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  • 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, as well as their physical and spiritual well-being.

    There are approximately 476 million Indigenous Peoples worldwide, in over 90 countries. Although they make up over 6 percent of the global population, they account for about 15 percent of the extreme poor.  Indigenous Peoples’ life expectancy is up to 20 years lower than the life expectancy of non-indigenous people worldwide.

    Indigenous Peoples often face impediments to their access to natural resources, basic services, the formal economy, and justice, as well as their participation in decision making. This legacy of inequality and exclusion has made indigenous communities more vulnerable to the impacts of climate change and natural hazards, including to disease outbreaks such as COVID-19.  Vulnerabilities to the pandemic are exacerbated with the lack of access to national health systems, food insecurity due to shutting down of markets, and mobility restrictions.

    Indigenous Peoples in voluntary isolation or extremely remote areas, such as the Amazon are at very high risk to the novel coronavirus, as pathogens have historically been one of the most powerful factors in decimating Indigenous Peoples.  Many indigenous communities have traditional practices of lockdowns and isolation to protect themselves from diseases, and these need to be respected. 

    While Indigenous Peoples own, occupy, or use a quarter of the world’s surface area, they safeguard 80 percent of the world’s remaining biodiversity. They hold vital ancestral knowledge and expertise on how to adapt, mitigate, and reduce climate and disaster risks. In the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, there is an opportunity to work through the traditional authorities of Indigenous Peoples to provide accurate information on disease prevention, distribute protective gear and hygiene supplies, and support livelihoods and recovery in ways that are appropriate to Indigenous People’s needs and cultures.  

    Much of the land occupied by Indigenous Peoples is under indigenous customary ownership, and yet many governments recognize only a fraction of this land as formally or legally belonging to Indigenous Peoples. Insecure land tenure is a driver of conflict, environmental degradation, and weak economic and social development. This threatens cultural survival and vital knowledge systems – both of which contribute to ecological integrity, biodiversity and environmental health upon which we all depend.

    Improving security of land tenure, strengthening governance, and supporting indigenous systems for resilience and livelihoods are critical to reduce the multidimensional aspects of poverty they face while contributing to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The World Bank works with Indigenous Peoples to enhance all of these areas while working with governments to ensure that broader development programs reflect the voices and aspirations of Indigenous Peoples.

    Over the last 20 years, Indigenous Peoples’ rights have been increasingly recognized through the adoption of international instruments and mechanisms, such as the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) in 2007, the American Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in 2016, 23 ratifications of the Indigenous and Tribal Peoples Convention from 1991, 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).

    Last Updated: Sep 24, 2019

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

    Each year, the World Bank participates in international Indigenous Peoples’ fora, including the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII). The Bank builds on relationships with Indigenous Peoples at the country level as well as their representative organizations that participate in regional and global fora and processes on climate change, environmental and forest management, and other development issues.

    The World Bank has established a network of Regional and Global Focal Points, consisting of staff with expertise on Indigenous Peoples’ issues across different regions. This network will increase the inclusion of Indigenous Peoples into the main country planning systems, specifically the Systematic Country Diagnostics (SCD), Country Partnership Frameworks (CPF), national policy dialogue, and public investments.

    In partnership with Indigenous Peoples organizations, the World Bank is forming an Inclusive Forum for Indigenous Peoples, which will serve as a platform to identify and share good practices across regions and deepen the understanding of initiatives to advance the integration of Indigenous Peoples’ issues in development efforts.  This effort builds on regional dialogues with indigenous organizations and networks, such as the Abya Yala Indigenous Forum in Latin America, with which the Bank has held an ongoing upstream dialogue and engaged in strategic work since 2013.

    The World Bank is committed to both strengthening country capacity to enhance effective engagement with Indigenous Peoples, and to building the capacity of Indigenous Peoples’ organizations. This includes support for national-level policy dialogue and upstream planning between Indigenous Peoples and governments; a Dedicated Grant Mechanism (DGM) for Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities under the Forest Investment Program (FIP) in multiple countries; a capacity building program oriented partly toward Forest-Dependent Indigenous Peoples by the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility (FCPF); and analytical, strategic planning, and operational activities in the context of the FCPF and the BioCarbon Fund Initiative for Sustainable Forest Landscapes (ISFL). Selected through the UNPFII, Indigenous Peoples are also observers to the Climate Investment Funds (CIF).

    Indigenous Peoples and Climate Change

    Indigenous Peoples face greater risk to the impacts of climate change since they often live in environmentally sensitive ecosystems – such as the Arctic region, tropical forests, grasslands, mountains, or deserts – and frequently depend on surrounding biodiversity for their physical, material, cultural and spiritual well-being.

    The World Bank is engaging with Indigenous Peoples’ organizations to better understand and build upon traditional knowledge for climate change adaptation solutions at the local and national levels.

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

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

    In an effort to address new development demands and challenges, from 2012 to 2016 the Bank undertook an extensive review process to update and consolidate the Bank’s environmental and social safeguard policies – and Indigenous Peoples were an integral part of the dialogue around this review.

    The three consultation phases of the safeguards review included several dedicated Indigenous Peoples Dialogue sessions, yielding a high level of participation, valuable inputs, and a renewed and stronger relationship between the World Bank and Indigenous Peoples.

    On August 4, 2016, the World Bank’s Board of Executive Directors approved a new Environmental and Social Framework (ESF) that expands protections for people and the environment in Bank-financed investment projects.

    The ESF includes an Environmental and Social Standard (ESS) 7 on Indigenous Peoples/Sub-Saharan African Historically Underserved Traditional Local Communities, which introduces the principle of Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC). FPIC is a specific right that recognizes Indigenous Peoples’ right to self-determination over decisions affecting them or their territories. ESS7 adopts the principle of FPIC in projects affecting Indigenous people’s territories, natural resources, cultural heritage or requiring involuntary resettlement. ESS7 also provides further guidance on Indigenous Peoples in urban areas and Indigenous Peoples living in voluntary isolation.

    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.

    Indigenous Peoples will continue to be a crucial partner in the roll-out and implementation of the ESF.

    Last Updated: Sep 24, 2019

  • Increased engagement and dialogue and awareness of Indigenous Peoples’ rights have yielded results at the global, regional, country, and community levels. Examples include:

    Regional and in-country work

    • In Panama in fiscal year 2019, the Bank approved the first loan in more than 20 years for $80 million to support what Indigenous Peoples have put forward as their vision for development through the National Indigenous Peoples Development Plan. Jointly developed by Indigenous Peoples, the government and World Bank, this project aims to strengthen governance and coordination for Indigenous peoples to partner as drivers in their own development, while supporting improvements in access, quality and cultural pertinence of basic service delivery, in accordance with the Indigenous Peoples’ vision and development priorities.
    • As part of its 2018 - 2022 Country Partnership Framework with Vietnam, the World Bank is broadening economic participation of ethnic minorities, women, and vulnerable groups through a multi-sectoral engagement with a particular focus on livelihood- and-income generating activities that benefit ethnic minorities.
    • In Central Africa, the Bank is working with REPALEAC, the Central African Network of Indigenous and Local Communities for the Sustainable Management of Forest Ecosystems, to strengthen capacity through a multi-stakeholder dialogue with government entities, donors, and NGOs. In a series of capacity-building initiatives, REPALEAC has increased their organizational capacity and produced a Strategic Framework that defines their needs and produced targets and indicators (including gender inclusive goals and targets) to achieve both at the national and sub-regional level, improved land governance, natural resource management, sustainable livelihoods, cultural and climate resilience, and the realization of their rights.
    • Since 2003, the Bank has been supporting Roma inclusion in Eastern Europe through knowledge-sharing and data generation, capacity-building programs, policy advice, and integrating Roma inclusion in country operations. The Bank is systematically applying a “Roma Filter” to its operations in Europe and the Western Balkans, which identifies how World Bank operations can generate positive impacts on Roma communities and mitigate any risks that might arise. A Roma Sounding Board, whose members belong to Roma civil society organizations, has been created in Romania and will further support the Bank in mainstreaming the Roma-lens to operational work.

    Engaging local communities

    Since its launch in 2007, broad stakeholder engagement has been at the heart of the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility (FCPF)’s REDD+ support to countries. Civil society, Indigenous Peoples, and other forest-dependent communities play a central role in REDD+ readiness and implementation and have gained more access to forest and land-use planning through active participation and engagement at each stage of the REDD+ readiness process.

    • From June to July 2017, the Capacity Building Program of the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility (FCPF) supported six, five-day REDD+ “training of trainers” sessions in Nepal involving mid-level REDD+ facilitators of 12 Emission Reductions Program districts from June to July 2017. A total of 114 participants from 12 districts participated in these training sessions, including representatives from the Nepal Federation of Indigenous Nationalities, the Federation of Community Forestry Users Groups, and the Association of Collaborative Forest Management Nepal. 
    • Between July 2017 and June 2018, the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility (FCPF) engaged tens of thousands of indigenous peoples in the design and implementation of Emission Reductions programs. For example, in Honduras, the FCPF provided support for the country’s first workshop on the interpretation of cultural safeguards on REDD+ readiness and implementation, which saw the participation of more than 2,000 stakeholders, including 66 people representing the Tolupan, Garífuna and Maya Chorti peoples. In Burkina Faso, close to 7,000 people were engaged from 128 villages in May 2018 to raise awareness about REDD+, and collect suggestions regarding strategic options to mitigate deforestation and forest degradation.
    • In Vietnam, as part of the Gender Pillar of the Australia/World Bank Trust Fund, the FCPF funded an Ethnic Minority civil society organization to implement a capacity building program aimed at empowering ethnic minority women and youth in indigenous products value chain. A cooperative has been established, 150 people have been trained on animal disease/epidemic and technique of husbandry, and over 420 people have benefited from capacity building engagement.
    • In 2016-2017, Chile validated its 2017–2025 National Strategy on Climate Change and Vegetation Resources, which includes the active participation of Indigenous Peoples, civil society organizations, and women. As part of this stakeholder engagement, 1,813 individuals participated in the Indigenous Dialogue and Consultation Process, while 1,266 participated in SESA workshops, 37 percent of them women and 9 percent Indigenous Peoples.
    • In May and June 2017, Togo’s Women REDD+ Consortium spearheaded a national public awareness campaign on climate change, REDD+, and fuelwood efficiency, which reached more than 6,500 women and 600 men in 60 townships. A major driver of forest degradation in the country is the collection of fuelwood for cooking, a task usually taken on by women.

    The Dedicated Grant Mechanism (DGM) aims to empower Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities (IPLCs) to develop and implement projects of their choice, under their financial and operational control. This model is yielding its first outcomes, including:

    • By connecting IPLCs to land-titling processes in DRC, Indonesia, and Peru, the DGM has been overcoming their historic under-recognition or exclusion in this area. It has also led to quick wins in the issuing of titles, which IPLCs said they plan to use to build their economic base and protect the forests. In a 2018 Learning Review, all respondents in DGM Brazil felt that the DGM was protecting their basic political rights at a time when concerns are being raised.
    • In Peru, the DGM achieved the formal recognition of 208 native communities in the Public Registry in March 2019, thanks to the work led by the two national Amazonian indigenous organizations and supported by WWF Peru. The project has also supported the fieldwork and administrative process for 88 communities to process formal claims to the government to title their ancestral land, achieving the issuance of formal land titles for 14 communities as of March 2019. In addition, the project has benefited 56 native communities with technical and financial support to 40 forestry subprojects, 10 of which are run by women.
    • The Indigenous Peoples of DRC have expressed high enthusiasm for the DGM, which allowed them for the first time to meet with the highest authorities of the country. The recognition of the strong indigenous knowledge in natural resource management inspired a sense of ownership and trust in the implementation of 45 micro-projects in more than 65 villages. This approach helped deter corruption as financial management was mandated to be handled by the communities, with grievance mechanisms tying directly to the World Bank.

    Last Updated: Sep 24, 2019

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