• International Processes and Initiatives

Indigenous World 2020: The Indigenous Navigator: Self-Determined Development

The Indigenous Navigator is an online portal providing access to a set of tools developed for and by Indigenous Peoples. Through the Indigenous Navigator framework, data is collected that can be used by Indigenous people to advocate for their rights and to systematically monitor the level of recognition and implementation of these rights.

The Indigenous Navigator framework encompasses over 150 structure, process and impact indicators to monitor central aspects of Indigenous Peoples’ civil, political, social, economic and cultural rights and fundamental freedoms enshrined in the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) and ILO Convention 169 (ILOC169). In addition, the framework enables monitoring of the outcome document of the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples (WCIP) and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

By using the Indigenous Navigator, Indigenous organisations and communities, duty bearers, NGOs and journalists can access free tools and resources based on updated community-generated data. By documenting and reporting their own situations, Indigenous Peoples can enhance their access to justice and development and help document the situation of Indigenous people globally.

The Indigenous Navigator Initiative (INI), begun in 2014, has been developed and carried forward by a consortium consisting of the Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact (AIPP), the Forest Peoples Programme (FPP), the International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs (IWGIA), the Tebtebba Foundation – Indigenous Peoples’ International Centre for Policy Research and Education (TEBTEBBA), The Danish Institute for Human Rights (DIHR) and the International Labour Organisation (ILO). This consortium works in partnership with the European Commission. 

Indigenous-led, by and for Indigenous Peoples

With its rights-based approach, the tools of the Indigenous Navigator allow Indigenous communities to document their situation in a way that is easily communicable to authorities and development actors. The standardised indicators make it possible to compare results across sectors, communities, countries and continents. It also enables longitudinal comparison over time to measure progress and identify major implementation gaps. This data strengthens the position of Indigenous communities as they engage with civic, state and global entities to claim their rights.

The Indigenous Navigator Initiative was launched through a pilot action implemented from 2014 to 2016 with support from the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR) which created the conceptual basis for a community-based framework for monitoring Indigenous Peoples’ rights and development. During this period (2014-2016), this framework was implemented at the community level by the six consortium members (AIPP, FPP, IWGIA, TEBTEBBA, DIHR and ILO) and their national partners. Data gathered and analysed by communities in the pilot phase, contributed to the expansion of the Indigenous Navigator in the next phase (2017-2019). The community-based monitoring framework and tools for the implementation of the UNDRIP and ILOC169 were updated and adjusted. Based on the monitoring and data collected, actions and strategies were developed for Indigenous Peoples and communities that enhanced their ability to claim their rights.

Data gathered and analysed by communities in the pilot phase assisted the Indigenous Navigator to expand the number of communities covered in the next phase (2017-2019) and to develop actions and strategies for Indigenous Peoples and communities to claim their rights based on the monitoring and data collected.

Given the strength and validity of the data and framework, the second phase of the initiative oversaw the inclusion of 11 countries, with regional representation: Latin America: Bolivia, Colombia, Peru and Suriname; Asia: Bangladesh, Cambodia, Nepal and the Philippines; and in Africa: Cameroon, Kenya and the United Republic of Tanzania. National partner organisations and communities were identified, and over the three-year period (2017-2019), 165 (Community-150/National-15) questionnaires were completed and entered into the global portal; these questionnaires are a result of the engagement of 200 communities in the data-gathering and analysis process. The scale of population coverage among the 150 community surveys has been particularly striking, covering a population of over approximately 270,000 people by the end of 2019. Further, the results of these surveys have been analysed by the communities and national partners and, as of December 2019, the results are now taking shape in 49 data-driven small grants.

From Local to Global

At the country level, building on the data gathered through the surveys, the consortium has produced several knowledge products and regularly engages in direct dialogues and alliance-building activities. Country-level knowledge products range from guides to engagement with municipal authorities[1] to direct contributions to the Universal Periodic Review process[2], as well as the data gathered and freely accessible on the global portal[3]. Baseline fact sheets on the situation of Indigenous Peoples in the countries have also been produced.[4],[5],[6],[7] These products help to concretise the experiences of the communities, and also feed into both regional and global knowledge products that serve to inform policy makers and duty bearers. The results captured by the community and national surveys inform policy and advocacy documents and compliment efforts and reports produced through the contributions of the Indigenous Peoples Major Group (IPMG)[8] at the global level, for example at the High-Level Political Forum[9].

The country level and global level knowledge products, through their findings, continue to contribute to ensuring the effective participation of Indigenous Peoples in the development, implementation, monitoring and review processes of policies and development initiatives at all levels.

As an example, the communities in Jach’a Marka Tapacarí-Cóndor Apacheta (Bolivia), have used the Indigenous Navigator framework and process as an opportunity to establish an alliance with the local municipality. Through this alliance, and supported by the survey process, representatives from the local government have participated in several workshops and meetings. They have closely followed the process and developments reaped from the Indigenous Navigator, especially in relation to the development of pilot projects. As a result of this alliance, the municipality provided financial funding to scale up one of these projects directly benefitting the community.[10] They have also showcased their results in briefs and reports that have helped make the data and issues more accessible.[11]

In April 2019, the Indigenous Navigator was presented during the 18th session of the UN Permanent Forum for Indigenous Issues, bringing national representatives to the forum to present their findings. The session was titled: “Indigenous Peoples’ Rights and Development on the Ground: Emerging Findings from the Indigenous Navigator Initiative”. It highlighted the experiences of Indigenous communities across our 11 countries, with poignant presentations by Indigenous leaders from Bangladesh, Kenya, Peru and the Philippines.[12]

In June, the Indigenous Navigator was presented to an eager audience at the European Development Days (EDD) in Brussels during a project lab session. The EDD is organised by the European Commission and is designed to bring the development community together each year to share ideas and experiences in ways that inspire new partnerships and innovative solutions to the world’s most pressing challenges. Ensuring representation of Indigenous Peoples and their priorities through the session was a key priority. EDD is a special space that acts as a hub for networking and for development agents to interact and share best practices. The Indigenous Navigator organised a session to share about the project, its progress and its structure. In addition, session members shared advocacy efforts towards achieving the SDGs and entered into constructive dialogue with participants. The presentation was titled: “The Indigenous Navigator – Data by and for Indigenous Peoples: Participatory approaches to collecting data, mobilising communities and overcoming the implementation gap with regard to Indigenous rights” and showcased results from the data alongside presentations from national partners from Kenya.[13]

These actions helped raise priorities identified at the national level to the global and acted as an avenue to strengthen engagements with development actors both nationally and internationally by providing concrete advocacy products. Further, the Indigenous Navigator produces a bi-annual newsletter that showcases developments and stories from national partners on both social media and via its website.[14]

Broader relevance

While the Indigenous Navigator’s tools have been developed for use by Indigenous communities, they are also relevant and useful for NGOs, human rights institutions and specialists, development actors and others who need to anchor their work in the provisions of the UNDRIP, WCIP and SDGs. These tools can be used together with the questionnaires for data collection or on their own. Actors can, and have, made use of the indicators to monitor their own interventions; explore the links between the UNDRIP and other human rights instruments; and design targeted programmes to reach the SDGs based on the UNDRIP.

The Indigenous Navigator can serve a number of purposes – for example to:

  • Raise awareness of Indigenous communities about their rights and contribute to their empowerment and ability to claim their rights;
  • Guide and orient Indigenous Peoples’ self-determined governance and development strategies;
  • Hold states accountable by evidencing their compliance with—or failure to meet—human rights obligations regarding Indigenous Peoples;
  • Assist with the development of legislative reforms and political actions at multiple levels to address issues captured;
  • Deliver data on Indigenous Peoples’ human rights and development situation to UN agencies and UN mechanisms addressing Indigenous Peoples' rights (UN Special Rapporteur, Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples [EMRIP]m and UN Permanent Forum for Indigenous Issues [UNPFII]);
  • Evidence whether states are complying with the commitments they made at the WCIP;
  • Guide and orient development policies and development programmes, including those designed to reach the SDGs;
  • Generate attention and action in relation to the recognition and protection of Indigenous Peoples’ rights;
  • Document the national and regional particularities and various historical and cultural backgrounds of Indigenous Peoples worldwide; and
  • Provide an accurate state of play of the discrimination and inequalities as well the level of threats that Indigenous Peoples are facing.

The importance of the Indigenous Navigator Initiative, as well as some preliminary findings from the data gathered, continue to be highlighted across local, national and international levels, with several Indigenous organisations and communities, governmental actors, civil society groups, National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs) and international organisations or development actors showing enthusiasm, support and interest towards this unique initiative. As of 2019, twenty-nine NHRIs have been trained around the world in Asia, Anglophone and Francophone Africa respectively, South America and Central America. Including NHRI’s serves the double purpose of enhancing NHRIs’ awareness of the global standards related to Indigenous Peoples’ rights, emanating from the UN Human Rights System and its special procedures, and facilitating their direct engagement with both the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (EMRIP)[15] and the UN Special Rapporteur on the rights of Indigenous Peoples.

The growing interest among national statistical agencies[16] regarding data on Indigenous Peoples is a testament to successes in dialogues and outreach at national levels. For instance, in Bangladesh and Tanzania, engagements with statistical institutions as well as other government institutions have been enhanced at the country level. In the Philippines, Bangladesh, Tanzania and Suriname, dialogues have been established with relevant institutions on matters concerning Indigenous data generation, management and disaggregation of data, to ensure that Indigenous Peoples data is captured.

Through the continued organisation of orientation workshops, as well as training and alliance building activities in the 11 countries, an increasing number of target groups have been engaging with the framework and have benefited from enhanced capacities regarding Indigenous Peoples’ rights. The tools, training resources and guidance materials on the initiative are playing an important role in strengthening capacities as well as awareness-raising regarding the Indigenous Navigator framework in the context of data collection, Indigenous Peoples’ rights and the SDGs.

Continued commitment, a valued tool

An external review of the Indigenous Navigator was conducted in March and April 2019, during which the review team noted that the Indigenous Navigator is “highly relevant given that adequate data on the situation of Indigenous Peoples are a precondition to improve the policy planning and allocation of resources to the development of Indigenous Peoples”. Further, the observations and recommendations highlighted in the review confirmed the high level of ownership among the partners and beneficiaries and that the Indigenous Navigator is an important empowerment tool for Indigenous communities.

Further reviews from the national partners’ assessments and testimonies from the direct beneficiaries clearly express that the interventions, projects and framework are relevant, and are based on the reality and issues they experience in their everyday life. For many communities, this has been the first opportunity they have had to interact with and learn about their rights. It has also been unique in that the pilot projects are often the first chance these communities have had to design a project based on the issues they have prioritised and on their proposed actions to address these.

The national partners, as well as the beneficiary communities, have proven, and continue to prove, their engagement and commitment to the Indigenous Navigator as a valued tool to realise their rights. National partners have organised and conducted planned events and activities that have performed beyond expectations given the local contexts. They are also continuously supporting the communities who have shown their enhanced capacity in developing grant proposals, managing the implementation of pilot projects and strengthening their demands, to describe their internal strategies and engage with local municipal authorities alongside their visions for their own development.

David Nathaniel Berger is a programme coordinator at the International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs (IWGIA) and is a member of the team responsible for the Indigenous Navigator. He is passionate about sustainability, human rights and data, and works to ensure that Indigenous Peoples’ rights are recognised, promoted and protected.

Notes and references

[1] The guide is available, in Spanish, here: https://nav.Indigenousnavigator.com/index.php/es/peru-es/369-peru-guia-municipios

[2] Centro de Estudios Jurídicos e Investigación Social has contributed to Bolivia’s alternative report on the Universal Periodic Review, which is available here: http://nav.Indigenousnavigator.com/images/documents-spanish/reports/2019_-_CEJIS_UPR_ENGLISH.pdf

[3] Indigenous Navigator Initiative. 2020. "Learn more about the Indigenous Navigator". The Indigenous Navigator. http://nav.Indigenousnavigator.com/index.php/en/.

[4] "Philippines Fact Sheet". 2018. The Indigenous Navigator. Available at:  http://nav.Indigenousnavigator.com/index.php/en/philippines.

[5] "Nepal Fact Sheet". 2018. The Indigenous Navigator. Available at: http://nav.Indigenousnavigator.com/index.php/en/nepal .

[6] The Indigenous Livelihoods Enhancement Partners (ILEPA) & Tebtebba Indigenous. 2017. "Kenya’s Base-Line Factsheet on Indigenous Peoples in the Context of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)". The Indigenous Navigator Initiative. http://nav.Indigenousnavigator.com/images/Documents/Factsheets/Kenyas_baseline_fact_sheet.pdf.

[7]  Centre for Public Policies and Human Rights (Perú EQUIDAD). 2017. "Hoja Informativa De Perú: Baseline Information for The Indigenous Navigator". The Indigenous Navigator Initiative. https://spark.adobe.com/page/SQPYXHvMUcL5a/.

[8] The Indigenous Peoples Major Group (IPMG) is an initiative to ensure full participation and representation of Indigenous Peoples’ rights as affirmed by the UNDRIP. The focus of the IPMG is on global engagements relating to sustainable development, however it also endeavors to generate all forms of solidarity support and assistance for Indigenous Peoples at the national level in relation to sustainable development. These include awareness-raising, capacity building, support for lobby, advocacy and community mobilisations, among others. https://www.Indigenouspeoples-sdg.org/index.php/english/

[9] Indigenous Peoples Major Group and the International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs. “Indigenous Voices at the High-Level Political Forum” 2018. The Indigenous Navigator. https://nav.Indigenousnavigator.com/index.php/en/news/221-Indigenous-hlpf

[10] The article on the project and the municipality’s support can be read here: http://nav.Indigenousnavigator.com/index.php/en/news/358-bolivia-ayni

[11] Tamburini, Leonardo, Ángela Ágreda, Vania Sandoval, and Carla Illescas. 2019. Indigenous Rights Monitoring Results in Lomerío And Tapacarí-Cóndor Apacheta. PDF. 1st ed. CEJIS. https://nav.Indigenousnavigator.com/index.php/en/news/276-cejis-magazine-Indigenous-rights-monitoring-results-in-lomerio-and-tapacari-condor-apacheta.

[12] The session description, invitation and a video recording are available here: https://nav.Indigenousnavigator.com/index.php/en/news/287-unpfii2019

[13] You can listen to the session here: The European Development Days (2019). The Indigenous navigator – Data by and for Indigenous Peoples. [podcast] European Development Days - EDD. Available at: https://soundcloud.com/user-410503258/the-Indigenous-navigator-data.

[14] Read December 2019’s newsletter for the Indigenous Navigator here: https://mailchi.mp/e82cfc8a9f96/the-Indigenous-navigator-in-2019

[15] EMRIP was established by the Human Rights Council (HRC), the UN’s main human rights body, in 2007. It is mandated to provide the HRC with expertise and advice on the rights of Indigenous Peoples as set out in the UNDRIP, and assists Member States, upon request, in achieving the ends of the declaration through the promotion, protection and fulfilment of the rights of Indigenous Peoples.

[16] Sometimes referred to as “official data sources” as they are linked to government.


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, Indigenous Navigator



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

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IWGIA's global report, the Indigenous World, provides an update of the current situation for Indigenous Peoples worldwide. Read The Indigenous World.

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