Indigenous peoples

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The rights of indigenous peoples are one of the priorities under the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights. The goals are to increase indigenous peoples’ rights and capacity to control their own social, economic and cultural development, while enhancing territorial rights and capacity for sustainable management of biological resources.

The UN estimates that there are around 300 million people that define themselves as indigenous living in more than 70 countries – predominantly developing countries, but also including the Arctic. Many live in areas considered critical to the conservation of biodiversity and live in a way that does not endanger these resources. In some countries, indigenous peoples are not recognized and suffer discrimination and exclusion. In other cases, indigenous communities are not consulted or informed on activities or programmes affecting their territories.

Since indigenous issues first made it onto the EU agenda in 1997, progress has been made. Most importantly, a UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples was adopted in 2007, supported by the European Union. Unfortunately, however, discrimination and unequal treatment persist worldwide.

The EU is helping to address this. It seeks to integrate indigenous issues into all aspects of its external policies (political dialogues, multilateral forums, financial support). The EU is funding projects worldwide, through the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights. Many of these projects are run by international organisations, such as the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and the OHCHR an by non-governmental organisations. Some of these projects typically support indigenous representatives as they seek to participate in relevant UN activities, or promote the International Labour Organization’s Convention 169.

EU Delegations around the world also organise events to celebrate August 9– International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples – to raise awareness of these groups.