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Cooperation with indigenous peoples

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Cooperation with indigenous peoples

This Report aims to analyse the progress made in the cooperation between the European Union and indigenous peoples and to make recommendations for the future.


Report from the Commission to the Council of 11 June 2002. Review of progress of working with indigenous peoples [COM(2002) 291 final - Not published in the Official Journal].



The active participation of indigenous peoples plays an important role in the development process as it enables these peoples, who are often vulnerable and disadvantaged, to shape their own development.

The European Union has already established a framework for its activities in this area through a working paper presented in 1998, which was reaffirmed through a Development Council Resolution adopted the same year [Conclusions of the Development Council - 30.11.1998]. The report consolidates these initiatives.

Framework for cooperation

Three specific guidelines have been identified in the report:

  • integrating concern for indigenous peoples into all of the Union's policies, programmes and projects;
  • consulting indigenous peoples on policies and activities that affect them;
  • providing support in key thematic areas.

Progress realised in implementing the Resolution

The report focuses mainly on the 1998-2000 period, during which the EU carried out a vast range of activities. It allocated EUR 21.9 million to projects directly benefiting indigenous peoples.

Progress realised: integrating concern for indigenous peoples into all policies, programmes and projects.

Indigenous peoples are affected directly or indirectly by a wide range of EU policies and activities, including the promotion of human rights and democracy and the policy on the environment and sustainable development. In order to integrate fully concern for indigenous peoples, it is important to:

  • integrate it into procedures, regulations, etc.;
  • integrate it into strategic discussions with recipient developing countries (when drawing up country strategy papers for example);
  • systematically monitor projects affecting indigenous peoples;
  • train staff in the Commission and the Member States in order to increase awareness of this issue;
  • enhance coordination and coherence within the EU.

The Commission has succeeded in incorporating this issue into a range of legislation, and its integration into the European Initiative for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR) has been particularly important.

The introduction of development assistance also entails discussions and adoption of strategic guidelines between the EU and recipients. Questions concerning indigenous peoples have been integrated into a series of framework agreements and strategic documents concluded with the EU's partners, such as the African, Caribbean and Pacific countries (ACP). Once aid has been granted, systematic monitoring must include assessment of the impact of these measures on the indigenous peoples.

In order to improve implementation and the impact of the EU's assistance, the Commission has already drawn up a staff-training programme. The creation of a working group is one of the measures adopted to improve coordination and coherence within the EU.

Progress realised: consultation of indigenous peoples A project has a greater chance of succeeding if the beneficiaries are fully involved in all stages of the project. As a result, the Commission has identified three main actions to achieve this objective:

  • establishing methodologies and procedures to ensure the full participation of indigenous peoples in the development process;
  • identifying indigenous peoples' own priorities;
  • ensuring that indigenous peoples can offer an informed view on specific EU activities.

The Commission has set up consultation mechanisms and contact points in the Commission's services. Consultation also takes place via an informal network of three indigenous peoples' organisations.

There has been broad consultation of indigenous peoples in order to obtain better information concerning their situation (legal, socio-economic, etc.). This has enabled the EU to identify their priorities. Two major priorities have been identified: the environment and racism. The limited participation of indigenous peoples in the development process and civil society is another issue that must be tackled.

The results of the consultations have also demonstrated that the procedures for applying for financial support are a significant obstacle to the participation of indigenous peoples. Consideration should also be given to setting up microprojects that are better adapted to their situation.

Progress achieved: support for indigenous peoples in priority areas

The Commission presents some examples of the vast number of projects undertaken during this period. The projects have been designed to:

  • Assist national efforts to recognise and respect indigenous peoples' rights.For example, a wildlife management programme has been set up in Botswana.
  • Train and educate indigenous peoples.A programme has been set up in Thailand to support organisation and capacity building among the hill tribes of Thailand. The programme encourages them to preserve their culture and knowledge and transmit it to the new generation.
  • Develop capacity-building for indigenous organisations.Subsidies have been granted to strengthen the capacity of small non-governmental organisations and to facilitate the coordination of micro projects.
  • Enable networking and exchange of experience among indigenous peoples.A subsidy has been granted to a Latin American association to establish a radio network to enhance communication between Amazonian peoples and to defend their way of life and the Amazonian ecosystem.
  • Enhance the protection of indigenous peoples' knowledge, innovations and practices.An international study on indigenous culture, customs and traditions has received financial support from the European Community.

Further action required

Cooperation with indigenous peoples is an evolving process. Certain measures are proposed to improve this cooperation in the future:

  • continuing to improve the integration of this issue into policies, programmes, etc;The methodology for mainstreaming this topic must be further developed, projects relevant to indigenous peoples must be systematically identified as such and a specific reference to indigenous peoples must be made with a view to establishing a central database on actions in support of indigenous peoples.
  • continuing to enhance cooperation and coherence within the Union and with other donors;
  • incorporating specific guidelines to protect indigenous peoples in the Commission's official documents, including all relevant policies;
  • enhancing the consultation of indigenous peoples;In particular, small organisations must be better informed of the Union's action and the Commission's delegations on the ground must be strengthened so that they can help with the management of micro projects.


Council conclusions on indigenous peoples.General Affairs Council - 18 November 2002 [Not published in the Official Journal]. In its conclusions, the Council invites the Commission and the Member States to:

  • facilitate the identification of focal points on indigenous peoples' issues within the Commission and in national administrations;
  • strengthen long-term and direct dialogue between indigenous peoples, the EU, international organisations and NGOs;
  • establish a network for the exchange of information between the Commission and Member State focal points and representatives of the indigenous peoples.

The Council further invites the Commission to:

  • ensure the training of its staff on issues related to the rights of indigenous peoples and on ways to achieve more participatory processes;
  • pay special attention to the rights of women, the elderly and children in indigenous communities;
  • include an analysis of the political, social, economic and cultural situation of indigenous peoples in Country Strategy Papers. These analyses should also incorporate an assessment of the impact of EU development cooperation policies on indigenous peoples;
  • integrate concerns of indigenous peoples into the political dialogue with EU partner countries;
  • facilitate the participation of representatives of the indigenous peoples at all stages of the EU development project cycle;
  • ensure that a section evaluating Community policy towards indigenous peoples is included in the Annual Report on the Implementation of the Community's External Assistance and in the European Union Annual Report on Human Rights.

Last updated: 06.06.2007