As part of his mandate, the Special Rapporteur conducts and participates in studies on issues or themes that are of interest to indigenous peoples across borders and regions of the world. Thematic studies are helpful in identifying major issues and for providing a foundation for subsequent positive practical action and reform. Past thematic studies have included examination of the following topics, among others:
- The impacts of development projects on indigenous communities
- The implementation of domestic laws and international standards to protect indigenous rights
- Indigenous peoples and education systems
- The relationship between formal State law and customary indigenous law
- International norms concerning indigenous peoples
Given the recent creation in 2008 of the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, whose mandate is to provide thematic expertise and recommendations to the Human Rights Council on issues affecting indigenous peoples, the Special Rapporteur views thematic studies as secondary to the other areas of his work and views his role in this area as being complementary to and supportive of the work of the Expert Mechanism. Due to the nature of the work that the Special Rapporteur does and the diversity of individuals he engages with, he constantly gains awareness of pressing issues shared by indigenous peoples worldwide, and is committed to working with the Expert Mechanism to investigate these issues and develop possible resolutions.
Undertaking thematic studies frequently involves participation in conferences or symposiums aimed at investigating and addressing specific shared issues as well as engaging with other United Nations Special Rapporteurs or thematic mechanisms.
Thematic studies or commentary on particular issues are included in the Special Rapporteur’s Annual Reports and in Special reports.