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Indigenous Peoples

Poverty and exclusion among Indigenous Peoples: The global evidence

Gillette Hall's picture
Flower Hmong women, Bac Ha market, Vietnam. Photo: Tran Thi Hoa/World Bank
There are about 370 million Indigenous people in the world today, according to estimates. Present in over 90 countries, indigenous communities represent about 5% of the world’s population but make up 15% of the world’s extreme poor, and 1/3 of the rural poor. They live, own and occupy approximately one quarter of the world’s lands and waters which represents 80% of the world’s biodiversity. But research shows they are just as much urban as they are rural. According to a recently published report Indigenous Latin America in the Twenty-First Century, nearly half of Latin America’s indigenous population now live in urban areas. Wherever they live, Indigenous Peoples face distinct pressures, including being among the poorest and most marginalized in their societies.
Where are these 370 million people, who are they, and why they are so overrepresented among the poor?
Only about 8% of the Indigenous Peoples around the world reside in Latin America, a far smaller number than most people surmise. On the other hand, over 75% live in China, South Asia and Southeast Asia, according to World Bank’s first global study of poverty among Indigenous Peoples across the developing world, Indigenous Peoples, Poverty, and Development

With community-driven development, Indigenous Peoples take ownership of their future

Ede Ijjasz-Vasquez's picture
Indigenous Peoples and marginalized ethnic minorities, numbering some 350 million worldwide, are among the most disadvantaged and vulnerable groups globally.
Disproportionately affected by poverty, they represent approximately 5% of the global population, but account for more than 10% of the world’s poor. In some regions and countries, the proportion of Indigenous Peoples among the poor soars to 60-70%.
Community-driven development, an approach to local development that empowers community groups with control over planning and investment decisions, is one way that the Bank is partnering with Indigenous Peoples in places as diverse as Vietnam, Nepal, and Bolivia.
In this video, Ede Ijjasz-Vasquez and Susan Wong discuss how the Bank’s community-driven development approach is uniquely placed to address some of the challenges that Indigenous Peoples face in their fight against poverty.
If you want to learn more about this topic, we invite you to discover our latest Sustainable Communities podcast.

A map is worth a thousand words: Supporting forest stewards in addressing climate change

Kennan Rapp's picture
Photo: Julio Pantoja / World Bank Group

In Nepal, indigenous groups produced a range of training materials, including videos in local languages on forests and climate change, to help more than 100 women and community leaders in the Terai, Hill and Mountain areas better understand what terms like ‘mitigation and adaptation strategies for climate resilience’ mean for them in their daily lives. 

A team of consultants in Kenya, who are members of indigenous communities with an understanding of regional politics and geographical dynamics, worked on increasing community involvement in sustainable forest management through workshops and face-to-face meetings. As part of their work, they collected information on land tenure status within indigenous territories, which will help the country prepare a national strategy for reducing emissions from deforestation.

Campaign art: Sounds of life in the forest

Roxanne Bauer's picture

People, Spaces, Deliberation bloggers present exceptional campaign art from all over the world. These examples are meant to inspire.

Satellites have been sending us all images of planet earth for decades. For many, photographs of earth at night are particularly enchanting as the cameras can detect natural and man-made light, showing everything from the night-time glow of the Sahara Desert to the light of a single village on an island in the Pacific Ocean. Through these photos, the bright lights of cities shine through the night sky, revealing where life is vibrant and populations are dense… and where it is not.  

However, a new video from POL, an agency in Oslo Norway, and the Rainforest Foundation reminds us how wrong that view is: It is not cities that house the most life, but forests.

Forests are widely known as the world’s largest source of biodiversity.  They are complex ecosystems that affect almost every species on the planet.  More than two thirds of the world's plant species and more than half of the world's animals are found in the tropical rainforests, according to California Institute of Technology. Furthermore, as the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations stated in the 2014 State of the World’s Forests report, forests also contribute significantly to food security and energy production for millions of people.  

Together, the Rainforest Foundation and POL went to the Amazon to document life there in terms of sound. They made continuous night-time recordings that 'illuminate' and show the life in the rainforest.

Sounds of life

Global dialogue bolsters World Bank engagement with Indigenous Peoples

Ede Ijjasz-Vasquez's picture
Supporting Indigenous Peoples’ sustainable development is critical to meeting the World Bank’s twin goals of ending poverty and boosting shared prosperity in the countries in which they live. The recent International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples and International Day for the Eradication of Poverty both helped draw attention to the 350 million Indigenous Peoples in the world who:
  • Are culturally distinct societies and communities – the land on which they live and the natural resources on which they depend are inextricably linked to their identities, cultures, and economies;
  • Are among the most disadvantaged populations in the world, representing roughly 4.5 percent of the global population but more than 10 percent of the poor; and 
  • Even within their own traditional territories – which hold 80 percent of the planet’s biodiversity – they legally own less than 11 percent of the land.
The World Bank is working actively and globally with Indigenous Peoples on a number of issues directly affecting them, and seeks to position marginalized groups such as the Indigenous Peoples at the center of the development agenda.

It should be recognized, however, that improving the conditions for Indigenous Peoples is not an easy task. Indigenous Peoples are often found in remote and isolated regions with poor access to social services and economic infrastructure. They also often suffer from multiple dimensions of exclusion. Furthermore, standard development projects have shown limitations in areas with Indigenous Peoples, particularly if they are not designed and implemented with the active participation of the indigenous communities.

Climate smart management for farms, forests and everything in between

Diji Chandrasekharan Behr's picture
A high-level panel on adaptation-based mitigation at the Global Landscape Forum 2014 in Lima, Peru. (Photo by PROFOR)The energy at the Global Landscapes Forum held alongside the UNFCCC climate negotiations in Lima was electric—charged by the enthusiasm of the scientists, practitioners, indigenous peoples, investors, policy makers, youth and government negotiators who came together to share their latest innovations, tools and ideas for tackling climate change across land uses—from farms to forests and everything in between. Conversations were passionate as we discussed how to bring together our efforts to address climate change and achieve sustainable development at the landscape level—by working in a coordinated manner on agriculture, forests, water and more. 

A notable shift at the 2014 Forum from previous ones, in addition to the mounting numbers in attendance (the event “sold out” with registration closing weeks early), was the buzz about adaptation. It permeated across panels and speakers, making clear the conversation on land-based sectors and climate change has moved well beyond mitigation. The Program on Forests (PROFOR) contributed to advancing the conversation by convening a high-level panel on “Moving forward with adaptation-based mitigation.”    

Indigenous Peoples and poverty: A second chance to get it right

Harry A. Patrinos's picture
 Curt Carnemark/World Bank
Guatemalan women in traditional dress. Photo: Curt Carnemark/World Bank

This week, over a thousand indigenous delegates descended in New York City for the first World Conference on Indigenous Peoples, a high-level plenary meeting of the United Nations General Assembly, to share perspectives and best practices on the realization of the rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Indigenous Peoples represent 4 percent of the world’s population yet account for over 10 percent of the world’s poor. In a book I co-authored, Indigenous Peoples, Poverty and Development we argue that the development community cannot afford to ignore Indigenous Peoples if it aims to achieve the international development goals, both the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and the soon to be announced Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and post-2015 goals.

What’s a Group of Indigenous Peoples Doing in a Baroque Castle in Germany?

Kennan Rapp's picture


It is not often that you find Indigenous Peoples from around the world meeting in one of the most important baroque castles of Germany. Perched on a cliff, with a natural moat created by the river Lahn, the castle of Weilburg allows a bird’s eye view of the surrounding forest landscape.

These forests were not always lush and thriving. Centuries before, the construction of the castle led to massive logging in the adjacent forests and finally the ruling aristocrat ordered restricted use of timber for construction and introduced a new building code. As a result, Weilburg became the national center of a novel construction technique using clay and straw, which is now seen in towns across Germany.

Coincidently, a new approach to tackling deforestation is also what 80 Indigenous Peoples’ leaders, government representatives, civil society practitioners and international experts from 24 countries discussed this week at a three day workshop in Weilburg’s castle.

The central challenge was to identify practical approaches to ensure the full and effective participation of Indigenous Peoples in REDD+, a performance-based mechanism for reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation. The meeting was jointly organized by the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility (FCPF) and the UN-REDD Programme.

Engaging with Indigenous Peoples on forests

Benoît Bosquet's picture

A little while ago, I blogged about an unprecedented meeting of Indigenous Peoples’ representatives from 28 countries that took place on the idyllic islands of Guna Yala, Panama, in September 2011.

One and a half years later, it is fair to say that we have come a very long way as we welcome over 30 representatives of Indigenous Peoples and southern civil society organizations from Latin America, Africa, and Asia-Pacific for a workshop on the Carbon Fund of the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility (FCPF) here in Washington, DC this week. The Bank serves as the Trustee and the Secretariat of the FCPF, a global partnership that is helping countries draft REDD+ readiness plans and will provide carbon payments to countries that meet certain targets.

Since our initial meeting in Panama, Indigenous Peoples’ representatives adopted an Action Plan, travelled the world to meet, dialogue and learn, and gathered in regional follow-up meetings to build capacity and prioritize demands.

When I look back at the beginning of the series of dialogues with Indigenous Peoples, I remember that discussions mainly revolved about the role of Indigenous Peoples in REDD+ (which stands for Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation). Indigenous Peoples were concerned that REDD+ could become a means for pushing them off their ancestral lands. With their livelihoods and cultural identity deeply connected to the forest and the land, losing access to them would mean losing everything. At the time, our engagement centered on broad questions such as, How do we ensure that REDD+ will not undermine customary rights to land?

Island gathering highlights the many ways of seeing REDD

Benoît Bosquet's picture

This past September, we were invited to an unusual event with Indigenous Peoples in the territory of Guna Yala on Panama’s Caribbean coastline recently. A dozen representatives of the World Bank, including the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility (FCPF) secretariat, met up on the tiny island of Gaigirgordub, which is part of the San Blas archipelago.

These islands are specks of land no more than two feet above the water line, surrounded by crystal clear waters, and the verdant mountains of the mainland on the horizon. The Guna people become islanders because of a conflict a century or so ago, but they have not lost their attachment to their forests. You just have to look at the landscape as you drive through Guna Yala to see how dense the forests are, in stark contrast to their adjacent province of Panama, where agriculture and urban expansion have taken their toll. So what better place than Guna Yala to talk about the role of Indigenous Peoples in REDD+ (the acronym for reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation, and conservation of forest carbon stocks)?