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  • Indigenous Peoples are distinct social and cultural groups that share collective ancestral ties to the lands and natural resources where they live, occupy or from which they have been displaced. The land and natural resources on which they depend are inextricably linked to their identities, cultures, livelihoods, as well as their physical and spiritual well-being. They often subscribe to their customary leaders and organizations for representation that are distinct or separate from those of the mainstream society or culture. Many Indigenous peoples still maintain a language distinct from the official language or languages of the country or region in which they reside.

    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 lack formal recognition over their lands, territories and natural resources, are often last to receive public investments in  basic services and infrastructure, and face multiple barriers to participate fully in the formal economy, enjoy access to justice, and participate in political processes and 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, water and sanitation systems, the shutting down of markets, and mobility restrictions that have greatly impacted their livelihoods, food insecurity, and well-being.

    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 and healers of Indigenous Peoples to provide accurate information on disease prevention, distribute protective gear and hygiene supplies, and support traditional medicine, livelihoods and recovery in ways that are appropriate to Indigenous People’s priorities and cultures.  

    Much of the land occupied by Indigenous Peoples is under customary ownership, and yet many governments recognize only a fraction of this land as formally or legally belonging to Indigenous peoples. Even when Indigenous territories and lands are recognized, protection of boundaries or external parties use of natural resources are often weak. 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, promoting public investments in quality and culturally appropriate service provision, and supporting indigenous systems for resilience and livelihoods are critical to reducing the multidimensional aspects of poverty while contributing to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The World Bank works with Indigenous Peoples and 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: Oct 01, 2020

  • The World Bank continues to deepen its partnership and engagement with Indigenous Peoples through direct dialogue with their organizations and leaders; analytical work to enhance visibility and understanding of the development challenges they face; national-level policy dialogue and technical assistance to strengthen their participation and partnerships with governments, and financing of projects and programs that advance their development priorities.

    Each year, the World Bank participates in international Indigenous Peoples’ fora, including the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII). In partnership with Indigenous Peoples organizations, the World Bank is forming an Inclusive Forum for Indigenous Peoples (IFIP), 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 global forum builds off the strategic engagement that the Bank and Indigenous peoples are carrying out in thematic, regional, and national spaces across the world. Examples of this engagement range from the dialogue carried out around climate change, forestry and REDD+ supported by the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility (FCPF) to the regional dialogue in Latin America and Caribbean with the Abya Yala Indigenous Peoples Forum (FIAY) that has been ongoing since 2013.

    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 of professionals is led by a Global Indigenous Peoples Coordinator and supported by multiple social development and other sectoral and country staff. Together these staff work to enhance the visibility and inclusion of Indigenous peoples in the Bank’s analytical, programmatic, policy and investment work through  analytics, Systematic Country Diagnostics (SCDs), Country Partnership Frameworks, national policy dialogues, and public investments and trust funds.

    The World Bank is committed to both strengthening country capacity to enhance national engagement with Indigenous Peoples, and to building the capacity of Indigenous Peoples’ organizations as partners at all levels. This includes support for national-level policy dialogue, technical assistance, and support for upstream planning between Indigenous Peoples and governments.

    Indigenous Peoples and the Bank’s Investment Lending Portfolio

    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.

    In addition, some governments make requests to the Bank for investment projects and trust funds to finance the national strategies or priorities put forward by Indigenous peoples for development. Loans and trust funds of this nature are described in detail within the results page.

    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. Specific initiatives in this sphere include: 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).

    Last Updated: Oct 01, 2020

  • 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 Ecuador, in 2020, the Bank approved a loan for $40 million to support territorial development priorities for Indigenous, Afro-Ecuadorian, and Montubian peoples and nationalities in the areas of economic development, governance and COVID-19 response. This project was designed and will be implemented by the Government of Ecuador in partnership with Indigenous, Afro-Ecuadorian and Montubian organizations at both national and territorial levels. This project includes $2 million for investments to purchase supplies and provide technical assistance for traditional healers and community health workers in their front-line role to prevent the spread and attend to COVID-19 patients.
    • In Panama, in 2018, 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. In 2020, the Bank disbursed $2 million to purchase supplies and provide technical assistance for COVID-19 response in health centers and hospitals in and around Indigenous territories. 
    • In Laos, the Poverty Reduction Fund Project (PRF) III was established as one of the Government of Lao PDR's main vehicles to decrease rural poverty and deliver infrastructure services in rural areas. Under the two preceding World Bank-supported projects, the PRF has improved access to infrastructure for well over a million-rural people through implementing more than 4,700 subprojects. The PRF II (2011-2016) alone improved access to infrastructure for more than 567,000 rural people, financing 1,400 subprojects identified by the rural poor themselves. About 50% of the direct beneficiaries are women, and ethnic minorities account for about 70% of project beneficiaries.
    • In Cambodia, the Voice and Action: Social Accountability for Improved Service Delivery project facilitated and supported the social inclusion of ethnic minorities, women, and other vulnerable and marginalized communities in effective access to service delivery. Ethnic minorities were hired by local government as community accountability facilitators and improved the quality of service provision in six different indigenous languages (Khmer-Lao, Kreung, Kuoy, Proav, Mill, and Kraol) through mobile loudspeaker and radio broadcasts.
    • 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.

    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 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 addition, Indigenous Production Groups were developed within 77 households in Mat Thanh and Son Thuy.
    • Ethnic minority organizations in Vietnam benefited from FCPF Capacity Building program and piloted the benefit sharing mechanism in Vietnam’s Emission Reductions program, these pilots were conducted in selected EPD provinces in North central Vietnam where the majority population of EM lives. They successfully created forest management councils with EM representation to implement the non-carbon benefits of the ERPD. Furthermore, they are also engaged in monitoring of deforestation using technology that report the rates of deforestation every 15days, this information has been linked to the government monitory information system for REDD+.
    • 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 the context of Kenya’s devolution process, the workshop also requested inputs on the content and methodology for a study on devolution and marginalization to demonstrate the realities of minority and marginalized users of devolved services within the Bank’s study on impacts of devolution on service delivery.  The participants also expressed interest in structuring a more proactive dialogue between communities and county governments for which they requested the Bank’s support.

    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:

    • Supporting IPLCs land recognition and titling processes in DRCIndonesia, and Peru. These DGMs have been putting technical and financial resources directly in the hands of IPLCs to work with government authorities to overcome historic under-recognition and exclusion from land titling services. With these investments the DGMs are contributing to the protection and recognition of IPLC rights to occupy, enjoy and protect the forests and natural resources within their ancestral spaces that are under continual threats for concessions and invasions.  With  the issuing of titles IPLCs gain greater security 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 Peruthe 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 for 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.
    • Numerous projects financed by the Bank have and are leveraging the ESS7 to include Indigenous peoples, in ways that are culturally appropriate, to benefit in results in education, health, social protection, economic development, land titling, and many other sectors.

    For information related to the inclusion of Indigenous peoples in the World Bank’s Environmental and Social Framework, see here.

    Last Updated: Oct 01, 2020

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Washington, D.C.
Uwi Basaninyenzi
ubasaninyenzi@worldbankgroup.org