Indigenous Peoples And Their Communities

©  United Nations Photo/John Isaac

UNEP recognises the importance of Indigenous Peoples’ participation as well as the valuable inputs that these holders of traditional knowledge – gained through trans-generational experiences and observations - can contribute to environmental assessments and sustainable ecosystem management. 

On the other hand, their close relationship with the environment has made many indigenous peoples extremely vulnerable to changes and damages in the environment. Illegal logging, mining activities, pollution and climate change all pose increasing threats to indigenous livelihoods and their survival. 

UNEP recognises Indigenous Peoples’ rights, risks, responsibilities and contributions in caring for the environment in furtherance of UNEP’s over-all mission to promote ecosystems health and human well-being. UNEPs engagement with Indigenous Peoples is supported by a Policy Guidance that was approved by UNEP’s Executive Director in November 2012 to guide UNEP’s understanding of the synergies and linkages between Indigenous Peoples and the environment, to inform decisions in policy development and implementation as well as to inspire potential partnerships within the UNEP priority areas of interest to Indigenous Peoples and to UNEP.

Within the UN system, the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII), an advisory body to the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) established in 2002, is the main and central forum to discuss indigenous issues related to economic and social development, culture, the environment, education, health and human rights. 

The following example is only a small part of UNEP's work with Indigenous Peoples and Their Communities at the global and regional level.

African Indigenous Peoples and the Green Economy Initiative

UNEP has released a report on the Green Economy Initiative (GEI), which was one of the major themes at the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD) in June 2012. From August 15-16, 2011, IPACC and Natural Justice facilitated a workshop of African indigenous leaders from nine African countries in collaboration with UNEP to study the content of the Green Economy Initiative, develop a critical understanding of its recommendations, assumptions and purpose, articulate a response, and issue a formal statement and a response document to be submitted to UNEP. Read the report“African Indigenous Peoples and the UNEP Green Economy Initiative” here. 

Grid Arendal and Indigenous Peoples

GRID-Arendal is a centre collaborating with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).  Established  in 1989  by the Government of Norway as a Norwegian Foundation, our mission is to communicate environmental information to policy-makers and facilitate environmental decision-making for change.  We are based in Arendal, Norway and have an office in Ottawa, Canada. Read more...

UNEP/GRID-Arendal’s Polar Programme advocates for the sustainable development of the Arctic through building knowledge and awareness for sound decision-making, participating in international stakeholder processes, and further developing the capacity of Arctic peoples.

Grid Arendal has several activities dedicated to indigenous peoples of the north and the Arctic:

Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, 13th session, 2014- Side event

21 May 2014

New York

Pastoralism and the Post 2015 agenda This side event was held on 21 May 2014 by UNEP with following partners: International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), World Alliance of Mobile Indigenous Peoples (WAMIP), International Land Coalition (ILC), International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and Tebtebba Pastoralism and the Post 2015 agenda.The side event examined facts, myths and emerging issues impacting pastoralists worldwide. A panel of speakers representing indigenous pastoralists, governments and UN bodies explored sustainable pastoralism solutions that could help define appropriate targets or indicators for the sustainable development goals.

Please find the side event report here.

For further information click here.


Accredited organizations

Find here a list of all Indigenous Peoples' organizations accredited with the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA) of UNEP.

A toolkit to support conservation by indigenous peoples and local communities:

Download here a toolkit to support conservation by indigenous peoples and local communities.