The Indigenous World 2024

Anna Triponel

April 19, 2024
Our key takeaway: Land rights are essential to Indigenous Peoples. Respecting these rights is more important now than ever in the context of increasing demands for Indigenous lands. The reports of land grabs related to renewable energy and conservation projects, especially, bring to light an apparent trade-off between Indigenous rights and the transition to net zero. However, the International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs (IWGIA) - which gathers input from Indigenous communities worldwide - highlights that Indigenous Peoples are already contributing to net-zero by safeguarding about 28% of lands around the world. It also underscores how much Indigenous People’s rights depend on the transition since they are especially vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. Therefore, the trade-offs can be overcome through recognising the existing value of Indigenous lands and the shared interest of Indigenous Peoples in the net-zero transition. The path forward involves respecting the right to Free, Prior, and Informed Consent (FPIC) and engaging Indigenous communities in the design and implementation of renewable energy and conservation projects on their lands. In short, Indigenous Peoples are critical to the just transition to a net-zero economy.

The International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs (IWGIA) has published its annual report on the state of Indigenous People’s rights around the world. This year’s edition of The Indigenous World 2024 takes a closer look at Indigenous Peoples’ rights to lands and resources (April 2024):

  • Land rights are at the centre of respect and recognition of Indigenous People’s rights: The report highlights that land rights are crucial for the recognition and respect of Indigenous Peoples. However, land dispossession and tenure insecurity continued to be major issues for Indigenous Peoples worldwide in 2023. The recognition of land rights and the right to Free, Prior, and Informed Consent (FPIC) are fundamental to the enjoyment of other Indigenous rights, such as traditional livelihoods, food security, intergenerational transfer of knowledge, social structures, cultural practices, and spirituality. Indigenous women are particularly vulnerable to the impacts of land loss, as they traditionally have limited influence and decision-making power over land matters and depend on lands to feed themselves and their children.
  • Demand for Indigenous People’s lands is on the rise – and so is the risk of defending them: IWGIA reports that the demand for Indigenous lands rose in 2023, being driven by activities ranging from small artisanal mining operations to mega infrastructure projects being implemented without respect for the rights of Indigenous Peoples. Despite there being new legal safeguards in place - such as the legal recognition of FPIC and additional Indigenous lands in some countries - land grabbing is still taking place globally and it is reportedly being driven by both governments and businesses. Cases reported in 2023 are mostly linked to traditional extractive industries, renewable energy and nature conservation projects. Some of the cases reported involved forceful occupations and violence against Indigenous Peoples Human Rights Defenders (IPHRDs), with cases reported in Bangladesh, Kenya and Uganda. When not violent, land-grabbing cases are linked to a lack of legal recognition of Indigenous People’s lands or a lack of enforcement of FPIC in practice when developing mining, energy or infrastructure projects. Examples highlighted in 2023 include cases in the Philippines, India, Cambodia, China and Norway.
  • Respecting Indigenous Peoples’ rights are essential in the just transition to a net-zero economy: The report underscores that the protection of Indigenous lands is crucial for the transition to net-zero. Indigenous Peoples safeguard 28% of the Earth's land surface, which is vital for biodiversity and carbon storage. However, Indigenous communities are among the first to feel the negative effects of climate change, such as severe climate-related events. Engaging Indigenous Peoples is essential for the success of conservation efforts and halting deforestation and land use changes linked to climate change. Some countries have started to recognize Indigenous Peoples' ecosystem services and autonomy by engaging them to lead conservation projects. Renewable and transitional mineral projects can also be positive for Indigenous communities, provided that they are consulted and engaged in their design and implementation.

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