A few days ago I participated in an interesting meeting about the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals and how they can be useful for the life and struggle of the many groups of indigenous peoples around the world. The meeting was organized by IWGIA, which is short for International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs, an international human rights organization staffed by specialists and advisers on indigenous affairs – and actually located just a few hundred meters from my apartment close to the city centre of Copenhagen. IWGIA was founded in 1968 by anthropologists alarmed about the ongoing genocide on indigenous peoples taking place in the Amazon. The aim was to establish a network of concerned researchers and human right activists to document the situation of indigenous peoples and advocate for an improvement of their rights. Today, IWGIA supports indigenous peoples’ struggle for human rights, self-determination, right to territory, control of land and resources, cultural integrity, and the right to development. Indigenous peoples from all over the world are involved in IWGIA’s global network.

I have followed IWGIA almost from the start, when I started my studies at the University of Copenhagen in 1969. During the many years I worked for MS/Mellemfolkeligt Samvirke/Danish Association for International Cooperation (today part of ActionAid), I came to know the practical and documentary work of the organisation much better, because MS had offices in countries like Botswana, Tanzania, Kenya, Nepal and Guatemala, where the marginalisation of indigenous peoples was a serious cultural, economic, social and political issue. We often relied on information and advise from staff in IWGIA, or from the information we could get from the well researched publications. Equally important was the many international links the organisation could offer.

On a daily basis, we do not hear much about the plight of indigenous peoples – it pops up in the media where there is a particular disastrous situation related to land conflicts in the Amazon, mineral exploration in African countries, etc. I can therefore only encourage those interested to follow the IWGIA website.

Annual publication

One of the publications that has always impressed me is The Indigenous World. The report is more than 600 pages long and offers a global overview of the situation of indigenous peoples in their respective countries and in relation to processes at the international and regional levels.

Download the report here: IWGIA – The Indigenous World 2017

The purpose of The Indigenous World 2017 is to give as omprehensive an overview as possible of the developments indigenous peoples have experienced during 2016. It is our hope that indigenous peoples themselves and their organizations will find it useful in their advocacy work of improving indigenous peoples’ human rights situation. They may also, in this regard, find it inspiring for their work to read about the experiences of indigenous peoples in other countries and parts of the world. It is also IWGIA’s wish and hope that the Yearbook will be useful to a wider audience interested in indigenous issues and that it can be used as a reference book and a basis for obtaining further information on the situation of indigenous peoples worldwide.

This year’s edition includes 59 country reports and 12 reports on international processes. As usual, the authors of this volume are indigenous and non-indigenous activists and scholars who have worked with the indigenous movement for many years and are part of IWGIA’s network. They are identified by IWIGA’s regional coordinators on the basis of their knowledge and network in the regions. All the contributions to this volume are offered on a voluntary basis—this we consider a strength but it also means that we cannot guarantee to include all countries
or all aspects of importance to indigenous peoples every year.

We would like to stress that any omissions of specific country reports should not be interpreted as “no news is good news”. In fact, sometimes, it is the precarious human rights situation that makes it difficult to obtain articles from specific countries. In other cases, we have simply not been able to get an author to cover a specific country. If you would like to contribute to this book, please contact the IWGIA team. The articles in this book express the views and visions of the authors, and IWGIA cannot be held responsible for the opinions stated herein. We therefore encourage those who are interested in obtaining more information about a specific country to contact the authors directly. It is, nonetheless, our policy to allow those authors who wish to remain anonymous to do so due to the political sensitivity of some of the issues raised in their articles.

IWGIA Mission

IWGIA’s mission is to work, in partnership with indigenous peoples’ own organisations and institutions as well as with international and regional human rights mechanisms, to promote the recognition of and the respect for the fundamental rights of indigenous peoples, particularly their right to self- determination and self-determined development, as well as their right to control their own territories and resources.

IWGIA Vision

IWGIA’s vision is rooted in the firm belief that the world indigenous peoples should be able to fully enjoy their individual and collective rights as distinct peoples as enshrined in the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. We envisage that indigenous peoples participate and are consulted on decisions affecting them in accordance with the principles of Free, Prior and Informed Consent. They practice and develop their cultures and exercise their distinct cultural identities based on their own priorities and visions in accordance with the fundamental right to self-determination.