Indigenous Peoples are culturally distinct societies and communities. The land on which they live and the natural resources on which they depend are inextricably linked to their identities, cultures, livelihoods, physical, and spiritual well-being.

There are approximately 370 million Indigenous Peoples worldwide, in over 90 countries. Although they make up 5% of the global population, they account for about 15% of the extreme poor.

While Indigenous Peoples own, occupy or use a quarter of the world’s surface area, they safeguard 80% of the world’s remaining biodiversity. Some of the most biologically important lands and waters are intact as a result of Indigenous Peoples’ stewardship. They hold vital ancestral knowledge and expertise on how to adapt, mitigate, and reduce risks from climate change and natural disasters.  However, only a fraction of these lands are officially recognized by states, whether they are lands Indigenous Peoples traditionally owned or possessed under customary title.

Access to tenure, capacity building, good resource governance, among other interventions will aid in improving their situation. This will require both widespread and sustainable economic growth and livelihoods, culturally appropriate conservation and development, as well as strategies to address multiple sources of disadvantage, taking into account their views and special needs of development.

Recognition of individual and collective Indigenous Peoples’ rights has been achieved over the last 20 years through the adoption of international instruments and mechanisms, such as the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) in 2007, the establishment of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII), the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (EMRIP), and the UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNSR). No other non-state actor has received this level of recognition, institutional accommodation, and consultative status across the intergovernmental system.

Last Updated: Sep 16, 2016

The World Bank continues to deepen its understanding of Indigenous Peoples’ priorities, needs, and issues at the country and regional levels through direct dialogue with representative Indigenous Peoples’ organizations at the global, regional and national levels, through analytical studies and through the implementation of projects and programs that involve direct participation of Indigenous Peoples.

Each year the World Bank participates in a number of international Indigenous Peoples’ fora, including the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII) in New York. In building wider alliances with the international indigenous community, the World Bank collaborates with several Indigenous Peoples Organizations in developing countries.

In April 2015, 30 leaders representing Indigenous Peoples from around the world held high level meetings with the World Bank senior management, the Board and President Kim. This Global Dialogue with Indigenous Peoples highlighted progress made, agreed on a set of priorities for collaboration, and built a platform for continued dialogue oriented to enhance World Bank’s partnership with Indigenous Peoples.

The World Bank is committed to both strengthening country capacity to enhance effective engagement with Indigenous Peoples and to build the capacity of Indigenous Peoples organizations. This support includes a Dedicated Grant Mechanism (DGM) for Indigenous Peoples and local communities funded by the Forest Investment Program (FIP), a Capacity Building Program for Forest-Dependent Indigenous Peoples by the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility (FCPF), as well as global, regional, and local consultations in the context of the FCPF. Selected through the UNPFII, Indigenous Peoples are also observers to the Climate Investment Funds (CIF).

Indigenous Peoples and Climate Change

Indigenous Peoples are disproportionally vulnerable to the impacts of climate change since they often live in environmentally sensitive ecosystems (e.g., the Arctic region, tropical forests, grasslands, mountains, or deserts) and frequently depend on surrounding biodiversity for subsistence as well as cultural survival. The World Bank aims to build on Indigenous Peoples’ knowledge when assisting countries in developing strategies to adapt to changing environmental patterns and conditions.

This is particularly relevant to the Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation plus (REDD+) agenda, where Indigenous Peoples are key stakeholders given their close relationships with and dependence on forested lands and resources.

The REDD+ readiness process that countries carry out with support of the FCPF has deepened the participation of and collaboration with Indigenous Peoples and has led to the establishment of engagement platforms in many participating countries. Some examples include:

  • Costa Rica: The use of “cultural mediators” has facilitated involvement of Indigenous Peoples and campesino groups in the national REDD+ process by developing and using culturally appropriate materials and information.
  • El Salvador: The establishment of a special dialogue platform (Mesa National Indigena) that includes leaders representing El Salvador’s four indigenous areas in the country has enhanced involvement and dialogue with the Government.
  • Uganda: The application of a self-selection process to ensure that Indigenous Peoples and civil society is represented in the national REDD+ process has strengthened its transparency, openness, and legitimacy.

Indigenous Peoples and the Review and Update of the World Bank’s Safeguard Policies

From 2012 to 2016, the World Bank undertook an extensive review process to update and consolidate the Bank’s environmental and social safeguard policies, in an effort to better address new development demands and challenges. Indigenous Peoples have been an integral part of the dialogue around this review and will continue to be a crucial partner in the roll-out and implementation of the new Environmental and Social Framework (ESF).

The three consultation phases of the safeguards review included a number of dedicated Indigenous Peoples Dialogue sessions as well as other consultations that have yielded excellent results in terms of participation, information gathered and the beginning of a renewed and stronger relationship with Indigenous Peoples.

The ESF includes an Environmental and Social Standard (ESS) 7 for Indigenous Peoples/Sub-Saharan African Historically Underserved Traditional Local Communities, which introduces the principle of Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC).

ESS7 contributes to poverty reduction and sustainable development by ensuring that projects supported by the Bank enhance opportunities for Indigenous Peoples/Sub-Saharan African Historically Underserved Traditional Local Communities to participate in, and benefit from, the development process in ways that do not threaten their unique cultural identities and well-being.

Last Updated: Sep 16, 2016

Increased awareness of Indigenous Peoples’ rights and needs, engagement efforts and enhanced dialogue, have yielded positive results at global, regional, and country levels.  

  • The report Indigenous Peoples Development in World Bank-Financed Projects: Our People, Our Resources: Striving for a Peaceful and Plentiful Planet (April 2015) showcases eight case studies from Latin America, Asia, and Africa that produced tangible benefits to Indigenous Peoples and their communities.
  • The report on Indigenous Latin America in the Twenty-First Century (February 2016) expands our understating on the situation of Indigenous Peoples in the region.  Despite important socio-economic gains and increased recognition of their rights in national legislation, Indigenous Peoples are still disproportionately affected by poverty and continue to face widespread economic and social exclusion.
  • As part of its 2012-2016 Country Partnership Strategy with Vietnam, the World Bank is supporting ethnic minorities’ development through service provision and capacity-building to allow them to engage in and influence policies and programs.
  • The World Bank is providing technical assistance to the government of Colombia to support the consolidation of the peace building and post-conflict efforts in ethnic contexts. It is creating spaces for South-South collaboration on community-driven peace-building processes in indigenous areas.
  • In the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the World Bank is working with REPALEF, the national Indigenous Peoples network, to improve their technical capacity to address important challenges such as forest conservation and community rights. 
  • In Panama, the Bank is preparing what would be the first loan to a country for a national Indigenous Peoples development plan in more than 20 years. Jointly developed by Indigenous Peoples, the government and World Bank staff, this project aims to strengthen governance capacity and improve access to basic services and infrastructure in Panama’s indigenous territories in accordance with the Indigenous Peoples’ vision and development priorities.
  • Since 2003, the Bank has been supporting Roma inclusion in Eastern Europe through knowledge-sharing and data generation, capacity-building programs, policy advice, and mainstreaming Roma inclusion in country operations.
  • In the Amazon region, activities funded by the Capacity Building Program of the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility (FCPF) contributed to the collaborative mapping of 2,344 indigenous territories and 610 protected areas, comprising 52% of the Amazonian surface area that covers nine countries. The map promotes a more comprehensive and integrated vision of Amazonia and highlights the crucial role that Amazonian indigenous territories and protected areas play in protecting the Amazonian ecosystem from increased agricultural expansion, road, and hydroelectric development as well as extraction of timber, fossil fuels, and precious metals.

Last Updated: Sep 16, 2016

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