Letter to World Bank: Including Indigenous Peoples in the Bank’s Goals of Ending Extreme Poverty

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Dear President Kim,

Attached please find a letter from the Indian Law Resource Center that outlines our preliminary suggestions for reasonable actions that the World Bank can take to respect the rights of indigenous peoples as distinct social, legal and political entities located in the Bank’s borrowing countries and incorporate indigenous issues into the World Bank Group Strategy approved in October 2013.

Respecting indigenous rights can result in a win-win scenario for the Bank in achieving its goals. To end extreme poverty of indigenous peoples, bring prosperity to their communities, and best implement the “smart risk taking” approach, we recommend that you start with the Bank’s own transformation:

1.      Explicitly address indigenous peoples’ distinct rights and development priorities within the safeguards review, issue strategies, and the modernization/change process.

2.      Ensure that all policies, strategies, and Bank activities respect indigenous peoples’ human rights, consistent with the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, International Labor Organization Convention 169, and binding case law from regional human rights courts; especially when indigenous lands, territories and resources are at stake.

3.      Create an indigenous peoples fund to support efforts aimed at ending indigenous peoples’ poverty and provide funding for their own development projects.

4.      Develop a strategy for serious, proactive, and transparent engagement with indigenous peoples’ governmental authorities as equal partners for development.

5.      Provide the staffing, resources, and incentive structure to ensure that the Bank is able to effectively support indigenous peoples’ development.

6.      Develop a study on indigenous peoples’ land and development, with a focus on indigenous peoples’ collective ownership over lands and resources, to affirm its centrality in the Bank’s fight against extreme poverty and in all land-related projects and strategies.

7.      Revise risk assessment policies and tools to effectively and explicitly identify human rights risks and prevent project-related human rights violations.

The Center remains eager to work towards ending indigenous peoples’ poverty and producing the strongest possible Bank policy on indigenous peoples.  We also welcome Bank officials, especially those from the Legal Department, to engage in a dialogue on these issues.


Armstrong A. Wiggins
Director, Washington Office
Indian Law Resource Center