The situation of indigenous peoples in Asia

4 September 2020
Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples
To the HRC at its 45th session

The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, Ms. Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, in cooperation with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), has initiated the preparation of a report on the situation of indigenous peoples in Asia which will be presented to the Human Rights Council in September 2020.
The Special Rapporteur wishes to focus her report on the experiences and current challenges faced by indigenous peoples in the region.
The thematic focus of the report will be on: lands, territories and resources, human rights defenders, business and human rights, conservation, environmental rights and the impacts of climate change. Particular emphasis will also be placed on the impact of climate change on the enjoyment of economic, social and cultural rights and the critical role played by indigenous people in protecting the environment, including through traditional knowledge.
The report will provide an opportunity to follow-up on reports on the situation in Asia conducted by the two previous Special Rapporteurs in 2013 (A/HRC/24/41/Add.3) and in 2007 (A/HRC/6/15/Add.3), respectively.
Input was requested by 31 December 2019. The identity of sources who submit information will be kept confidential, even when the Special Rapporteur’s report addresses the issues brought to her attention.

Below some non-exhaustive examples of questions and issues that may be addressed:

Right to Self-determination, Indigenous Governance

  • How do indigenous communities exercise self-determination, governance and autonomy?
  • What are the key elements for achieving this?
  • Obstacles in the recognition by States of indigenous peoples' rights to self-identify as indigenous?
  • What are the gaps and challenges to the full realisation of the right to self-determination in practice?

Lands, Territories and Resources

  • Are collective land rights recognised in State legislation and can such rights be exercised in practice?
  • Examples of successfully gained collective land titles, how was this achieved?
  • What are the gaps and challenges to the full realization of the right to land, territories and resources?

Indigenous Justice Systems

  • Is indigenous justice or customary justice officially recognised by State legislation?
  • How does indigenous justice operate in practice? Obstacles?
  • In what way does indigenous justice support autonomy and self-governance? Please illustrate by providing examples.
  • How are indigenous peoples treated in the State justice system? Is legal aid and interpretation provided in indigenous languages?
  • How could there be better harmonisation between the indigenous and State justice systems? Please provide examples.


  • How has it affected indigenous communities when their territories have been declared protected areas? Have indigenous communities been consulted and their free, prior informed consent sought before their territories are declared conservation areas?
  • Do indigenous people manage or co-manage protected areas and do indigenous peoples receive benefits from these?
  • What is the impact of tourism on protected areas?
  • Presence of mining/logging in protected areas?
  • Existence of complaints mechanisms?

Climate Change

  • Examples of how indigenous peoples are affected by climate change.
  • How can indigenous traditional knowledge combat climate change?
  • How do indigenous communities participate in the management of projects for climate change adaptation?

Human Rights Defenders. Criminalisation

  • Which are the triggering factors behind the criminalisation and targeting of indigenous human rights defenders?
  • What is the incidence of criminalisation and on what charges?
  • How are indigenous human rights defenders treated by the police, the prosecution and the judiciary?
  • Impacts of criminalisation at the individual level and on the community. Gendered impacts.

Business and Human Rights

  • What business enterprises impact most/how on indigenous peoples?
  • Were there measures taken to seek the FPIC of indigenous communities?
  • Access to information and participation?
  • Were environmental and social impact studies done?
  • Environmental impacts.
  • Complaints mechanisms, redress, accountability of companies.

Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. Education, Health, Languages

  • What is the level of access to education and health care in indigenous communities? Obstacles?
  • Is education available in mother-tongue? Is it culturally appropriate? Did indigenous communities participate in designing such education?
  • Examples of how educational curricula can be adjusted to be more culturally appropriate.
  • Indigenous initiatives to put up their own schools- best practices, challenges?
  • How much government support is available to indigenous language education?
  • Is there culturally appropriate health care? Indigenous health practitioners? Recognition of indigenous traditional medicine?
  • How are the rights of indigenous women, children and persons with disabilities respected?