Date of Meeting: 24 April to 5 May 2017

Meeting Organizer: United Nations Permanent Forum 

ISJC Staff Present: Major Victoria Edmonds – Tuscarora Nation of Indigenous Peoples

Reporter: Major Victoria Edmonds

Which SDG does this topic cover? 1, 2, 4, 6, 8

Type of meeting: Forum

Brief summary of presentation of information made


The United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII) is as an expert body to the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) and plays an important role in providing expert advice on how to ensure that the rights of indigenous peoples are effectively accounted for and realized in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda.

This year, the 16th session of the UNPFII took take place at UN Headquarters in New York from 24 April to 5 May 21017. The special theme this year is “Tenth Anniversary of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples: measures taken to implement the Declaration”.

The United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, in its capacity as an expert body reporting to the Economic and Social Council has a key role to play in ensuring that the rights and priorities of indigenous peoples are promoted in the framework of the 2030 Agenda and implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals.

The Sustainable Development Goals are also regarded as a step forward for indigenous peoples in comparison to the Millennium Development Goals, under which indigenous peoples’ issues were largely missing, and were seldom included in national action plans. Furthermore, indigenous peoples had little voice or participation in the development, implementation and monitoring of the previous Goals.

Indigenous peoples were engaged from an early stage in the development of the 2030 Agenda and its Goals and targets. As a result of their significant participation and the support by Member States, General Assembly resolution 70/1, “Transforming our world: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development”, makes six direct references to indigenous peoples, including in target 2.3 on agricultural productivity and incomes of small-scale food producers and target 4.5 on equal access to all levels of education. Moreover, the framework is based on the principles of human rights, equality, non-discrimination, sustainability and participation by right-holders, all of which are essential to indigenous peoples.

Nevertheless, major challenges to the rights of indigenous peoples remain in the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals, in particular at the national level. Some of the main priorities for indigenous peoples are not reflected in the 2030 Agenda such as the principle of free, prior and informed consent and the right to self-determined development, as well as continued challenges related to lack of legal recognition of indigenous peoples and their individual and collective rights. Similarly, the absence of a culturally sensitive approach to development has been noted as a challenge for upholding indigenous peoples’ rights and for the protection of their distinct cultures and ways of life.

To ensure that indigenous peoples are not left behind, it is essential that in the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals full respect is given to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The Declaration constitutes a framework of minimum standards for the survival, dignity, well-being and rights of the world’s indigenous peoples, as well as guidance on how to ensure peaceful dialogue and development priorities between indigenous peoples, Member States and other stakeholders.


The world’s estimated 370 million persons belonging to indigenous peoples are at the heart of the 2030 Agenda, with its promise to “leave no one behind.” Indigenous peoples make up 5 per cent of the world’s population, but 15 per cent of the poorest. They lag behind on virtually every social and economic indicator. Indigenous peoples participated from the start in the global consultation process towards the 2030 Agenda, and their advocacy resulted in a framework that makes explicit references to indigenous peoples’ development concerns and is founded on principles of universality, human rights, equality and environmental sustainability – core priorities for indigenous peoples.

Indigenous priorities

Many of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals and targets are relevant to indigenous peoples and have direct linkages to the human rights commitments in the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples or the ILO Convention 169 on indigenous and tribal peoples’ rights. There are six direct references to indigenous peoples in the 2030 Agenda, including in Goal 2 related to agricultural output of indigenous small-scale farmers, and Goal 4 on equal access to education for indigenous children. Furthermore, the framework calls on indigenous peoples to engage actively in implementing the Sustainable Development Goals, including in the follow-up and review on the national level to ensure that progress for indigenous peoples is reflected. The global list of indicators developed by the United Nations Statistical Commission to measure progress on the Goals includes some indicators that respond to indigenous peoples’ concerns, such as an indicator that will track income of small-scale food producers by indigenous status and one to track indigenous peoples’ access to education compared to other groups. Furthermore, an indicator to measure secure land rights makes an important reference to collective land rights, which is central to indigenous peoples’ collective relationship to their lands, territories and resources. Indigenous peoples have been advocating for data disaggregation and the inclusion of an “indigenous identifier” in official statistics, to capture the inequalities indigenous peoples face across all the Sustainable Development Goals.

Risks for indigenous peoples

Despite the advances, the SDGs also involve risks for indigenous peoples. Disappointment has been expressed by indigenous peoples with the general lack of references in the 2030 Agenda to the following:

  • Collective rights in terms of land, but also health, education, culture and ways of living;
  • The concept of self-determination, as enshrined in the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples;
  • Holistic development approaches not too focused on GDP growth, industrialization and increased production;
    • The principle of free, prior and informed consent, which is essential for self-determination;
    •  Cultural sensitivity across several goals, such as on health and education, including for instance education in indigenous mother tongues.

Overview of the Forum

  • Opening of the Session with the ceremonial sound of a conch
  • Declaration of the opening of the session
  • Ceremonial welcome by Chief Tadodaho Sid Hill of the Onondaga Nation
  • Indigenous Peoples Global Caucus
  • High-Level Event to mark the tenth anniversary of the adoption of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
  • Cultural Event and Reception in the UN Secretariat Lobby
  • Indigenous Craft Fair
  • Indigenous Youth Caucus

Key Areas of Discussion during the Forum

  1. Empowerment
  2. Educating and Learning
  3. Engagement
  4. End Hunger, achieve food security and improve nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture
  5. Land Rights

Suggestions for the Way Forward

The way forward: indigenous peoples and the 2030 Agenda,” made the following suggestions (in report E/C.19/2016/2) to ensure that indigenous peoples’ rights are respected in the implementation of the Agenda:

  • Indicators that reflect indigenous peoples’ situation, including collective land indicators and data disaggregation, should be included in the global and national monitoring frameworks for the Sustainable Development Goals;
  • Review of the 2030 Agenda should become a recurrent agenda item at the Permanent Forum session, and the role of the Permanent Forum in providing thematic follow-up to the Agenda through the High-level Political Forum should be identified;
  • Indigenous peoples, as one of the major groups, should be supported in reporting on their contribution to the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals;
  • Member States should facilitate indigenous peoples’ participation in national-level processes to plan, implement and monitor national frameworks for the 2030 Agenda, including their capacity building;
  • Partnerships should be built between indigenous peoples and relevant stakeholders for the implementation of the 2030 Agenda at the national level;
  • National-level data collection and sharing of disaggregated data should be improved to highlight the progress made on indigenous peoples’ priorities;
  • UN agencies, funds and programmes of the United Nations system could assist in collecting disaggregated data, where possible, and in compiling and disseminating such data, where available;
  • Indigenous-specific indicators should be developed to measure progress on indigenous peoples’ own development priorities as well as in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda.

Progress in Implementation from the 15th Session

At its fifteenth session, the Permanent Forum made 41 recommendations to Member States, the United Nations system and indigenous peoples. After the session, the members of the Forum identified 36 of those recommendations that they regarded as relevant and actionable for follow-up. Furthermore, the members of the Forum decided to continue to follow up on four recommendations from the fourteenth session of the Forum that were still in the process of implementation and in which the Forum could have an impact. In total, 40 recommendations were identified for follow-up and review. In May 2016, there was already evidence of some progress having been made on the recommendations made by the Permanent Forum at its fifteenth session.

The major achievements can be broadly categorized into five thematic areas:

(a) Empowerment of indigenous women on the agenda of the Commission on the Status of Women;

(b) International Year of Indigenous Languages;

(c) Increasing participation of indigenous young people at the United Nations;

(d) Advancing the rights of indigenous peoples in the context of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development; and

(e) Implementation of the system-wide action plan for ensuring a coherent approach to achieving the ends of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Although it is difficult to attribute progress made in a certain area to the recommendations and actions of the Permanent Forum, there are some linkages that can be attributed to the role of the Forum with the support of the secretariat. The progress is typically a result of the recommendations being adopted in combination with active follow-up by the Forum and its secretariat with involved stakeholders.


The forum was very successful. People feeling with the SDGs that some of their real concern will be address by Member States and push forward in their countries. This is a group that know how hard it is for people to listen to their concerns, but they don’t give up and they keep pushing forward.

What was of particular significance to share with The Salvation Army globally?

One recommendation would be that the in places where Indigenous peoples are living that the Army know about the issues that they are facing with their governments.  Come along side of them and be their support not necessarily joining their cause but hearing their side.

Build a partnership with the Indigenous people in your community.

Reaching out to the Indigenous people and if possible to do a character building program in their community.  Such as Home League, Community Care, Sunbeams, Boy Adventure Corps or whatever program you would have for boys. 

Web links for more information

Tags: United Nations, SDG1: No Poverty, SDG4: Quality Education, SDG8: Decent Work and Economic Growth, SDG6: Clean Water and Sanitation, Events, SDG2: Zero Hunger