EU support to Indigenous Peoples is based on the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples which sets out the individual and collective rights. The EU supports indigenous peoples’ rights to, inter alia, culture, identity, language, employment, lands and territories, health, education as well as their rights to maintain and strengthen their own institutions, cultures and traditions, and to pursue their development in keeping with their own needs and aspirations.
The UN estimates that there are more than 300 million indigenous peoples living in more than 70 countries in the world. Many live in areas considered critical to the conservation and sustainable management of biodiversity and natural resources.
Since indigenous issues first entered into the EU agenda back in 1997, much progress has been made. Most importantly, a UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples was adopted in 2007, supported by the European Union. Unfortunately, however, violations of indigenous peoples’ rights continue to persists worldwide.
The EU is helping to address this. It seeks to integrate indigenous issues into all aspects of its external policies (political dialogues, multilateral fora, financial support). The EU is also funding projects through the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights. Many of the projects are run by international organizations or non-governmental organizations. They typically support indigenous representatives as they seek to participate in relevant UN activities, or support organizations working to promote the International Labour Organization’s Convention 169.
Activities in the field of development cooperation are driven by the European Consensus on Development – a December 2005 Joint statement by the Council, Member States, the European Parliament and the European Commission. The Consensus commits the EU ‘to apply a strengthened approach to mainstreaming’ specific cross-cutting issues, including ’indigenous peoples’, to integrate their concerns at all levels of cooperation, ensuring their full participation and free, prior and informed consent.
EU Delegations around the world also organize events around 9 August –The International Day of the World’s Indigenous People – to raise awareness their rights.
A UN World Conference on Indigenous Peoples was held on September 22-23, 2014 in New York. The Conference had the objective of sharing perspectives on the promotion of the rights of indigenous peoples as proclaimed in the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
The EU contributed actively to the preparations of the Conference and to its outcome. The outcome document aims at transforming international commitments into concrete actions. In the preparations, the EU consistently emphasised the need for the full, effective and unhindered participation of indigenous peoples at the Conference. The EU also delivered a statement at the World Conference where it underscored that protection of indigenous peoples' rights is a clear priority for the EU and that the EU will do its share to make sure that the decisions and recommendations of the outcome document will be implemented.