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Speech by UN Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of UN Women, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, at the Public Lecture hosted by the Minister of Women, Family and Community Development, Malaysia

(29 November 2016) Thank you for the opportunity to speak to you on the significance of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the fight to end gender inequality; a fight many of you have been involved in for many years.

As you know, in 2015, United Nations Member States adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. They agreed to the 17 Sustainable Development Goals and 169 targets. This is the most complex agreement by Member States since the adoption of the Charter of the United Nations in 1945.

The SDGs are an outstanding accomplishment of governments worldwide; a process in which civil society and the private sector, academics and different concerned interest groups also contributed and participated. The goals reflect a true universality, and aspirations driven by a consultative process. The fact that so many Member States agreed to so many goals and so many targets as a mechanism to measure progress is in itself a big step, given their diversity of views. In that regard the SDGs must encourage all of us to do our best in our countries to make sure that the SDGs are owned and implemented.

All 17 of the goals have significance for women and girls. Goal 1 is about ending poverty in all its forms everywhere. Goal 3 is about ensuring that healthy lives are a reality for the people of the world as well as making sure we address and promote wellbeing for people of all ages. Goal 4 is dedicated to providing quality education for all and promoting life-long learning. Goal 5 is to achieve gender equality and empower women and girls. Goal 6 is to ensure access to water and sanitation for all, while Goal 7 is to ensure access to affordable and sustainable energy. Goal 8 is about promoting inclusive and sustainable economic growth, and employment. Goal 10 is about reducing inequalities, within and among countries, and Goal 12 is about ensuring consumption and production patterns are sustainable. Goal 13 is to take urgent action to address climate change and its impact. Goal 17 is to revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development. I hope this gives a sense of how rich and diverse the SDGs are.   

The goals deal with the successes and the limitations of the earlier Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), taking on board their unfinished business. They have a scheduled period for implementation, which is 2016-2030, and they are part of an even broader agenda. This includes the Addis Ababa Action Agenda on financing for development adopted in 2015 in Addis Ababa, and the Paris Agreement on climate also agreed to in the same year. These agreements, together with the SDGs, give us a comprehensive vision for 2030. They should, together, enable us to substantively change our lives and the way we deal with each other and among countries.

The 17 SDGs are comprehensive and ambitious. We have in them an accountability framework; they are universal, applying to all nations, rich and poor. These are not goals for poor countries, these are goals for the whole world and all countries. The goals also have gender equality front and centre. Gender is mainstreamed in every goal in addition to the one comprehensive goal, Goal 5, which is about gender equality. Gender equality and women’s empowerment are recognized as a critical contribution to progress across all the goals and all the targets.

The SDGS are designed to produce structural change that will last. They are also important because they adhere to human rights principles.  These 17 goals are about people and leaving no one behind, especially ensuring that women and girls are a priority, because many are in danger of being left behind. They are about shared prosperity, within and between countries, in order to close the gap that is opened up by inequality. The goals also are about our planet and its protection and help us to culture a low carbon economy. The changes that are envisaged as a result of the SDGs would mean that all of us take responsibility for protecting the planet. The goals are also about peace and its protection, as well as prevention of conflict. They are about a partnership that makes Agenda 2030 a possibility for everybody, in all parts of the world.

The SDGs were a hard-earned victory for the women’s movement. The inclusion of SDG 5, specifically dedicated to gender equality and the empowerment of women, is a critical victory for women. 

So, with all this being said, can these SDGs deliver far-reaching changes for women and girls? 

Can they give us a society with substantive gender equality? 

This is in our hands. But let us look at what is included in the SDGs to see whether there is the content for us to track the dream to travel this road.

When we fought for Goal 5, we wanted a goal to tackle the structural barriers of inequality. We wanted to make sure that some of the most pernicious and universal cultural barriers that impact on all the women in all the countries were in the forefront of the agenda. We wanted to make sure that the barriers that are transmitted from generation to generation are also addressed substantively. It is these cultural areas that in many cases erode the gains we have made, even as we move forward.

The focus of Goal 5 and its related targets builds on the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action and the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). The goals are not isolated from these iconic agreements. They come out of the lessons learnt from their implementation.  But the broad support for the MDGs, the Beijing Platform for Action, for CEDAW, has not given us the kind of progress that we wanted. There has been progress, but it has been slow, uneven and fragmented. With the adoption of these goals, we are trying to address the challenge of fragmentation, of the pace of change and ensure that the change itself is far reaching.

Goal 5 focuses on removing institutionalized discrimination against women. Legislative discrimination in many countries is among the greatest impediments to women’s economic empowerment and to women’s development, as well as to women’s equality and progress for girls. Discriminatory laws can be found in more than 150 countries of the world. 

Discrimination can also come about through far-reaching legislation that is not fully implemented, which means that the intended benefit is not felt. With the implementation of the SDGs, it is our aim to ensure effective implementation of the laws that have been adopted, and the policies. This requires the participation of government, of women’s organizations and of the private sector. There are also laws that have been passed that need to be amended because they erode rights that have been enshrined in some countries’ constitutions.   

I want to emphasize the importance of legislation because the United Nations is a body that is pulled together by normative agreements. If we fail to address legislation, we fail on one of the most helpful instruments that we have as an intergovernmental body. We have parliaments, municipalities, different forms of governance, all of which have powers to change rules and legislation.

Goal 5 supports us in ensuring that the laws that are somehow undermined by cultural practices and norms can work in the way originally intended.  This is a recognition that addressing norms and stereotypes is also part of the work of implementing the SDGs that we have to address.

Goal 5 also focuses on ending violence against women. One in three women and girls in all countries live with some form of violence. This includes sexual violence, harassment at work, sexual violence in conflict, early marriage, ‘honour killings’, as well as violence that is psychological. Goal 5 calls on all of us in all our countries to take decisive steps to end violence against women. In many countries this means ensuring that our law enforcement works effectively for women. It involves the prevention of domestic and other forms of violence through education. It means investing in services such as shelter, psychosocial support, and ensuring that we engage men and boys so that they too can become committed activists to end gender-based violence.   

Ladies and gentlemen, violence has a high cost for our countries. Intimate-partner violence accounts for some 5 per cent of the global economy. This is equivalent to a sum of USD 1.5 trillion. We must end violence, not only because it is the right thing to do, but because our countries are losing precious resources as a result of violence against women.

Goal 5 also focuses on ending harmful practices for women and girls, such as child marriage, female genital mutilation, but also other subtle practices such as the stereotyped portrayal of women in the media, all of which sustain gender inequality. More than 700 million women who are alive today were married as children before the age of 18. The numbers are not going down fast enough and substantively enough. If we do not take action to change this trajectory, we risk again having millions of women trapped in situations where their development is compromised and arrested.

Goal 5 also focuses on redistributing unpaid care work, starting with unpaid care work that is experienced at home, where women who are mothers take the bulk of the responsibility for care for children, elderly relatives and other societal care work. In many countries this care work stops women pursuing employment, and it can stop girls from following their schoolwork.

In addition, when women provide paid care work, such as domestic care work, it is underpaid, and unprotected. Women are 80 per cent of the world’s domestic workers, an industry with 67 million people in it. In most countries this work is unregulated, for example, 36 per cent of women who are domestic workers are not entitled to maternity protection. Addressing these injustices in the care economy could change the quality of life for many women. Women migrants who are domestic workers send remittances back home that support their families, provide shelter, education, and medical care. If we are able to stabilize this industry we can create a chain of positive impact.

Goal 5 also focuses on increasing women’s participation in decision-making. This is a problem and a challenge in all countries.  It is projected that unless we change the level at which women are participating in politics, it will take us more than 50 years to reach equality between women and men in political participation. If we do not take an active role in changing gender equality and women’s participation in the economy, it will take 170 years for women to achieve equal economic opportunity to men. Clearly we need to use the opportunity we have in the SDGs to shorten these time frames.

Goal 5 also addresses sexual and reproductive health and rights. It address the importance of reducing early and unwanted pregnancies, and ensuring access to family planning products. Access to these products for many women is a game changer. When women cannot pace when to have children, their lives are not in their hands. Women’s ability to make decisions about their bodies not only a right, it is critical for their health. Goal 5 addresses this critical area.

Goal 5 also addresses the need to guarantee the right to economic resources and full economic participation. Women’s economic empowerment addresses women in senior decision-making economic structures and also those in the informal sector who are not covered by policies that protect them. The achievement of economic empowerment for women working in the informal sector for example, can change their lives and sustainably alleviate poverty.

The holistic nature of the SDG framework means that the goals bolster and support each other. We know that a solid education leads to decent work and reliable income for both men and women. Decent work will ensure that many women have a predictable income and access to the labour market will give women choice so that they are able to remove themselves from harmful relationships once they can sustain themselves economically.

Women in the informal sector comprise as much as 50 per cent of the people who work in some countries.  Through the SDGs we encourage governments to deal with their macroeconomic and fiscal policies in a manner that addresses the informal sector. For example, in India, some 120 million women work informally. We cannot ignore this large number of women. In Mexico, 12 million women work in the informal sector. The absence of policies for women in these large numbers in these different countries means that we are losing an opportunity for the meaningful economic empowerment of women.

The SDGs and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development are about leaving no one behind. The focus is on multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination, for example, on the basis of race, ethnicity, age, location, disability or sexual orientation. If we fail to focus on this aspect of intersectionality, we risk leaving many people behind.

Women who are afflicted by conflict are often unable to benefit even when there are interventions or resources that are addressing their situation. Women living in war zones are victimized by war tactics such as sexual violence.  Yet women who are actively trying to bring about peace in their countries are often ignored as peace-makers and peace-builders. In the SDGs we make the case for effective participation of these women as part of the implementation of the many decisions on women and peace and security that are enshrined in UN Security Council resolution 1325.

In order to address and to use the SDGs effectively we need to be inclusive. In order to address gender inequality we need to broaden the base of stakeholders that are involved in addressing the issue.  We therefore have called upon significant involvement of leaders.

Last year we convened a meeting of Heads of State and Government. We discussed with them the role of global leaders in addressing gender inequality. More than 70 Heads of State and Government participated in the dialogue. This is something that we hope to sustain so that the issue of addressing gender inequality is not left only to women, but ministries of gender are also supported by their Heads of State.

We also have extended invitations for the participation of men and boys as partners in addressing gender inequality. Many are Heads of State, leaders of corporations, or principals of universities. Their role and effective participation is also critical.

At this time when we address gender-based violence during the 16 Days of Activism to end violence against women, we invite active participation of men. It is important that men are the ones who stand up and say ‘I will not beat up a woman’, ‘I will go to court and demand justice for a woman’, ‘I will not marry a child’, ‘I will not look away when I see an injustice being done to my daughter-in –law, my mother, my sister, my friend’, and ‘I will take action to end violence against women’.

As far as the private sector is concerned, we have also reached out them to address gender equality in the workplace. Through our HeForShe movement, which brings together men and boys as activists for gender equality, we have asked for commitments on action to address gender inequality. For Heads of State, their issues include taking on the ending of child marriage, issues of equal pay, or of ensuring that there is adequate access to girls’ education. In the private sector, the leaders that we are working with have taken it upon themselves to address the representation of women at senior levels of their boards, and bring together a pipeline of women that they are recruiting to position for leadership. In many companies they are also addressing the issues of violence, or harassment of women in the workplace. We have asked all the leaders who are participating to look at investing in this Agenda, as there is very limited investment in addressing gender equality.

Youth is an important constituency for implementing Agenda 2030 and addressing gender inequality.  We have reached out to young people, we have a Youth version of our Commission on the Status of Women, and we are developing more activities that bring young people together.

Ladies and gentlemen – we are considering the question of whether the SDGs address gender inequality.

All the actions that I have highlighted are do-able. We can do something substantive about ending violence against women, and addressing legislation that sustains gender inequality. We can address reproductive rights and health, and sexual rights and sexual health of women. We can do something about unequal representation of women, and we can do something about unpaid care work of women. We can ensure that cultural practices such as child marriages and female genital mutilation are ended in our lifetime. 

Between now and 2020, we are asking member states, and all of us, to focus on strategic interventions that will ensure that in 2020 we can see we are going in the right direction. By 2030, we are hoping that, if we all act and work together and implement these agreements that bind all of us, we should be able to see substantive equality.

It should be possible for a child who is born 10 years from now to ask us, ‘Is it true that women were so severely discriminated against?’ By that time inequality will be more of an exception than the rule, and the next generation will live in a world that is free from this form of discrimination. It is in our hands to achieve that. We are the first generation to have the possibility to make this a reality. All of the agreements that we make, and the mutually reinforcing Sustainable Development Goals, bring to us a diverse range of stakeholders that we never had access to before. If we harness that effectively, I think that we are on the right track, with action, commitment, and implementation.

Thank you.


Statement by Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Executive Director of UN Women on the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, 25 November, 2016

18 November 2016

We believe in and work for a world where women and girls can flourish and prosper peacefully alongside men and boys, sharing in and benefitting from societies that value their skills and accept their leadership. Violence against women and girls has a devastating impact on individuals and on the society.

Women and girls who experience violence lose their dignity, they live in fear and pain, and in the worst cases they pay with their lives. Violence cuts deeply into the liberties we should all have: the right to be safe at home, the right to walk safely on the streets, the right to go to school, to work, to the market or to watch a film. We should be able to expect that attackers will be punished, that justice will be done, and that we can get care and support for injuries.

Yet, still in many countries, the laws are inadequate, the police force is uninterested, shelters, heath care and support are unavailable, and the criminal justice system is remote, expensive and biased against women and in favour of the male perpetrators. Change to these elements has a cost, yet the price of no change is unacceptable. 

Experts are unanimous that the benefit of ending violence against women and girls would far outweigh the investment necessary. We know that even relatively small-scale investments that are timely and well targeted can bring enormous benefits to women and girls and to their wider communities. For example, in Timor-Leste a simple and very effective three-year programme to provide a package of essential services for women who had experienced violence cost a fraction of one per cent of GDP, but had significant impact on women’s health and well-being. Practical changes in market infrastructure, business training and provision of cashless payments transformed the environment, prospects and confidence of women stallholders in the markets of Papua New Guinea. In Uganda, a community programme brought together women and men, religious and community leaders, to change social norms, with a resulting reduction of 52 per cent in intimate partner violence.

These successes shed light on practical ways in which we can make progress. We can make inroads into the underlying issues of inequality and prejudice within our societies that enable and enflame violence against women and girls. We can scale up prevention and increase appropriate services. We can begin to bend the curve down and bring the scourge of violence against women and girls to an end. Doing so will take commitment, and investment, nationally and internationally. 

The extent to which violence is embedded in the society means that uprooting it is also a job for all of society. Changing the culture also means engaging allies, such as men and boys, religious groups and young people, using channels such as sports, arts, business, academia and faith to connect and convince.

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development gives us tools with which to achieve this. Its ambitious targets demand innovative solutions and new partnerships to mobilize resources, including from national governments, overseas development assistance, private enterprise and philanthropic bodies and individuals. Today, on this International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, we recall this universal Agenda, universally agreed, we recognize the inextricable link between success in both, and commit again to achieving it.




On 30th of October 2016, 32 indigenous women from eight countries[1] in Asia gathered in Yangon, Myanmar for Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact (AIPP)’s 3rd Regional Exchange Visit. Over the four-day event, the participants shared experiences; best practices and lessons learned on the impacts of climate change in their communities, such as creating conservation zones in watershed areas and surrounding forests and adjusting cultivation calendars to adapt with irregular weather patterns.  Below is the summary and recommendations.


Despite our diversity, we, indigenous women across Asia are experiencing common challenges: irregular and unreliable weather patterns are leading to food insecurity and loss of livelihoods; natural disasters including uncontrollable forest fires, severe and ongoing drought and deadly typhoons; loss of livelihood, leading to increased and unsafe migration and human trafficking, the degradation of communities and culture alongside conflict over resources; and the increase of chemical consumption and the consequential health problems which were previously non-existent. Furthermore, the traditional knowledge that has underpinned the health and wellbeing of our indigenous communities, which has been preserved and transferred by indigenous women, is threatened.


Indigenous women are not only victims of climate change. Through our centuries of our interaction and interdependent relationship with our natural environment, we are holders of invaluable traditional knowledge that has ensured the health and wellbeing of our communities and are critical to the future and wellbeing of the planet. Likewise, our traditional occupations and skills such as preservation of seeds and knowledge transference to younger generations, indigenous women are enhancing the conservation of agro-biodiversity within their territories. Likewise, we are the holders of knowledge on non-timber forest products, including plants, animals and insects for the treatment of illnesses and food for their families[2].


Indigenous women in Asia play a vital role in the conservation and sustainable use of biological resources.  However, climate change is threatening our ways of life, traditions and cultures, our spiritual identity and our collective survival. We are at the forefront of climate change-induced catastrophes, disasters and slow-onset damages that threaten their very survival. The impacts of climate change are undoubtedly more severe for indigenous women, although this is too-often not recognized or documented, despite our significant role in natural resource management. 


In the context of the Conference of Parties of the UNFCCC in Marrakech (COP22) for Actions in the implementation of the Paris Agreement, Asia Indigenous Women supports the recommendations by International Indigenous Peoples Forum on Climate Change (IIPFCC) to the UNFCCC parties. In addition, Asia Indigenous Women are presenting the following key recommendations to climate change policy makers:

1.  Recognize and protect the collective rights of Indigenous Peoples, including indigenous women to their lands, territories and resources, including their traditional occupations and livelihoods, sustainable resource managements systems and practices in line with the human rights obligations and commitments of States

2.  Ensure the respect, recognition and protection of the rights of Indigenous Peoples and indigenous women, in all climate change actions at the local, national, regional and international levels, including those related to energy production.

3.  Establish specific mechanisms for the effective participation of indigenous women in monitoring, data collection, evaluation and reporting on climate change actions and interventions by state and other actors, including in documentation activities on biodiversity in areas of Indigenous Peoples lands and territories.

4.  Ensure provisions for capacity building, sufficient financial and appropriate technical support to protect and enhance the contributions of indigenous women in climate change mitigation and adaptation.

5.  Ensure that all adaptation plans and actions are responsive to the specific needs indigenous peoples in general, and indigenous women, youth and persons with disabilities in particular, taking into account their cultural heritage, traditional knowledge, livelihoods and sustainable resource management practices.

6.  Protect, promote and enhance the traditional knowledge, customary laws and practices on the sustainable management of natural resources by indigenous women, and Indigenous Peoples in general, alongside the recognition and protection of their right to their lands, territories and resources. 

7.  All financing for climate adaptation, mitigation and loss and damage shall be responsive to the specific needs, condition and aspirations of indigenous women particularly those at the grassroots level, which vary from culture to culture, and thus, require specific considerations, whilst ensuring accountability, transparency and anti-corruption at all levels.

8.  Prioritize support for Indigenous Peoples initiatives for community-based adaptation including direct support to indigenous women to enhance their traditional knowledge, innovations, skills and livelihoods within their communities.

9.  Ensure an overarching human rights approach to all climate change actions in the implementation of the Paris Agreement and respect, protect, promote and fulfill the rights of indigenous women, as provided in the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), The Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and ILO Convention No. 169, among others.



Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact (AIPP)

November 8, 2016


[1]Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos PDR, Myanmar, Mainland India, Northeast India and Nepal

[2]For more information: Shifting Cultivation, Livelihood and Food Security: New and Old Challenges for Indigenous Peoples in Asia (AIPP and IWGIA)

CHIANG MAI, Thailand, Nov 2 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - A little over a decade ago, indigenous activist Joan Carling from the Philippines Cordillera region lost three colleagues in the space of a few years - all murdered in one of the world's deadliest countries for land rights defenders.

Then came her turn: a relative in the military told Carling's father his daughter's name was on the "order of battle", the Philippines military's list of people, including activists, who are deemed enemies of the state.

"When you are on the order of battle, you are an open target for extrajudicial killings," said 53-year-old Carling.

"There was a time (when) suspicious men or motorbikes were following me, and I was advised to stay in the office," she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation in an interview.

She kept her head down, hired a bodyguard, then spent several months at a U.S. university having won a fellowship for frontline human rights defenders.

For decades, Carling has been at the forefront of the fight for land and the environment, which London watchdog Global Witness calls "a new battleground for human rights", with communities worldwide locked in deadly struggles against governments, companies and criminal gangs exploiting land for products like timber, minerals and palm oil.

In 2015, more than three people a week were killed defending land, forests and rivers against industries, said Global Witness. Of the 185 murders it documented in 16 countries, the Philippines ranked among the most dangerous, with 33 deaths last year alone.

In many parts of the world, the biggest impact from extractive, agricultural and infrastructure projects is felt by indigenous peoples, living in remote, resource-rich areas and lacking land titles or knowledge to defend themselves against multinationals, international banks and government officials.


Carling, from the Kankanaey tribe of the northern region of Cordillera, grew up on a logging concession where her parents ran a shop.

She got her first taste of protest in the mid-1980s while studying at the University of Philippines in Baguio.

She spent two months in the Kalinga tribal areas protesting against four World Bank-funded dams along the Chico River, which activists said threatened to inundate 16 towns and villages and displace an estimated 85,000 people.

The World Bank ended up withdrawing its funding for the Chico dams, which were never built, and the episode prompted the bank to develop its policy on indigenous peoples, she said.

In the early 1990s, Carling immersed herself in mountainous tribal villages in the Cordillera and worked with the Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA) fighting for land rights, until the day she fell sick and had to be hauled out on a stretcher.

"My blood was too contaminated with malaria. I could not take more," Carling said.

Four men took turns - two at a time - carrying her out on a blanket slung between two bamboo poles, hiking for half a day, then driving for five hours to the capital of Kalinga province.

"They had to give me coconut (water) intravenously, as sugar, because of my diarrhoea," said the activist. "I felt like a pig - they were carrying me, tied like a pig on bamboo."

After medical treatment, she went straight back to her duties, hanging her dextrose IV bag on the walls of a building in the town centre, where she met indigenous people from remote areas who shared grievances about alleged land grabs.

"The villagers don't come often to the town centre, so I just had to meet with them with my dextrose on because you don't know when they'll come back," she said.


After working with the CPA to help indigenous peoples at home, she moved on to a regional stage, and nearly eight years ago became head of the Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact (AIPP), based in Chiang Mai, Thailand.

Through her work with AIPP, she has helped build a network among indigenous peoples from countries including Indonesia, Nepal, Taiwan and Japan - helping them to feel less isolated.

She has turned her attention to the impacts of climate change and solutions such as hydropower, which often have a negative impact on indigenous communities.

Carling expressed concern about the "narrow conservation approach" of taking people out of the environment to protect the environment, instead of allowing indigenous peoples to protect the resources and watersheds on their ancestral land.

"Indigenous people are actually the natural conservationists because it's part of our being - to protect and conserve our natural environment because we need to pass it on to future generations," Carling said.

"That is the wisdom of the indigenous people - we only use what we need."

(Reporting by Alisa Tang, editing by Jo Griffin. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, corruption and climate change. Visit to see more stories)

Madame Chair,
Distinguished delegates, indigenous peoples’ representatives
Ladies and gentlemen,

I have the honor to present today my third annual report to the General Assembly. I would like to start by expressing my gratitude to the numerous States, indigenous peoples, and others, and in particular to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, for the support they have provided as I have carried out my mandate.

Areas of work

Over the past year, I have engaged in a range of activities within my mandate. The various activities I have carried out can be described as falling within four, interrelated areas of work. I undertake thematic studies; conduct country visits; promote good practices; and address communications to Governments on alleged cases of human rights violations. In this presentation to the General Assembly, I will focus on my thematic work and refer to my three country visit reports from the past year.

Thematic studies

In my thematic report which I am presenting to the General Assembly today (A/71/229), I have chosen to explore how conservation measures affect indigenous peoples. While protected areas for conservation have the potential of safeguarding the biodiversity for the benefit of all humanity, these have also frequently been associated with human rights violations against indigenous peoples in many parts of the world.

The establishment of national parks and conservation areas has resulted in serious and systemic violations of indigenous peoples’ rights through expropriation of their traditional lands and territories, forced displacement and killings of their community members, non-recognition of their authorities, denial of access to livelihood activities and spiritual sites and subsequent loss of their culture. Indigenous peoples who have been evicted from their traditional lands suffer marginalisation and poverty, and are commonly excluded from redress mechanisms and reparation for the harm they have endured. I deeply regret that I continue to receive complaints about violations against the rights of indigenous peoples in the name of conservation.

In my report, I charted the favorable legal developments as well as the commitments and resolutions taken to advance a human rights-based approach to conservation. However, I have found that practical implementation and advancement of this human rights-based approach remains sorely lacking. The report presents recommendations on how indigenous peoples’ rights can be better protected in conservation policy and practice.

Madame Chair,

Traditional indigenous territories encompass around 22 per cent of the world’s land surface and they coincide with areas that hold 80 per cent of the planet’s biodiversity. There is increasing recognition that the ancestral lands of indigenous peoples contain the most intact ecosystems and provide the most effective and sustainable form of conservation.

Past conservation practices were characterised by the failure to consult with indigenous peoples when Government authorities decided to declare protected areas. Government decisions to declare areas protected were often motivated not only by an interest to protect nature but also to promote tourism to such areas.

The traditional lands of indigenous peoples are being declared protected for purposes of conservation at a rapidly increasing rate. Current estimates indicate that 50 per cent of protected areas worldwide have been established on lands traditionally occupied and used by indigenous peoples and in some regions this territorial overlap is higher, such as in Central America, where it reaches around 90%. In this regard, it is important to underline that studies have demonstrated that the territories of indigenous peoples who have been given land rights have been significantly better conserved and protected against deforestation than the adjacent lands.

In practice however, for indigenous peoples the consequences of the declaration of protected areas commonly entailed expropriation of their traditional territories and loss of land rights as well as their exclusion from management and territorial governance. The loss of the guardianship of indigenous peoples has often placed their lands under the control of Government authorities who have lacked the capacity and the political will to protect the land effectively. It is particularly disconcerting that in many countries where indigenous peoples have not been awarded land rights over their traditional territories there are increasing incursions of extractive industries, agribusiness expansion and mega-infrastructure development, even inside protected areas.

Madame Chair,

While there is increasing evidence that indigenous peoples’ traditional lands and territories hold highly preserved ecosystems and biodiversity rates, the important role played by indigenous peoples as environmental guardians still fails to gain due recognition. According to the United Nations Environment Programme World Conservation Monitoring Centre, in 2014, only less than 5 per cent of protected areas worldwide are governed by indigenous peoples and local communities.

Under international human rights law, indigenous peoples have the right to self-determination, land rights and to participate in decisions affecting them, such as the establishment and management of protected areas. States should recognise and protect the rights of indigenous peoples to own, develop, control and use their communal lands and to participate in the management and conservation of the associated natural resources.

The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which consolidates the individual and collective rights of indigenous peoples already recognised in other human rights instruments and jurisprudence, affirms the right of indigenous peoples to own and control their lands  and makes specific reference to conservation in Article 29, which states that indigenous peoples have the right to the conservation and protection of the environment and the productive capacity of their lands or territories and resources and that States shall establish and implement assistance programmes for indigenous peoples for such conservation and protection, without discrimination. The Declaration furthermore affirms in Article 32 that indigenous peoples have the right to determine and develop priorities and strategies for the development or use of their lands or territories and other resources and that States shall consult and cooperate in good faith with the indigenous peoples concerned through their own representative institutions in order to obtain their free and informed consent prior to the approval of any project affecting their lands or territories and other resources.

Under international environmental law, all 196 States parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity have agreed that the establishment, management and monitoring of protected areas should take place with the full and effective participation of, and full respect for the rights of, indigenous peoples. They have also set targets which include global expansion of protected area coverage to at least 17 per cent of terrestrial and inland water areas and 10 per cent of coastal and marine areas by 2020. This further underlines the importance that States and conservation organisations implement measures to recognise the rights of indigenous peoples as a matter of priority.

At the global level, protected-areas policy is shaped by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Since 2003, IUCN has committed to promote that all protected areas be managed with participation of indigenous representatives in compliance with the rights of indigenous peoples and that mechanisms be established for the restitution of indigenous peoples’ traditional lands and territories that were incorporated in protected areas without their free and informed consent. The majority of the large conservation organisations have adopted specific policies on indigenous peoples’ rights, and several have developed specific guidelines on how to implement free, prior and informed consent in their projects. However, these policies have been slow in transferring from paper to practice.

In view of the powerful position conservation organisations hold vis-à-vis authorities in countries with weak rule of law, I call on conservation organisations to use their leverage more affirmatively in order to influence national authorities and advocate for legal and policy shifts in countries which still fail to recognise indigenous peoples’ rights, notably by supporting legislative reform, the application of free, prior and informed consent and the restitution of ancestral lands of indigenous peoples. Furthermore, conservation organisations should ensure that indigenous peoples participate equally in the management of protected areas and that all conservation measures include continuous joint monitoring of how they comply with standards protecting indigenous peoples’ rights.

Deficient national legal recognition of indigenous peoples’ land rights continues to be the main obstacle which continues to block the important contribution of indigenous peoples in conserving biological diversity and their participation in conservation efforts. I urge States to critically review their policy and legislative framework for the full recognition of the rights of indigenous peoples over their lands, territories and resources as enshrined in international human rights law.

Protected areas often overlap with World Heritage sites and have in numerous instances been declared without consultation with indigenous peoples, with subsequent serious negative impact upon their rights. I urge UNESCO to ensure that respect for indigenous peoples’ right to free, prior and informed consent is obtained prior to World Heritage listing of protected sites.

Madame Chair,

In conclusion, rights-based conservation measures continue to be hampered by the legacy of past violations and by the lack of legal recognition by States of indigenous peoples’ rights. Conservation organisations and indigenous organizations could be powerful allies in their mutually shared goals to safeguard biodiversity and protect nature from external threats such as unsustainable resource exploitation. Protected areas continue to expand, yet threats against them from extractive industry, agribusiness, energy and infrastructure projects are also increasing, and thus the urgency to address effective, collaborative and long-term conservation is of paramount importance. The escalating incidence of killings of indigenous environmentalists further underlines the urgency that conservationists and indigenous peoples join forces to protect land and biodiversity from external threats.

I had the privilege of being invited to present this report before the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) World Conservation Congress which was held in Hawaii in September this year.  I welcome the news from IUCN that important resolutions were adopted by the Congress which took into account some of the recommendations I made in my report, including on the need for safeguarding indigenous lands, territories and resources from unsustainable developments (resolution 097) by encouraging that governments work with indigenous peoples to create, institute and enforce legal and management regimes to enhance accountability and improve governance in order to avoid interventions that negatively impact on the rights of indigenous peoples. Further resolutions were adopted recognising the overlap between protected areas and territories conserved by indigenous peoples and local communities (ICCAs) and on improving the participation of indigenous organisations in the structure of IUCN.

I briefly wish to refer to the thematic report I presented to the Human Rights Council last month, which was the second of three reports that I will dedicate to international investment agreements and their impacts on indigenous peoples’ rights. Last year, my report to the General Assembly (A/70/301) sought to address the impact of the international investment regime in the context of indigenous peoples’ rights. My report to the Human Rights Council this year further contextualises and analyses these impacts and presents a number of recommendations aimed at guiding Member States, the United Nations system and the actors involved in the international investment law regime. My report seeks to promote coherence across international investment law and international human rights law and ensure that the responsibility of States pertaining to the rights of indigenous peoples is not obstructed by protections afforded to investors. I believe it is possible to reform and develop a system of international investment law that reduces risk to indigenous peoples’ rights and serves to benefit both them and the State, while providing investment security to foreign investors. This requires the establishment of regulatory frameworks and enforcement mechanisms to ensure that investors’ practices are consistent and comply with international human rights standards pertaining to indigenous peoples’ rights.

I wish to take this opportunity to note that my third and final report relating to international investment agreements will be presented to the Human Rights Council next year. It will consider how human rights and sustainable development approaches can contribute to shaping the future of investments in or near indigenous peoples’ territories so that they serve to benefit all in a just and equitable manner.

In my thematic report to the General Assembly next year I will, following up on discussions in the Permanent Forum this year, explore how armed conflict, peace agreements and transitional justice impact on the human rights of indigenous peoples and in particular on their right to truth, justice and reparation.

Among other thematic priority areas, I will continue to monitor closely the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Indigenous peoples make up some five per cent of the global population, yet account for fifteen per cent of the world’s poorest peoples. While I note as positive the references to indigenous peoples in the SDG indicators relating to agricultural productivity, education and in the need for national progress reviews, I regret that the SDGs did not include additional references to indigenous peoples among its goals and target indicators. I wish to recall that I urged for such inclusion and for the need for disaggregated data in order to monitor development progress in my report to the General Assembly in 2014 (A/69/267).

As the coming year will mark the tenth anniversary of UNDRIP, I will continue to pay particular attention to the application of its wide-ranging provisions as a matter of priority. Closing the gap between the recognition of indigenous peoples’ rights at the international level and the actual implementation on the ground remains my main pre-occupation and I reiterate my commitment in my role as Special Rapporteur to monitor closely how States and the United Nations are implementing the Declaration and the Outcome Document of the World Conference.

Country visits

Since I last spoke here in the General Assembly, I have conducted three official country visits to Sápmi (Finland, Norway and Sweden) in August 2015, Honduras in November 2015 and Brazil in March 2016. I reported on these visits to the Human Rights Council last month and will therefore only make brief mention of these. During my visit to the Sápmi, I observed that the increased drive to mineral extraction and the development of renewable energy projects in Sápmi was one of the main threats against the realization of the rights of the Sami people.

In Honduras, I witnessed that the lack of full recognition, protection and enjoyment of indigenous peoples’ rights to ancestral lands and natural resources is a fundamental problem as is impunity for the increasing violence against indigenous peoples. During my visit, I met with Berta Cáceres, an indigenous Lenca activist who was killed four months later (on 3 March 2016) because of her protests against the Agua Zarca dam project, even though she had been awarded precautionary protection measures from the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. I will continue to monitor the investigations into Ms. Caceres’ murder and urge the State to hold the perpetrators accountable and break the vicious cycle of impunity.

In Brazil, I noted the convergence of various disconcerting developments that further entrench the interests and power of the economic and political elite to the detriment of the rights of indigenous peoples. I deeply regret that, since my visit, killings and violent evictions of the Kaiowa Guarani peoples in Mato Grosso, some of which I visited, continue to take place. I also regret that many of the promises to the indigenous peoples displaced by the Bello Monte Dam are still to be implemented. I am pleased, however, to learn that the Tapajos Dam Project has been cancelled which has been the long-standing demand of the Munduruku and other indigenous peoples living in that territory.  The demarcation of the indigenous peoples’ lands in Cachoeira Seca, is another good development.

Next year I will be conducting country visits to Australia, Guatemala and possibly, ChiIe and Cameroon. I wish to thank countries in Latin America and in Africa, that have invited me to do a country visit.

Good practices

Before I end my report I would like to mention the promotion of good practices, as I have continued to provide technical assistance to Governments in their efforts to develop laws and policies that relate to indigenous peoples. Allow me to highlight a few examples of such engagement.

During the Paris Conference of Parties (COP21) to the UN Framework on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in December 2015, I, together with OHCHR and the Special Rapporteur on human rights and the environment advocated for the inclusion of human rights. Language which recognises the need to address human rights, including indigenous peoples’ rights, in all climate change measures was included in the Paris Agreement.

In February 2016, I participated in the High-level Dialogue on the World Bank draft environmental and social standard on indigenous peoples in Addis Ababa, which centred on the use of the term indigenous peoples and the requirement to obtain their free, prior and informed consent. I, together with the Chairs of the Permanent Forum and the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (EMRIP), subsequently wrote a joint letter to the World Bank to express concerns regarding the weakening of the safeguards, with proposals for remedial language. I will continue to engage with the World Bank on safeguards for indigenous peoples.

I was recently asked by the United Nations Country Team in Honduras to provide comments on the draft consultation law currently considered by the Government. I look forward to contributing to this initiative which can be an important first step to implement my recommendation that United Nations bodies in Honduras, including the newly created Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, in cooperation with the Government of Honduras and indigenous peoples, provide technical assistance to the State to carry out recommendations contained in the country report.

I have prioritised and significantly increased the number of communications addressed to Governments in relation to allegations of violations of indigenous peoples’ rights. Since the beginning of this year, I have sent over fifty communications to more than thirty States in relation to violations of a wide range of economic, social and cultural as well as civil and political rights. The failure to ensure the free, prior and informed consent of indigenous peoples before undertaking measures and projects affecting their lands, territories and other resources remains a key recurring concern. I would like to thank all the States that have responded to my communications.

Madame Chair,

To conclude my presentation, I wish to re-affirm my commitment to promoting indigenous peoples’ rights in close collaboration with indigenous peoples themselves and in coordination with relevant international mechanisms and institutions, notably the Permanent Forum, EMRIP and treaty bodies. I seek to contribute to ensuring that indigenous peoples’ voices are effectively heard, and to facilitate dialogue between indigenous peoples, Governments, and other relevant actors involved in specific situations across the world in which indigenous peoples’ rights are not being respected. I reiterate my pledge to address the human rights challenges brought to my attention and to be proactive in efforts to prevent such situations from arising or escalating.

I thank you all for your attention and look forward to our discussion.


Using an indigenous lens to look at disability

4 October 2016, 2:24 am Written by
Published in Latest News


Human Rights Council 8th Session of the Social Forum acknowledges promotion and full and equal enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms by all PWDs in the context of the 10th anniversary of the adoption of the convention on the rights of PWDs, Geneva 3-5th October.


“Non-discrimination and Accessibility”: ‘Leaving No One Behind’


Thank you for providing me an opportunity to speak on behalf of Indigenous Person with Disabilities Global Network.  I am Pratima Gurung, Asia Member of the Indigenous Persons with disabilities Global Network. 


Celebrating the 10th anniversary of CRPD, lot has been done in the lives of PWDs at all levels however if we see at the ground we still feel that there has lot to be done respecting the diversity of PWDs including IPWDs. In this regard I would like to begin my presentation from a global south, from a developing country Nepal after the post earthquake situation.  An indigenous woman with disability, living with her 64 years old mother, had been raped by one of the armed police 13 years ago duringarmed conflict which added consequencepregnancy and gave birth a baby boy who is 12 years old now;however, she and her childare still waiting for justice. As being a woman, having severe disability, belonging to an ethnic group from rural part of country, living in poverty, inaccessibilityto service provider, state’s official language inefficiency and cultural values were some of the reasons that she was excluded in her own community anddidn't get justiceyet.


With this example, I would like to emphasize an indigenous lens to look at the disability concerns. In this connection, I want to draw attention on the preamble of UNCRPD, with the article 5on nondiscrimination, article 9 on accessibility and article 30 as a fundamental rights and concerns of indigenous persons with disabilities in harmonious with culture, traditions and pattern of indigenous peoples. Non-discrimination to persons with disabilities on the ground of race, color, sex, ethnicity, language, […] has been enshrined in the preamble andseveral articles of the convention that includes all PWDs and 54 millionIPWDs. However, IPWDs face multiple forms of social deprivation, alienation and segregation arising from intersectionality of indigeneity and disability. We experience asubtle formof discrimination and are treated differently and distinctly than other PWDs in our daily lives. Many programs that aremeant to benefit PWDs and IPs are inaccessible for IPWDs.


The uniqueexperiences that IPWDs encounterare,first,structural and social barrier related with traditional values, unfavorable policies/provisions and institutional system and practices that discriminate against IPWDs in term of restorative justice, economic empowerment and social inclusiveness that are followedeven in the private domain as a culture. Second, general discrimination like, access tolimitedopportunities, following customary values and practices, ethnic attitudes towards disability and customarily inappropriate services, integrating collective rights.Lastly,the internal and structural discrimination within disability and indigeneitypracticesthat IPWDs faceare relatedwith participation, representation in decision-making of public and social affairs. Lack of understanding of cultural frameworks and community dynamics, cultural sensitivity and knowledgeis not simply unjust; it aggravates the conditions of IPWDs and push furthertowards marginalization, isolation and exclusion. These impacts are indivisible, interrelated, interdependent, therefore discrimination on the ground of ethnicity has remain most of the times unreported, unnoticed, unheard and are less debated in public forum.


In addition,knowledge gap on accessibility like access to information and communication, programs like health, education, economic constraints, geographical mobility, living condition and environmental impacts, accessible to community language and disability specific support services experienced by IPWDs have created poverty traps. For IPWDs, historical oppression, social deprivation obstructs opportunities to attain adequate access to services likecommunity environment, information and language barrier in receiving most services provide by the state in general and in most emergency situation. Insufficient service policies, misunderstanding among right holders and service provider in obtaining education, health, and employers in appropriate jobs deter IPWDs mostly. Strategies to providing services to reach the farthest behind first remain a challenge most of the times. A prescriptive or one-size-fits-all approach to enhance access for IPWDs is not feasible, since the situations of IPWDs vary from region to region and from country to country.


It is, therefore, important to keepin mind the differences and diversity in aspirations first, second the social context and cultural preferences including the individual and collective rights and issuesby listening their voices, documentation and reaserchare essential. Third,opening up the dialogue, engaging with IPs’ discourse on disability, to discuss the lived experiences, their needs and priorities, non-discriminatory practices through cross movement collaboration is fundamental. In addition, protection of all PWDs including IPWDs rights and development through partnerships, providing equal opportunity will integrate respecting every individual. Fourth, participation and recognition as a contributing members of society who must not face any discriminationand no one should be left behind, need to be the core value of understanding non-discrimination where cultural competency involving multi-sectoral and multiagency efforts and approachneed to be incorporated to address the accessibility of PWDs where IPWDs should be integral part of it.


16th session of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues(24 April – 5 May 2017)


10th session of the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples(19 – 23 June 2017)


Please note that the deadline to submit applications to attend the 16th session of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues and the 10th session of the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples is: 30 November 2016.

The application forms for these meetings are available on the following web link:

For any other additional information, you can consult the Voluntary Fund’s website:

Statement by Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, UN Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of UN Women


UN Women welcomes the many voices amplifying United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s recent strong comment that “It’s high time now” for his successor to be a woman, after 70 years of male leadership.

Not since the birth of the United Nations (UN) has global public interest and engagement been so high in who will be the ninth Secretary-General. This is the first such election since UN Women was formed and the first within the new 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. There is an appetite as never before to make this moment count for gender equality and women’s empowerment.

All over the world, in petitions, letters, debates, and all forms of media, individuals and citizen groups are calling for the UN to select a woman with a demonstrated commitment to gender equality, peace, development, justice and human rights to lead the United Nations. These include the staff of the UN, who serve with dedication and commitment in often-difficult and dangerous situations.

The Security Council and General Assembly have 10 strong candidates from whom to select, with an equal number of women and men. The candidates’ deep experience, varied skills and gender balance make this the strongest pool ever fielded for selection. Never before have there been so many superbly qualified women in the running for this position.

The opportunity is here to appoint a leader who will open a new chapter in the fight for women’s rights, right from the top.


The present report is submitted to the General Assembly by the Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples pursuant to her mandate under Council resolutions 15/14 and 24/9. In the report, the Special Rapporteur provides a brief summary of her activities since her previous report to the Assembly, as well as a thematic analysis of conservation measures and their impact on indigenous peoples’ rights.


Protected areas have the potential of safeguarding the biodiversity for the benefit of all humanity; however, these have also been associated with human rights violations against indigenous peoples in many parts of the world. The complex violations that have been faced by indigenous peoples in the wake of evermore expanding protected areas have been raised by respective special rapporteurs during numerous country visits and communications to governments.


The present report charts legal developments and commitments and measures taken made to advance a human rights-based paradigm in conservation, while also identifying key remaining challenges. The report concludes with recommendations on how conservation, in policy and practice, can be developed in a manner which respects indigenous peoples’ rights and enhances sustainable conservation.


You can download the report here.

Message by the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, the Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues and the UN Voluntary Fund for Indigenous Peoples to mark the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples, Tuesday 9 August 2016.


The 2016 International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples offers an opportunity for the international community to reflect on the overall human rights situation of indigenous peoples, as the world prepares to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the adoption of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.


This year’s theme, Indigenous Peoples’ Right to Education, enshrined in Article 14 of the Declaration and several other international instruments, is timely as States begin to take measures to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) with a view to leaving no one behind. 


“Education is empowerment, and critical to the realization of all of the rights contained in the Declaration and international human rights treaties,” stresses Claire Charters, Chair of the UN Voluntary Fund for Indigenous Peoples. "Unfortunately, indigenous children and youth often do not have access to adequate, accessible and appropriate forms of education. It is imperative that States, indigenous peoples, the United Nations and other stakeholders work together in order to increase awareness and efforts to ensure the fulfilment of this universal and fundamental human right".


This means working together to address the damaging history of colonization,  marginalization and discrimination experienced by indigenous peoples. According to the Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, “the available data shows a consistent pattern of disparity between indigenous and non-indigenous peoples in terms of educational access, retention and achievement in all regions of the world.  Additionally, the loss of indigenous knowledge especially in terms of ecosystem management and biodiversity conservation and sustainable use leads to the erosion of cultural and biological diversity. Support for the establishment of intercultural indigenous schools and universities should be provided. The situation of indigenous women and girls is of concern and special priority must be given to ensure women and girls have access to relevant education.”


“States must engage and work constructively with indigenous peoples to address barriers to education, including stigmatization of indigenous identity, discrimination in schools, language barriers between students and teachers and inadequate consideration given to education for indigenous students,” the Chair of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, Alvaro Pop Ac underlines. “Efforts should be made to ensure that indigenous peoples have access to education that is culturally and linguistically appropriate.”


As Albert K.  Barume, the Chair of EMRIP, notes “Education is key to addressing human rights violations, alleviating poverty and creating opportunities in economic, social and cultural spheres. The right to education also supports the commitments on the part of States to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) specifically Goal 4 on inclusive and quality education for all.” In fact, EMRIP devoted its first study to indigenous peoples’ right to education, with a firm conviction that education is an indispensable means of realizing indigenous peoples’ right to self-determination and their capacity and ability to pursue their own economic, social and cultural development.


States should work with indigenous peoples in a spirit of partnership to restore forms of education based on indigenous languages, beliefs, values and culture and increase efforts to address discrimination in education that has the effect of impeding indigenous peoples’ rights to education. It is imperative that educational institutions are built on a human rights framework that is inclusive and respectful of indigenous peoples’ cultures, worldviews and languages.


Jointly, the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII), the Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, the United Nations Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (EMRIP) and the United Nations Voluntary Fund for Indigenous Peoples call upon States to ensure discrimination-free and culturally-sensitive education systems for indigenous peoples, taking into account their languages, cultures and histories. States and indigenous peoples must also work together to fulfil indigenous peoples’ right to establish and control their educational systems and institutions.


For more information:

•  International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples 2016

•  Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

•  Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

•  United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues

•  United Nations Voluntary Fund for Indigenous Peoples

See more at: