Who Are Indigenous Peoples

The Indigenous Movement

2007 was a watershed year for Indigenous rights. On September 13th, the United Nations adopted the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and it has since been ratified by 143 countries. While the Declaration is not legally binding, it sets a global standard for the treatment of Indigenous Peoples. This was a vital step in securing Indigenous rights worldwide.

That year also saw a historic development in the private sector’s relationship with Indigenous Peoples. With help from First Peoples Worldwide’s Corporate Engagement initiatives, the Indigenous Peoples Working Group of the US Social Investment Forum led a campaign to educate and motivate the shareholders of Newmont Mining, a major extractive corporation operating in Indigenous territories. The campaign won an unprecedented 91.4% of shareholder votes for enacting policies that affirm and ensure the rights of Indigenous people.

These victories have been followed by an increased global awareness of Indigenous issues and further successes in securing the rights of Indigenous Peoples. Although Indigenous initiatives are often the most underfunded and under-recognized, they have succeeded so far on an unprecedented level. Indigenous communities, advocates and supporters are forming the world’s first global civil rights movement.

The single unifying issue facing Indigenous Peoples everywhere is how to protect their territories and stop the “asset stripping” that robs them of their livelihoods and the foundation of their cultures. Without land and control of their assets, Indigenous Peoples are destined to remain the world’s poorest communities – with the worst health, highest mortality rate and shortest life span.

Through legal battles, public awareness campaigns, partnerships with governments, corporations and other organizations, Indigenous-led development efforts and a worldwide network of Indigenous advocates, Indigenous Peoples have made huge progress in securing our rights over the last 10 years.

10 Year Map Legend

This map shows the sea change taking place all over the world. More and more countries are recognizing Indigenous rights. We have made significant successes in securing:
● Cultural rights. such as access to sacred sites
● Constitutional recognition
● More favorable development policies
● Making customary (traditional) land ownership equal to registered land rights
● Securing Free Prior Informed Consent before any commercial operations begin on Indigenous lands

But this is only the beginning. Some rights have been won, but our communities need access to the legal and political resources to exercise and defend those rights. Many countries do not enforce their laws protecting Indigenous Peoples, or fail to provide easy access to the benefits of such laws.

Exploitative governments and businesses still threaten Indigenous Peoples, and only a global, multi-faceted movement can oppose them.

Indigenous leaders all over the world are taking action to defend their rights and their people. In order to ensure their success, we must:
● Create linkages between Indigenous leaders/organizations and their partners so that no community acts alone
● Create linkages between Indigenous leaders and governments, organizations and businesses at the local, regional and international levels
● Provide advocacy to Indigenous defense efforts in order to build the political machinery for reform
● Make development resources, including funding, more readily available to Indigenous communities so that they can control their own progress

First Peoples Worldwide is actively engaged in building the global movement within and between three key tiers:

● The first tier consists of thousands of grassroots-level organizations.  Defined by tribal or linguistic solidarity, these NGOs tend to be engaged directly in socio-economic activities, cultural development and the physical defense of the land. First Peoples Worldwide provides funding directly to these organizations through our Keepers of the Earth grants.

● The second tier consists of representational organizations that serve as national advocates and intermediaries in the political arena. The work of these NGOs is dominated by domestic efforts such as the passage of legislation and the formulation of national programs. First Peoples Worldwide is helping to build a network of these organizations, connecting them to each other through our communications efforts and our leadership in national forums.

● The third tier consists of regional and international organizations whose purpose is to build global Indigenous solidarity and interface with multilateral organizations. These are the NGOs seen most frequently at United Nations meetings, which dominate the international policy debate on Indigenous Peoples’ rights. They serve as technical conduits for policy discussions and rights-based advocacy at the international level. First Peoples Worldwide is engaged in pushing for recognition of Indigenous issues in the United Nations and other international organizations, as well as in building partnerships with global-reach corporations who wish to improve their policies toward Indigenous Peoples. When possible, we fund regional efforts to convene Indigenous practitioners and consolidate traditional knowledge for use on the international stage.

At First Peoples Worldwide, we work to create linkages between each of these tiers, always with the goal of keeping them focused on the needs and goals of Indigenous Peoples at the local community level. Historically, well-intentioned attempts from non-Indigenous, non-community sources to assist Indigenous Peoples have failed. This reaffirms our belief that any successful solution must come from within the community.

First Peoples Worldwide also facilitates an international research and advocacy forum that links all levels of Indigenous Peoples leadership to the world system.  Such a global forum ensures that future worldwide policy and programs are based upon Indigenous participation and representation.

To learn more about what First Peoples Worldwide is doing to build the Global Indigenous Movement, click here.

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"The primary purpose of an Indigenous economy is to assure that the needs of every member of society are met, now and for the generations to come. Balance and harmony are not romantic notions, but the design fundamentals for sustainable production and equitable distribution.”
-Rebecca Adamson, Founder and President

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