Global Forum was received on the FAO premises for a private audience with Pope Francis on the occasion of the opening of the IFAD Governing Council.

Highlighting the extreme importance of environmental issues, the Pope said that the forum constituted an invitation to look again at our planet, wounded in many regions by human greed, war, conflicts and natural disasters that leave scarcity and devastation in their wake. Within that context, Indigenous Peoples are a “living cry for hope” who remind us that human beings have a shared responsibility in the care of their “common house”.

Lola García Alix is the Senior Adviser on Global Governance at IWGIA’s Secretariat 


Notes and references 

[1] IFAD Policy on Engagement with Indigenous Peoples can be dowloaded at:

[2] More information about the IPAF is avaialble at: 

[3] The summary and regional consultation workshop reports are available at:

[4] The proceedings of the 4th Global Meeting of Indigenous Peoples at IFAD are availble at:


This article is part of the 34th edition of the The Indigenous World, a yearly overview produced by IWGIA that serves to document and report on the developments Indigenous Peoples have experienced.  Find The Indigenous World 2020 in full here

Tags: Global governance



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

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