Indigenous peoples

Uyghur

 

Indigenous peoples often face difficulties in accessing social protection benefits, usually as a result of discrimination, economic and social disadvantages;  often as an aftereffect to historic injustices (such as colonization and dispossession of their lands, territories and resources). In many cases, there is also a causal link between exclusion from social protection and inequities between urban and rural areas (due to geographical inaccessibility), language (information may not be available in all languages) and culture (benefits and services may not be adapted to cultural sensitivities).
The UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, adopted by the General Assembly in 2007, states that indigenous peoples have the right, without discrimination, to the improvement of their economic and social conditions. These include, for instance, access to education, employment, vocational training and retraining, housing, sanitation, health and social security. States shall take effective measures and, where appropriate, special measures to ensure continuing improvement of their economic and social conditions. Particular attention shall be paid to the rights and special needs of indigenous older persons, women, youth, children and persons with disabilities (Article 21).
The ILO Indigenous and Tribal Peoples Convention, 1989 (No. 169) contains specific provisions on social protection:

“Governments shall do everything possible to prevent any discrimination between workers belonging to the peoples concerned and other workers, in particular as regards: … (c) medical and social assistance, occupational safety and health, all social security benefits and any other occupationally related benefits, and housing” (Article 2).

In addition, the Convention specifies that
“social security schemes shall be extended progressively to cover the peoples concerned, and applied without discrimination against them” (Article 24).
The Convention also calls on governments to consult with the peoples concerned with regard to legislative or administrative measures that may directly affect them, and establishes the right of these peoples to participate in decision-making processes regarding policies and programmes that concern them.

 

Photo credit: “Squishy” by IAmNotUnique (CCBY 2.0 via Flickr)

Expert Commentaries

Social Protection for Indigenous Persons with Disabilities

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Legal Instruments

Indigenous and Tribal Peoples Convention, 1989 (No. 169)

Convention No.169 is a legally binding international instrument open to ratification, which deals specifically with the rights of indigenous and tribal peoples. Today, it has been ratified by 20 countries. Once it ratifies the Convention, a country has one year to align legislation, policies and programmes to the Convention before it becomes legally binding. Countries that have […]

Legal Cases

Land Rights for People of Indigenous and African Descent in Colombia

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Resources

Indigenous peoples’ access to decent work and social protection

This paper was prepared in the context of the United Nations Inter-Agency Support Group (IASG) on Indigenous Issues, which aims to strengthen  cooperation and coordination among UN agencies, funds, entities and programmes on indigenous peoples’ issues and to support the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, and to promote the effective participation of indigenous peoples […]