The Indigenous World 2022: 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. 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.

Through the Indigenous Navigator framework, data is collected that can be used by Indigenous Peoples to advocate for their rights and to systematically monitor the level of recognition and implementation of those 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), ILO Convention 169 (ILO C169) and other relevant human rights instruments. In addition, the framework enables monitoring of the outcome document of the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples (WCIP) and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The Indigenous Navigator initiative, 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, the Danish Institute for Human Rights (DIHR) and the International Labour Organization (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.[1]

The Indigenous Navigator was launched in 2014.[2] As the initiative has developed, there have been consistent upgrades and revisions to ensure that the framework and tools (including training, surveys, the comparative matrix and tools database, and the index) meet the needs and expectations of the Indigenous communities that are using them. In April 2021, the consortium launched the revised framework and tools,[3] and a new website and data portal.[4] The launch event also served as a launch for a key report focused on SDG 16 — Peace, justice and strong institutions — utilising Indigenous Navigator Data.[5]

While this work has been in progress, the Indigenous Navigator has continued supporting community-led projects through its small grants facility. These projects are identified and designed by Indigenous communities on the basis of the data collected and this complements the actions and strategies carried out by the same communities. They act as a direct action on the needs expressed and enhance these communities' ability to claim their rights.

In 2021, Indigenous communities and national organisations in Finland, Norway and Sweden began to implement the tools and framework. National surveys were initiated in partnership with the Sámi allaskuvla (Sámi University of Applied Sciences) and the Sámiráđđi (Saami Council). Throughout the year, activities continued in 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.[6]

A growing impact

As reported in The Indigenous World 2021, new community and national surveys were conducted in 2020 and 2021. In 2021, 164 of these surveys were included in the public dataset, available through the new Data Explorer[7] and Index Explorer.[8] These questionnaires are the result of the direct engagement of over 300 Indigenous communities in the data-gathering and analysis process.

The Indigenous Navigator’s framework, tools, data collection and subsequent discussions on the results from the questionnaires led to a participatory process of identification of the most urgent issues that needed to be addressed. Alongside the identification of issues and sensitisation on rights, survey results often served to confirm the experiences and observations of the local communities and allowed them to visualise and communicate their issues in a tangible and quantifiable manner. This process resulted in the development and full implementation of 58 data-driven projects. These pilot projects, which are led and carried out by Indigenous communities, promote innovative solutions to urgent issues in the local context, taking into account Indigenous Peoples’ own values, worldview, economies and life plans. They also, collectively, cover all 17 SDGs.

A period of adjustment

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a critical impact on Indigenous communities. Nationwide, preventative efforts to control the spread of the pandemic, including lockdowns, limitations on inter-regional and international travel, and Indigenous Peoples’ own efforts to contain and isolate themselves affected the implementation of data collection, advocacy and the small grants facility’s activities.

To ensure vulnerable communities were able to protect themselves and face up to the pandemic, restrictions on mass gatherings and domestic travel were adhered to and plans for training workshops, dialogue meetings, monitoring visits and field activities were adapted.

Planned consultations on the Indigenous Navigator’s tools, surveys and global portal were impacted. Nevertheless, a newly-developed, user-friendly and sustainable Indigenous Navigator Global Portal was launched. In close coordination with consortium partners, the Danish Institute for Human Rights organised six sessions of virtual consultations with Indigenous Navigator partners in Africa, Asia, Europe and Latin America. These consultations led to the adjustment of critical features included in the new Portal design as well as improvements in the tools and their related guidance for users, and ensured full transparency within the consortium on the platform’s development and interaction. Corrections and refinements of the Global Portal were implemented throughout 2021.

Despite the challenges, the consortium partners, along with their national counterparts and Indigenous communities, achieved considerable progress in the implementation of the Indigenous Navigator, which has been instrumental in responding to the immediate and long-term needs of these communities in times of sanitary, economic and political crisis.

In Nepal, for example, Indigenous communities have actively used their advocacy skills. Enhanced by their experience with the Indigenous Navigator, they have had constructive dialogues with local and provincial governments, and their national human rights commission, regarding access to public funds, social services and protections. They have also been monitoring the recovery from the pandemic as well as the implementation of the SDGs.

In Cambodia and in Bangladesh, a total of 30 new communities were surveyed and, in Cambodia, a national dialogue was held between Indigenous Peoples, government institutions and CSOs on Indigenous Peoples’ disaggregated data. Further, the Cambodia Indigenous Peoples’ Organisation organised workshops on the National Report on Demographic, Socio-economic Status of Indigenous Peoples in Cambodia to present Indigenous Peoples’ Data in the report as well as discuss how to move forward to support Indigenous Peoples based on the available data/gaps.

In Bolivia, in November 2021, Indigenous representatives from the Indigenous Autonomies of Territorio Indígena Multiétnico I, Cavineño (Beni), Tapacarí Cóndor Apacheta (Oruro) and Lomerío (Santa Cruz) held a meeting where they shared their experiences of claiming their rights to autonomy and how they have proceeded to constitute their own governments.

In Suriname, work has continued on a multi-regional communication project developed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.[9] De Vereniging van Inheemse Dorpshoofden in Suriname (VIDS), the national coordinating organisation in Suriname for the Indigenous Navigator, also published key information regarding the response to the pandemic, and Indigenous Peoples’ participation in decision-making processes.[10]

In addition to those concrete outcomes, the small-scale pilot projects also had a significant and unforeseen impact at the local level across all three continents. Community members report that they are fostering solid collaboration within communities, restoring their sense of community, revitalising their identities and cultures, renewing collective efforts to achieve their own goals, and enhancing Indigenous youth's capacities to lead and advocate for their rights. As Indigenous communities continue to become more aware of their rights, they are better equipped to use their data as advocacy tools, and this is guiding them to plan their future. Utilising these projects, 27 local government institutions have included targets for Indigenous Peoples in their development planning across Bolivia, Peru, Colombia, Cameroon, Bangladesh, Nepal and Cambodia. Sixteen official agreements and partnerships were established in 2021 between Indigenous communities and local governments across the project countries.

In all, the Indigenous Navigator initiative has reached 374 Indigenous communities through the small grants facility and enabled 150 Indigenous communities to develop and implement their self-determined proposals.

As a result of the Indigenous Navigator’s implementation in 2021, a total of 2,010 representatives from target groups have been trained in their rights, the SDGs, other relevant public policies and budgets, monitoring and advocacy skills. Approximately 166,240 Indigenous people have benefitted from the implementation of these 58 projects.

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.[11] These dialogues have had an impact on regional and global processes. Ten statements were prepared for the High-Level Political Forum (HLPF), and references to Indigenous Peoples were secured in the HLPF Ministerial Declaration 2021;[12] further, Indigenous Peoples were able to participate and have their voices heard as a result of the concerted advocacy, alliance building, and documentation. Three Indigenous representatives acted as lead discussants during the thematic reviews, and four statements were prepared and delivered during the 7th and 8th Asia-Pacific Forum on Sustainable Development (APFSD). Further, there were 16 inputs into Civil Society Collaborative statements, and six Indigenous representatives participated in the Voluntary National Review (VNR) sessions.

The Indigenous Peoples Major Group for Sustainable Development (IPMG) was able to prepare and produce two global summaries, 12 VNR reports and eight regional reports.

In 2021, two additional global reports were developed and published by the Indigenous Navigator consortium: SDG 16 through the lens of the Indigenous Navigator: Charting pathways towards peace, justice and strong institutions with Indigenous Peoples[13] and Indigenous Navigator: Innovating Indigenous Education through the Small Grants Facility.[14]

As a contribution to COP 15 of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), together with the ILO and IWGIA, FPP convened a consultation with Indigenous Experts on Traditional Occupations in Labour Statistics on 2 November 2021. The outcomes of this meeting will contribute to the ongoing work on traditional occupations under the CBD. In addition, a follow-up preparatory meeting for the delayed CBD COP 15 was held on 8 December 2021. The event: “How Can We Better Protect and Promote Human Rights in the Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework? | High-Level Panel”[15] aimed to draw attention to the importance of human rights in the Global Biodiversity Framework prior to the final face-to-face negotiations of the post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework, which are to be held in 2022.[16]

These global-level knowledge products supplement reports, briefs and articles produced at the national and regional level that are working to document (concretise) the communities' experiences. By doing so, they serve to inform policy makers and duty bearers of Indigenous Peoples’ own situation and their own priorities.

Through their findings, the country-level and global-level knowledge products are continuing 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.

Indigenous women

Through the community surveys and advocacy processes of the Indigenous Navigator, Indigenous women across all regions reported that they face multiple forms of discrimination, unequal pay, violence and harassment, both inside and outside their communities, limited access to health services, lack of recognition of their land rights, and limited participation in the decision-making that affects their lives.

In the context of the second year of the COVID-19 pandemic, pre-existing inequalities and intersecting forms of discrimination have placed Indigenous women in a particularly vulnerable situation. Despite these persisting challenges, experiences reported through the Indigenous Navigator testify to Indigenous women’s role as leading actors in building resilience.[17] The powerful engagement of Indigenous women in initiatives such as the Indigenous Navigator and through the pilot projects, some of which were designed to specifically address Indigenous women’s needs, sheds light on their vital contributions.

It is clear through their contributions that action should be taken to ensure that Indigenous women realise their political rights, diversify their skills and abilities for their effective participation in decision-making forums, and are able to leverage their leadership through support for Indigenous women’s organisations.

Much remains to be done to realise Indigenous women’s right to education. This requires problem identification and sustained action to tackle barriers faced by Indigenous women and girls in accessing education at all levels, including vocational training. Additionally, Indigenous women’s rights at work, as well as their right to freely engage in traditional and other economic activities, including sustainable entrepreneurial activities, should be promoted and protected.

It is essential to step-up action to enhance the recognition and protection of women’s rights to land and natural resources, and to ensure their access to remedies in case of dispossession.

Finally, it is urgent to challenge and end discriminatory attitudes and stereotyping as well as harassment and violence based on ethnicity, Indigenous identity and gender. These phenomena are persisting and entrenched obstacles to Indigenous women’s equality. This should include building strong institutions to provide appropriate response to cases of gender-based violence against Indigenous women, as envisaged in ILO Violence and Harassment Convention, 2019 (No. 190).[18]

Responding to the pandemic

In 2021, the Indigenous Navigator continued to provide first-hand information on the situation of Indigenous Peoples in the 11 countries where communities have participated in data collection, advocacy and project implementation.[19] One critical finding has been the differentiated impact that COVID-19 is having on Indigenous Peoples, which also varies from community to community. The data and consultations with partners conducted in 2021 identify how pre-existing barriers in access to health, social security and education are fuelling disproportionate impacts from the COVID-19 pandemic on Indigenous Peoples. Despite these critical challenges, the findings have also underlined the vital role played by Indigenous communities in building the response and recovery to the global COVID-19 crisis resulting from the pandemic.

The Indigenous Navigator's local partners have also developed their resilience capacities and worked to find ways to support Indigenous communities while providing them with logistical and technical support to cope with the crisis. In the Philippines, communities are building on previous experiences of crisis (e.g., droughts and rat infestations) and increasingly retrieving traditional seeds and crops, as well as rejuvenating traditional food production systems, as they have realised that reverting to their traditional food production systems and practices makes the community more resilient. In Tanzania, for instance, in collaboration with community health workers, the Pastoralists Indigenous Non Governmental Organization's Forum (PINGO's Forum) has trained Indigenous community members in the use of sanitation supplies. In Kenya, key information has been translated into local languages and disseminated. In Peru, the National Organiaztion of Andean and Amazon Indigenous Women of Peru (ONAMIAP) has embarked on awareness-raising campaigns relating to the risks associated with COVID-19 in Indigenous communities, including through community radio.

In various instances, local partners have emphasised that COVID-19 responses proposed and implemented by governments are often blind to local realities and therefore rejected by Indigenous groups.

Continued commitment, a valued tool

National partners, as well as beneficiary communities, have proven, and continue to prove, their engagement and commitment to the Indigenous Navigator as a valued tool in realising their rights by promoting it and submitting applications to expand their work and its coverage. National partners have organised and conducted planned events and activities that have performed beyond expectations given the local contexts and the catastrophic impacts of COVID-19. They are also continuously supporting the local communities, who have shown their enhanced capacity to develop grant proposals, manage the implementation of pilot projects and strengthen their demands, describe their internal strategies, and engage with local municipal authorities alongside their visions for their own development.

In 2021, the Indigenous Navigator’s consortium adopted a new vision and renewed mission for 2021-2025. Over the next five years, the consortium intends to expand the Indigenous Navigator’s geographic outreach and impact, aiming to conduct national surveys in approximately 30 new countries, improve its tools based on feedback from Indigenous communities and users, as well as develop and add supplemental modules to address key topics identified by the wider Indigenous Peoples’ movement. These modules will cover key aspects of Indigenous Peoples’ rights related to biodiversity, climate change, gender and due diligence – with a focus on the impacts of business operations – and strengthen ongoing and new advocacy alliances.

David Nathaniel Berger is an Adviser at the International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs (IWGIA) and 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.


This article is part of the 36th edition of 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 2022 in full here


Notes and references

[1] Berger, David. “The Indigenous Navigator: Self-Determined Development.” In The Indigenous World 2020, edited by Dwayne Mamo, 685-693). Copenhagen: The International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs (IWGIA), 2020. Berger, David. “The Indigenous Navigator: Self-Determined Development.” In The Indigenous World 2021, edited by Dwayne Mamo, 734-745). Copenhagen: The International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs (IWGIA), 2021.

[2] Idem.

[3] Indigenous Navigator. ”Indigenous Data.”

[4] International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs (IWGIA). “Charting pathways to realize SDG 16 with indigenous peoples.” Co-organisers: AIPP, FPP, DIHR, ILO, OKANI, PINGO’s Forum. FaceBook, April 20, 2021.

[5] Indigenous Navigator.  “SDG 16 through the lens of the Indigenous Navigator: Charting pathways towards peace, justice and strong institutions with Indigenous Peoples”. The International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs (IWGIA) and the International Labour Organization (ILO), 2021.

[6] Op Cit. 1

[7] Indigenous Navigator. “Explore data.” Data explorer for National submissions). Indigenous Navigator. “Explore data.”Explorer for Community submissions.

[8] Indigenous Navigator. “Explore Index.” Index Explorer for all submissions.

[9] Op Cit. 1

[10] VIDS. “Participatie van het Inheems traditioneel gezag in nationale besluitvorming tijdens de Covid-19 uitbraak in Suriname.” [Participation of the Indigenous tradiional authority in national decision-making during the Covid-19 outbreak in Suriname] Indigenous Navigator.

[11] Op Cit. 1

[12] United Nations.’E/HLS/2021/1. Economic and Social Council. 16 August 2021. 2021 session. Agenda item 5

High-level segment. Ministerial declaration of the high-level segment of the 2021 session of the Economic and Social Council and the 2021 high-level political forum on sustainable development, convened under the auspices of the Council, on the theme “Sustainable and resilient recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic that promotes the economic, social and environmental dimensions of sustainable development: building an inclusive and effective path for the achievement of the 2030 Agenda in the context of the decade of action and delivery for sustainable development”’.

[13] Op Cit. 5

[14]  Indigenous Navigator. “Indigenous Navigator: Innovating Indigenous Education through the Small Grants Facility.” Copenhagen: The International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs (IWGIA), 2021.

[15] This event was co-convened by Forest Peoples Programme, Swedbio, the International Indigenous Forum on Biodiversity (IIFB), the Global Youth Biodiversity Network (GYBN), the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), Women 4 Biodiversity, and the Geneva Environment Network.

[16] Geneva Environment Network. “How Can We Better Protect and Promote Human Rights in the Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework?” YouTube, December 15, 2021.

[17] Indigenous Navigator. “Indigenous women’s realities: Insights from the Indigenous Navigator.” Copenhagen: The International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs (IWGIA) and the International Labour Organization (ILO), 2020.

[18] International Labour Organization (ILO) “C190 - Violence and Harassment Convention, 2019 (No. 190).” Adoption: Geneva, 108th ILC session (21 Jun 2019).

[19] Indigenous Navigator. “Implementing the Indigenous Navigator: Experiences Around the Globe.”. Copenhagen: The International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs (IWGIA), 2020.

Tags: Global governance, Indigenous Navigator



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