Sustainable Development Goals: Indigenous Peoples in Focus

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development recognizes that decent work is both a means and an end to achieve sustainable development and eradicate poverty. Accordingly, the ILO Decent Work Agenda has a fundamental role to play in mitigating the specific social, economic and environmental vulnerabilities of indigenous peoples, and tackling their high levels of poverty.

The Sustainable Development Goals are grounded in a vision that aims to transform our world. They aspire to build a world free of poverty, hunger and disease, in which every woman and every girl enjoys full gender equality, where the environment is protected and where all people have access to quality education and decent work. This will be a world that is more inclusive, sustainable, peaceful and prosperous, and free from discrimination based on race, ethnicity, cultural identity or disability. These are just some of the facets of an ambitious and universal vision, adopted with the pledge that “no one will be left behind”.

This vision is of great significance to the over 370 million indigenous peoples worldwide, who have historically suffered grave injustices and many of whom continue to face marginalization, exploitation and exclusion. Even though great strides have been made in the eradication of poverty, indigenous peoples are still among the poorest of the poor.

Their traditional ways of life, livelihoods and practices are increasingly under threat owing to a range of factors, including lack of recognition and protection of their rights, exclusionary public policies, and the impacts of climate change.

A combination of issues such as loss of access to traditional lands and natural resources, discrimination in the world of work, forced migration, and poor access to opportunities have rendered them still more vulnerable in social and economic terms. Indigenous women, in particular, are exposed to multiple forms of discrimination and exploitation from both within and outside their communities. The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) framework provides a historic opportunity to address such issues and ensure that indigenous peoples too are not left behind.