UN Indigenous Peoples' Partnership

Working together and getting results for indigenous peoples

Indigenous peoples have a powerful ally that, in a few short years, has helped recognize and expand their rights in countries on three continents.

News | 20 May 2014
Indigenous peoples now have a powerful ally that, in a few short years, has helped push the development of national action plans and better legislation, improved reporting on ILO Convention No. 169, assisted in the implementation of recommendations of the UN Special Rapporteur, strengthened social dialogue and national institutions, and has ultimately improved the standing of indigenous peoples nationally and internationally.

Since its creation in 2010, the UN Indigenous Peoples’ Partnership (UNIPP) has been working to establish frameworks for land titling and demarcation of ancestral territories, to promote participatory forms of governance in natural resource management and revenue-sharing agreements, and to increase recognition of indigenous law and judicial systems.

UNIPP was born out of a need to support the implementation of the UN’s Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and ILO Convention No. 169, and aims to coordinate efforts among various UN agencies, including OHCHR, UNDP, UNFPA, UNICEF and the ILO, which serves as the partnership’s technical secretariat.

Launched on the occasion of the event, the report “Success Stories: Cooperating to promote and protect indigenous peoples' rights” outlines various achievements of the partnership to date, including in-country work in Africa, Latin America, as well as South and Southeast Asia.

The Permanent Representative of Denmark, H.E. Mr. Ib Petersen, whose country was among the first to support the creation of UNIPP, lauded the report. He noted that the progress made in raising the profile of indigenous issues and mobilizing additional for the expansion of indigenous programs was a key achievement of the partnership. However, he cautioned that continued efforts were still needed.

“The reality is that there is still a lot to be done,” said Peterson, “It is important that we keep a focus on efforts at the country level and on improving the lives of indigenous peoples.”

Mr. Dev Kumar Sunuwar, an indigenous rights advocate from Nepal where UNIPP has worked to increase access to justice and conflict resolution mechanisms for the country’s many indigenous populations, said that understanding the international legal protections in place remained a key challenge.

“Implementation has always been a challenge in the Nepal, because of misunderstanding and misinterpretation of ILO Convention 169,” said Sunuwar. “After ratification, the government and other organizations have been working to create frequently asked questions, which should be translated into indigenous people’s languages and made available through different media.”

Ms Maliina Abelsen, UNIPP board member of Greenland, briefed the gathering on a recent mission to Nicaragua where UNIPP has been working to help harmonize indigenous and national justice systems.

“Indigenous people do not care which UN agency it is, but are focused on getting results at the national level,” Abelsen said. “UNIPP facilitates cooperation between national governments, indigenous peoples, civil society and the UN agencies themselves in a way that it respects customary law, but also human rights.”

In her closing remarks, Ms. Manuela Tomei, Director of the Conditions of Work and Equality Department at the ILO and UNIPP Co-Chair, outlined the benefits of the partnerships cooperative framework.

“Partnering with instead of working on behalf of indigenous people improves the relevance and quality of policies and programs, and lends credibility to them,” said Tomei. “Soundness and credibility are essential requirements for sustainable transformations.”

Tomei also spoke of the importance of connecting global advocacy with concrete action on the ground, which she said was the only way international treaties and conventions could ultimately make real changes in the lives of indigenous peoples.

“Through dialogue, consultations, and creating institutionalized channels for the participation of indigenous peoples,” Tomei said, “what UNIPP has shown is how to to translate entitlements and rights into reality. The road ahead is still quite steep, but the principles that have emerged from our practices are suggesting it is a promising road.”