The world’s 370 million indigenous people are among the most vulnerable and disadvantaged groups, comprising about 15 percent of the global poor. Indigenous communities commonly occupy remote rural areas and their livelihoods are fundamentally linked to land and natural resource use. They possess a wide body of knowledge about agriculture, fishing, hunting and gathering, sustainable environmental management, biodiversity and environmental adaptation.
Political discrimination and socio-economic marginalization, coupled with the speed and scope of environmental stresses such as climate change and natural resource depletion are causing a steady loss of indigenous people’s environmental knowledge systems.
Through the Indigenous Peoples Working Group established in 2002, FAO is working to safeguard the biological wealth on which indigenous peoples depend, and to use their knowledge to improve development interventions. The network is comprised of officers from different FAO technical departments and regional offices and serves as an internal forum for the exchange of information and the promotion of increased awareness and action on indigenous issues.
The focal point coordinating the network is housed within the Gender, Equity and Rural Employment Division (ESW) in virtue of its work addressing social and economic equity issues. The focal point oversees FAO’s activities in relation to indigenous people including providing advice on projects, programmes and policy initiatives; collecting best practices and lessons learned; preparing guidelines and reports; participating in consultations with indigenous representatives; sharing information with the UN system and other partner organizations on FAO’s work; and representing the Organization as a qualified expert at the annual UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII), the annual International Expert Group Meetings on Indigenous Issues and the Meetings of the Inter-Agency Support Group on Indigenous Issues (IASG).
The Working Group focuses it work on the areas of priority defined in FAO’s corporate Policy on Indigenous and Tribal Peoples (2010): the environment and genetic resources; climate change and bioenergy; land and territories; food security; nutrition and the right to food; communication and knowledge systems; cultural and biological diversity; and economic opportunity for sustainable livelihoods.