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Indigenous Peoples Overview


    There are approximately 300 million Indigenous Peoples 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.

    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 and economies.

    Improving their situation will require both widespread and sustainable economic growth as well as strategies to address multiple sources of disadvantage, taking into account their views and special needs of development.

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

    Last Updated: Sep 30, 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; and
    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: Sep 30, 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 Peoples 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 Climate Investment 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 and 2013 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.

    The Dedicated Grant Mechanism for Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities (DGM) under the Forest Investment Program (FIP) is a $50 million special initiative in eight FIP countries for Indigenous and other forest dependent communities. The program resulted from a series of regional and global meetings between Indigenous and local communities, the World Bank and other multi-lateral banks, and the Climate Investment Funds Secretariat.  The innovative grants program is led by indigenous and forest dependent local communities, who prepare, implement and govern the overall program at country and global levels. The grants finance investments ranging from land tenure and sustainable forest management to training in financial management and entrepreneurial skills. 

    Each country is currently carrying out a self-selection process for its own national steering committee whose members will form the global governing body. The DGM global (transitional) committee just completed its second meeting in Washington, D.C. and will prepare a side event at the Climate Change COP 2014 in Lima. The first DGM project in Brazil and a Global Component for learning and knowledge sharing platform will become operational in early 2015.  Programs in Burkina Faso, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ghana, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Mexico and Peru will become operational in late 2015 and 2016. With the country and global governing bodies are in place, it will be the indigenous and local communities’ own platform on  forests and climate change to voice their policy positions, as well as raise funds and manage their projects on the ground.

    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+ readiness, 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 process to update and consolidate the Bank’s policy framework for environmental and social safeguards, in an effort to better address new development demands and challenges. Following a series of pre-dialogues with Indigenous Peoples, the World Bank organized a Global Dialogue and Engagement process with Indigenous Peoples that had four objectives:

    a) Inform the ongoing World Bank Environmental and Social Safeguards Review and Update process, particularly in relation to Operational Policy OP 4.10, Indigenous Peoples;

    b) Improve the effective implementation of the Policy (OP 4.10);

    c) Identify strategies to direct more World Bank investment to Indigenous Peoples, based on their own vision of development; and,

    d) Strengthen the engagement process between the World Bank and Indigenous Peoples worldwide.

    This formal dialogue with Indigenous Peoples was conducted from October 2013 to 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.

    In July 2014, the Committee on Development Effectiveness (CODE) of the World Bank’s Board of Executive Directors provided clearance to the Bank to consult publicly on the draft, including on Environmental and Social Standard (ESS) 7 for Indigenous Peoples. ESS7 maintains key provisions of OP/BP4.10, clarifies key definitions and introduces Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) in specified circumstances. It proposes that where identifying Indigenous Peoples would exacerbate ethnic tension or be inconsistent with the provisions of the national constitution, project impacts on Indigenous Peoples may be addressed through the application of the ESSs other than ESS7.

    Looking Ahead

    Phase 2 Global multi-stakeholder consultations. The second phase of consultations with stakeholders is under way, including consultations with Indigenous Peoples, to solicit their views and input to help shape the proposed Environmental and Social Framework.

    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.  A Community of Practice, the Global Group on Indigenous Peoples, was launched in July 2014 to enhance innovative solutions and knowledge sharing to support Bank operations for Indigenous Peoples sustainable development.

    Dedicated financial support for capacity-building for Indigenous Peoples. The World Bank is committed to both strengthen the capacity of 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: Sep 30, 2014

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