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, and 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.  Therefore, they are also essential partners in the fight against climate change, and they hold vital 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.

International developments over the last 15 years demonstrate the relevance and importance of Indigenous peoples to the realization of the goals and aims of the U.N. itself and the broader development agenda. These developments include the adoption of the U.N. 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.

A new World Bank report Indigenous Latin America in the Twenty-First Century,  shines new light on the situation of Indigenous Peoples across the region and concludes that despite important advances, indigenous communities are disproportionately affected by poverty, and continue to face widespread economic and social exclusion.

The World Bank is working actively with Indigenous Peoples worldwide on a number of issues directly affecting them.

Last Updated: Mar 30, 2016

The World Bank is continuing to deepen its understanding of Indigenous Peoples’ priorities, needs and issues at the country and regional levels through analytical studies that will improve the design and implementation of projects and programs that involve Indigenous Peoples and through direct dialogue with Indigenous leaders and their representative organizations.

Each year the 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 Bank collaborates with various Indigenous Peoples Organizations (IPOs) in developing countries.

In April 2015, 30 leaders representing Indigenous Peoples from around the world held high level meetings with the World Bank as part of its engagement process. The Global Dialogue with Indigenous Peoples highlighted progress made and provided representatives of Indigenous People’s groups with a platform to help chart the Bank’s roadmap to continue strengthening its partnership with Indigenous Peoples. 

The Bank is committed to both strengthening country capacity to enhance effective engagement with Indigenous Peoples as well as to strengthen and 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), and global, regional, and local consultations in the context of the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility (FCPF). Selected through the UNPFII, Indigenous Peoples are also observers to the Climate Investment Funds (CIF).

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

  1. Strengthening the policy and institutional frameworks affecting Indigenous Peoples
  2. Supporting Indigenous Peoples’ priorities and views of self-development, through capacity development in line with cultural values and traditional knowledge;
  3. Demonstrating the important role that Indigenous Peoples can play in the management of fragile ecosystems, biodiversity conservation, climate resilience; and economic development, and;
  4. Disseminating experience and lessons learned from Indigenous development initiatives to national governments and the international donor community.

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, deserts) and frequently depend on surrounding biodiversity for subsistence as well as cultural survival  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 to 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.

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:

  • The use of “cultural mediators” in Costa Rica to facilitate social inclusion of Indigenous Peoples and campesino groups in the national REDD+ process by developing and using culturally appropriate materials and information.
  • The creation of a special platform (Mesa National Indigena) by the government of El Salvador which includes Indigenous People leaders representing all four indigenous areas in the country.
  • A self-selection process to ensure that Indigenous Peoples and civil society representation in national REDD+ implementation in Uganda is transparent, open and legitimate.

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

In 2012, the World Bank began a 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.

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. This dialogue is ongoing.

In March 2016, the World Bank completed consultations on a second draft Environmental and Social Framework. This draft includes a proposal for an Environmental and Social Standard (ESS) 7 for Indigenous Peoples, which proposes to introduce the principle of Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC).

The World Bank consulted widely with governments, private sector, and civil society, including Indigenous Peoples. The Bank is now reviewing and considering the feedback received and will present an updated proposal for discussion with the Committee on Development Effectiveness of the World Bank’s Board of Executive Directors later this year. The full Board, which represents the World Bank’s 188 member states, will make the final decision about the proposed Framework including the Environmental and Social Standard for Indigenous Peoples.

Last Updated: Mar 30, 2016

To deepen the understanding of Indigenous Peoples issues at the country and regional levels, the Bank launched an internal community of practice in July 2014, the Global Group on Indigenous Peoples, to enhance innovative solutions and knowledge sharing to support Bank operations for Indigenous Peoples’ sustainable development.

In the case study report Indigenous Peoples Development in World Bank-Financed Projects: Our People, Our Resources: Striving for a Peaceful and Plentiful Planet, the World Bank presents eight case studies that have produced tangible benefits to Indigenous Peoples and their communities. Some examples of World Bank projects that have yielded positive, tangible results for Indigenous Peoples include:

  • Through the Nicaragua—Land Administration Project, property registry times and transaction costs were reduced. The policy and legal framework for land administration was strengthened through the preparation of a National Land Policy Framework and the passing of three fundamentally important laws, one of which allowed the poor and marginalized indigenous communities in the Caribbean region to receive collective titles to 15 ancestral territories comprising over 22,000 square kilometers (almost 19% of the national territory).
  • The Central America—Integrated Ecosystem Management in Indigenous Communities Project amply surpassed its target of 100 participating communities and organizations to reach 350 indigenous communities participating in conservation and sustainable use of natural resources. Capacity building was provided to more than 4,000 indigenous peoples and 357 organizations. The communities and institutions learned to combine traditional knowledge with integrated ecosystem management, and this knowledge was used to prepare land-use plans. Some 379 communities prepared 23 integrated ecosystem management land-use plans based on their strengthened capacity. In addition, the project provided assistance to 472 communities and 69 community-based organizations to support the introduction and implementation of productive conservation-compatible subprojects.
  • As part of the Vietnam Third Rural Transport Project, women --many of them from ethnic minorities-- receive training on basic road maintenance skills and earn additional income from their work maintaining the rural roads that also connect them to markets and schools.
  • As a result of the Vietnam Second Northern Mountains Poverty Reduction Project, the rural poor and ethnic minorities of the poorest and most disadvantaged areas in northwest Vietnam improved their access to markets and services through the paving and upgrading of more than 4,230 kilometers of rural roads and the construction of 3,250 kilometers of small bridges. Water flow to irrigation schemes was improved to more than 9,000 hectares of farmland, reducing the number of months of hunger for the poor. Over 8,600 households now access improved water quality.
  • Since 2003, the World Bank has been supporting Roma inclusion in Eastern Europe through promoting knowledge and data generation; providing capacity building and policy advisory; and mainstreaming Roma inclusion in country operations.

In the Amazon region, funding from the FCPF Capacity Building Program, supported activities that contributed to the collaborative mapping of 2,344 indigenous territories and 610 protected areas, which together make up 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 maintaining the integrity of the Amazonian ecosystem, which is at risk from increasing pressures from agricultural expansion, road and hydroelectric development, extraction of timber, fossil fuels, and precious metals. The map for the first time provides quantitative confirmation of the carbon containing in indigenous territories and the Amazon’s role as a massive carbon sink for global greenhouse gas emissions.

Last Updated: Mar 30, 2016

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