Indigenous peoples' rights

Message by ILO Director-General Guy Ryder on the occasion of International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples

Statement | Geneva | 09 August 2013

Today as we celebrate the achievements of indigenous peoples over the years we must also resolve to act against persistent injustices that continue to prevent them from living and working in dignity.

This year’s theme “Indigenous peoples building alliances: Honouring treaties, agreements and other constructive arrangements,” resonates with the ILO which has had a unique and decades-long experience in forging alliances and partnerships to advance the rights of indigenous peoples. That experience is rooted in social dialogue and tripartism, keystones of our governance paradigm for promoting social justice, fair and peaceful workplace relations and decent work. They are also essential tools in promoting social rights for indigenous peoples.

Next year we celebrate the 25th anniversary of the ILO’s Indigenous and Tribal Peoples Convention, 1989 (No. 169), a treaty developed in cooperation with the UN system. This Convention represents a consensus reached by the ILO’s tripartite constituents and it calls upon States to build partnerships with indigenous peoples through consultation and participation in decision–making processes on matters affecting them. Earlier this year we published a Handbook on Convention No.169 to help renew the impetus for implementation. It promotes understanding of the Convention and encourages joint implementation efforts and strengthening of dialogue between the ILO’s tripartite constituents and indigenous peoples.

Convention No.169 has also served as an important instrument to build alliances and strengthen partnerships with the UN system.

In April this year, we were pleased to welcome Grand Chief Edward John, Chairperson of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII) to our Ninth European Regional Meeting held in Oslo, Norway. He spoke of the role of international labour standards in advancing respect for indigenous peoples’ rights, making a strong plea for indigenous peoples to be included in social dialogue processes. He called for targeted action to tackle inequalities in the world of work and expand opportunities for quality jobs for indigenous peoples with a special focus on the situation of indigenous women, children and youth.

A recently launched inter-agency study on “Breaking the silence on violence against Indigenous Girls, Adolescents and Young Women” by the ILO, UN Women, United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), and the Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Violence against Children, calls for concerted action to stop such violence and it reflects the fundamental importance of building alliances including among social partners and stakeholders to advance indigenous peoples’ rights.

On this Day, the ILO, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), UNDP (United Nations Development Programme), UNICEF and UNFPA have made a joint appeal for support to the United Nations Indigenous Peoples Partnership (UNIPP), an inter-agency initiative launched in 2011that promotes alliances and partnerships between indigenous peoples, governments and social partners at the country level for effective implementation of Convention No. 169 and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP). The ILO has been pleased to work with partner agencies to advance indigenous peoples’ rights through joint programmes in Bolivia, Nicaragua, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Republic of Congo and Nepal as well as through a regional programme in South-East Asia.

The high-level meeting of the UN General Assembly on indigenous peoples – the World Conference taking place in September 2014, as well as the shaping of the post 2015 development agenda are further opportunities to enhance partnerships and alliances with indigenous peoples in the world of work and beyond, in their quest for equal access to decent work and sustainable livelihoods.

On this important Day, the ILO reaffirms its commitment to working together for the realization of indigenous peoples’ rights so that they may have a fair chance of decent work.