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Indigenous Peoples Overview


    The World Bank supports the efforts of client countries to better address poverty and social exclusion among Indigenous Peoples. 

    There are approximately 300 million Indigenous People worldwide. Although they make up roughly 4.5 percent of the global population, they account for about 10 percent of the poor, with nearly 80 percent of Indigenous Peoples living in Asia. Indigenous Peoples safeguard within their traditional territories about 80 percent of the planet’s biodiversity, yet they legally own less than 11 percent of these lands. 

    The World Bank is working actively and globally with Indigenous Peoples on a number of issues directly affecting them, including climate change.

    Indigenous Peoples and Climate Change

    As the World Bank expands its efforts to address climate change, it notes that Indigenous Peoples are extremely vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, given that they often live in environmentally sensitive areas (e.g., the arctic region, tropical forests, coastal zones, mountains, deserts, etc.), and often depend primarily on their surrounding biodiversity for subsistence as well as cultural survival. At the same time, Indigenous Peoples hold traditional knowledge that may be critical to climate change adaptation.

    The Bank will build on Indigenous Peoples' knowledge when assisting countries in developing strategies to adapt to changing environmental patterns and conditions. It will work to address the specific needs of Indigenous Peoples communities in dealing with climate change.

    Last Updated: Mar 24, 2014


    The World Bank seeks to position excluded groups, such as the Indigenous Peoples, at the center of the development agenda. This includes:

    1. Strengthening the policy and institutional frameworks affecting Indigenous Peoples and their relations with other members of society;
    2. Supporting Indigenous Peoples’ capacity for self-development, based upon their own views and priorities, including cultural heritage and knowledge;
    3. Demonstrating the important role that Indigenous Peoples can play in the management of fragile ecosystems and biodiversity conservation and in Climate Change Adaptation;
    4. Disseminating experience and lessons learned from such indigenous development initiatives to national governments and the international donor community.

    In recent years, the World Bank has engaged directly with indigenous leaders and their representative Indigenous Peoples Organizations (IPOs). The Bank participates each year in a number of high-level international Indigenous Peoples’ fora, including the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNFPII) in New York. In building wider alliances with the international indigenous community, the Bank has collaborated with various IPOs in developing countries. In May 2013, the Bank participated at the UNPFII in New York and organized side meetings and events covering a wide spectrum of thematic areas of high interest for Indigenous Peoples.

    Indigenous Peoples are disproportionally vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, given that they often live in environmentally sensitive areas (e.g., the Arctic region, tropical forests, mountains, deserts, etc.); and frequently depend primarily on surrounding biodiversity for subsistence as well as cultural survival. As a result, Indigenous Peoples hold traditional knowledge that may be critical to climate change adaptation. The 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 in the case of the REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation plus) agenda, where Indigenous Peoples are key stakeholders given their close relationships with and dependence on forested lands and resources.

    Last Updated: Mar 24, 2014


    Selected through the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII), indigenous peoples are observers to the Climate Investment Funds (CIF). The regional caucuses nominated nine indigenous people observers through a regional self-selection process, which was finalized in May 2012.

    The Forest Carbon Partnership Facility (FCPF), housed within the World Bank, as well as the Forest Investment Program – one of the CIF funds - provides direct grants to indigenous organizations to strengthen their capacity in areas of forest protection and climate change. 

    The FCPF financed a series of global and regional dialogues with indigenous peoples’ representatives in 2012 to ensure their full participation in the design and implementation of REDD+. The effort was part of the overall FCPF indigenous peoples capacity-building program, supported by a $3.5 million budget over four years.

    Indigenous Peoples are further active in the FCPF governance bodies, including the Participants Assembly, Participants Committee and Carbon Fund with a self-selected observer.

    Another initiative, Climate Change Impacts on Indigenous Peoples and Traditional Knowledge, analyzes the impact of climate change on Indigenous Peoples; identifies practices by Indigenous Peoples that minimize its adverse impacts; and strengthens Indigenous Peoples’ capacity to participate in the formulation of national and international public policies regarding climate change.

    The Indigenous Peoples issues in the REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Land Degradation plus) agenda revolve around providing proper information to Indigenous Peoples about REDD, involving them in REDD+ preparedness, design and implementation, learning from Indigenous Peoples’ traditional knowledge, ensuring that REDD+ design supports rather than undermines customary rights to land and natural resources, and incorporates benefit sharing systems so that Indigenous Peoples benefit from REDD+.  There is now a better understanding that the REDD mechanisms need to properly address the challenges regarding land and resources as well as provide greater recognition of Indigenous Peoples’ knowledge systems, as witnessed in the provisions of the December 2010 Cancun Decision on REDD.

    In 2012, the World Bank began a two-year process to update and consolidate the Bank’s policy framework for social sustainability and safeguards, in an effort to better address new development demands and challenges. The Bank carried out a series of pre-dialogues with Indigenous Peoples between March and May 2013 in order to agree on and plan a formal dedicated Dialogue.

    Since March 2013, The World Bank has been implementing a Global Dialogue and Engagement process with Indigenous Peoples that has four objectives:

    1. Inform the ongoing World Bank Environmental and Social Safeguards Review and Update process, particularly in relation to Operational Policy OP 4.10, Indigenous Peoples;
    2. Improve the effective implementation of the Policy (OP 4.10);
    3. Identify strategies to direct more World Bank investment to Indigenous Peoples, based on their own vision of development; and,
    4. Strengthen the engagement process between the World Bank and Indigenous Peoples worldwide.

    This formal dialogue with Indigenous Peoples has been conducted since October 2013 and is planned to end in this first phase in March 2014. The Global Dialogue has yielded excellent results in terms of participation, information gathered and the beginning of a renewed and stronger relationship with Indigenous Peoples. A second phase of the dialogue will begin in the fall of 2014.

    Looking Ahead

    A revised World Bank policy on Indigenous Peoples. The global dialogue has provided valuable input that will be incorporated into an update of the World Bank’s Operational Policy on Indigenous Peoples. This process will adhere to the general timeline of the Bank’s ongoing safeguard policy review and update.

    Deepened understanding of Indigenous Peoples issues at the country and regional levels. The Bank is continuing to deepen its understanding of Indigenous Peoples issues and needs at the country and regional levels through analytical studies that will improve its design and implementation of projects and programs that involve Indigenous Peoples.

    Dedicated financial support for capacity building for Indigenous Peoples. The World Bank is committed to strengthen the capacity of both our clients to enhance effective engagement with Indigenous Peoples to achieve development impact as well as building the capacity of Indigenous Peoples organizations. This support includes a dedicated grant mechanism for Indigenous Peoples and local communities by the Forest Investment Program (FIP), a Capacity Building Program for Forest-Dependent Indigenous Peoples by the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility (FCPF), and global, regional, and local consultations in the context of Forest Carbon Partnership Facility (FCPF). We will continue to work closely with Indigenous Peoples, either as part of policy reforms or within the context of the World Bank’s lending and knowledge instruments.

    Last Updated: Mar 24, 2014

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