Indigenous peoples’ rights

Promoting the rights of indigenous peoples internationally is an important part of Norway’s human rights policy.

Indigenous issues are high up on the UN’s agenda. The establishment of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues and the appointment of the UN’s first Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples in 2001, the adoption of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in 2007, and the establishment of the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples by the UN Human Rights Council in 2008 are important milestones in the international efforts to promote indigenous issues.

In addition, the ILO Convention concerning Indigenous and Tribal Peoples in Independent Countries (C169), which Norway was the first country to ratify in 1990, sets out important provisions on the right of indigenous peoples to maintain and further develop their cultures, and to be consulted on matters that affect them. The Convention also includes provisions on land rights, recruitment and conditions of employment, education and training, social security and health.

Today, representatives of indigenous peoples take part in international processes where issues of relevance to them are dealt with. In September 2014, the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples unanimously adopted an ambitious outcome document that commits states to respect, promote and advance indigenous peoples’ rights. The outcome document was the result of an open and inclusive process in which indigenous peoples had been actively involved.

Despite these positive developments in international forums, many indigenous people still live in very difficult circumstances. In many countries, indigenous peoples are largely excluded from political, economic and cultural life, and indigenous groups have a lower score than other population groups on many standard of living indicators, for example health and education. Indigenous peoples are also particularly vulnerable to the impacts of global climate change and the increasing pressure on the world’s natural resources.

The indigenous peoples’ perspective is particularly relevant in Norway’s High North policy, in our International Climate and Forest Initiative, and in our efforts to promote human rights in the context of corporate social responsibility.

Norway’s priorities:

  • play a leading role in the international effort to promote indigenous rights, by encouraging more countries to become party to the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and ILO Convention 169, and promoting the implementation of these instruments;
  • seek to ensure that indigenous peoples are able to take part, at both national and international level, in decision-making processes that affect them.


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