Draft USAID Policy on Indigenous Peoples’ Issues

For Comments

The United States Agency for International Development is pleased to present this draft of the new Agency Policy on Indigenous Peoples' Issues for your review. USAID is asking for voluntary feedback on the draft policy and specifically on the extent to which the objectives and principles are useful in establishing how USAID should work with indigenous peoples. Your input will help enrich our thinking as the Policy is being finalized.

The public comment period will close on Friday, November 9th, 2018 at 5pm (Washington D.C. time).

Thank you.




La Agencia de los Estados Unidos para el Desarrollo Internacional (USAID) se complace en presentar el borrador de su nueva Política sobre Asuntos Indígenas para su revisión. USAID está solicitando su opinión voluntaria de éste borrador,más específicamente sobre la medida en que los objetivos y principios son útiles para establecer cómo USAID debe trabajar con los pueblos indígenas. Su aporte ayudará a enriquecer nuestro pensamiento a medida que se finalice la Política.

Tenga en cuenta que todos los comentarios deben presentarse el viernes 9 de noviembre de 2018 a las 17:00 (hora de Washington DC).


L’Agence des Etats-Unis pour le Développement International (USAID) a le plaisir de vous faire parvenir sa première version de “Politique de l’USAID sur la question des peuples autochtones” afin de solliciter vos commentaires. En effet, l’USAID souhaiterait recevoir avis et commentaires relatifs à cette présente version et plus particulièrement sur la question de savoir si les objectifs et principes proposés permettront à l’USAID de travailler effectivement avec les peuples autochtones. Vos avis et commentaires contribueront à enrichir notre approche au cours de cette phase de finalisation du document.

La date limite de réception des commentaires est fixée au Vendredi 9 Novembre 2018 à 17 heures, heure de Washington, c’est à dire UTC/GMT -5 heures.

En vous remerciant de votre aimable contribution,

Tuesday, October 23, 2018 - 9:00am


Thanks for this opportunity to provide comments on this exciting new policy. I am encouraged to see such a well-developed and thoughtful document providing a framework for engaging with indigenous peoples and that crosses over all sectors. It provides clear guidance, states the objectives well and expresses the desire that USAID programming aligns to the greatest extent possible with indigenous peoples’ own development priorities. The provision of tools accompanying this Policy, such as the Consultation Handbook, an annotated Inclusive Development Assessment and Social Impact Assessment Guidance are expected to assist the operating units in ensuring that Agency activities do not harm, while building partnerships with indigenous leaders and communities. Unfortunately, some links to these resources are not yet alive as to establish the depth of the tools.

This is a great momentum for the agency, particularly as it acknowledges the contribution of indigenous people to development, and intends to provide them with meaningful decision-making authority, besides unlocking traditional knowledge with potential for development, conservation, and that may result in more inclusive development and greater self-reliance through more sustained outcomes.

I have just minor comments to improve the understanding of the Policy. These are:

• With regard to obtaining free, prior and informed consent (FPIC) from indigenous peoples in connection with a planned activity: The following statement needs to be clarified:

“However, the United States does not interpret FPIC to require actual consent in the sense of conveying an actual veto right to indigenous peoples over the program, project, or activity.”

What does this really mean? It is not clear on page 16 or later in the rest of the document: If an indigenous community does not have a veto power to deny that an activity or project is conducted, what is it that the consent or lack of consent refers to? Just to modify how the program is conducted or implemented? Please, explain or elaborate further.

• Also, on page 16, this first sentence of one of the paragraphs seems unfinished: “Since the limited consent would be meaningless if the person or group were not given full information about the proposed activity and its potential impacts (“informed”) before the activity is initiated (“prior”).” It stops there without continuing to complete what could happen.

• Some references links do not work – for example: https://www.usaid.gov/selfreliance/what-self-reliance-metrics

• Tools were not attached for review but appreciate their description.

Thanks again for the opportunity to review this important policy that aims to ensure that our work includes indigenous groups in the journey to self-reliance.

Conservation International would like to acknowledge that the draft “USAID Policy on Indigenous Peoples’ Issues” is a large step in the right direction for USAID to ensure it is partnering effectively, respectfully and transparently with indigenous peoples as USAID pursues its development agenda.

One of the highlights of the draft policy is that it recognizes that indigenous peoples have their own development agenda outside that of funders and other external entities. This recognition is important as it goes beyond looking at indigenous peoples as mere beneficiaries but as partners with meaningful contributions to offer not only to USAID, but to their countries and their own communities.

CI’s main concern with the policy is the caveat placed on the definition of Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC). The term FPIC has an internationally recognized definition, which includes the ability of indigenous peoples to say no to or veto projects that impact them. USAID’s proposed policy appropriates the term FPIC and applies a caveat to it; therefore, we propose USAID adopt the term “consultation” and not use the term “consent.”

The other major concern is that policies are good documents but without robust guidance and grievance mechanisms in place, they remain documents that can fail to meet either the needs of stakeholders or implementers.

The following are examples of text that are especially important, and should remain in the policy:

* On page 19, the text box entitled, “A Note on Financial Resources,” is an excellent component to this policy. Project proponents often claim the lack of funding to conduct consultations so if there is dedicated funding can help ensure this necessary work happens.

* Highlight that on page 10, the following concept is vital for working with indigenous peoples, and the sentence should remain in the text: “It is critical to first listen to the voices of indigenous peoples and then to identify shared (or diverging) development goals before USAID decides on the final goals and the most appropriate approaches to achieving them.”

The following is a list of specific changes that Conservation International believes would improve the policy:

* On page 1 in the last line of the first paragraph of the Executive Summary, suggest changing sentence to read “The Policy offers guidance for robust engagement and partnership with indigenous peoples to help USAID programs better align with indigenous peoples’ own priorities, while ensuring that development activities not only do no harm, but improve livelihood outcomes.”

* In the last paragraph of page 11 where lessons learned are mentioned, it would be good to include a list of lessons and identify if they are from indigenous peoples themselves or are the results of consultant’s reports. It is necessary to validate these lessons learned with the communities from which they are taken.

* On page 14, in the second paragraph that discusses customary decision-making mechanisms, it is important to note that in some cases, such customary decision-making processes are corrupted or have simply eroded. It would be more inclusive if the wording were re-phrased to acknowledge this reality and include self-organized institutions within communities.

* The last paragraph on page 14 contains a lot of important information, especially the idea of mutually agreed procedures. This can be strengthened by adding a mention of grievance procedures- in case something goes wrong, stakeholders have recourse to address it.

* On page 15 in the text box labeled “Essential Elements of a Good Consultation,” we suggest altering one bullet point and adding another:

-- Alternation: “Communication with stakeholders early and often throughout the process and in a language identified
by them to be most relevant to their needs.”

-- Addition: “Selection of the time and venue by stakeholders that best meets their needs.”

* On page 16, Step 1 can be further strengthened if it recognizes and accepts self-assessments done by communities.

* On page 17 in the first paragraph, where it mentions “recognized leaders and customary decision-making mechanisms,” make it explicit who they are recognized by, i.e. “leaders recognized by their communities and the customary decision-making mechanisms developed by communities over time.”

Considero que es un documento orientador y relevante puesto no se contaba con un instrumento así en USAID.

Si bien en el pie de página # 3 de la página 4 se hace referencia a la política de género de USAID, en el marco de los compromisos de USAID con el desarrollo inclusivo, el abordaje de la equidad de género de los pueblos indígenas que se hace sobre este tema se limita a destacarse únicamente el abordaje de manera transversal y no de forma explícita. Este aspecto no debería ser planteado en un pie de página, sino debería formar parte del cuerpo principal del documento.

OPPORTUNITIES en la sección de retos se podría indicar específicamente en la página 8 que las mujeres indígenas en particular están afectadas por los indicadores mencionados en el último párrafo de esa página.

Un buen ejemplo de referencia específica a género se encuentra en el tercer principio de los Operating Principles presentado en la Sección V sobre la necesidad de hacer análisis diferenciado de hombres, mujeres y jóvenes para involucrar a pueblos indígenas (e.g., it is important to recognize that engagement with indigenous women and indigenous men or youth and elders may require differentiated approaches). Este tipo de referencias debería aparecer a lo largo de la política.

Aunque la política me parece clara en sus objetivos y abordaje, tuve la impresión de que el lenguaje en el que está escrito subestima a los pueblos indígenas y pareciera como que los proyectos harán una labor de rescate e incorporación de los pueblos. En mi opinión, el lenguaje debiera ser de respeto y valoración de las culturas y pueblos como poblaciones importantes de los países.

¿Tendrá la política implicaciones en las desagregaciones que se reportan en los indicadores de los proyectos?

Entiendo que la política están a un nivel macro, sin embargo, no encontré aspectos que fortalezcan el rol de la mujer indígena y escasamente se menciona el tema de jóvenes, estos aspectos se agudizan en la población indígena y veo necesario hacerles un espacio dentro de esta política.

- Redacción: cambiar de lengua/dialecto a idioma maya (este cambio se dio hace algunos años desde la Academia de Lenguas Mayas)
- Respecto a la educación de población indígena escribí sobre la importancia de contribuir a una educación que fortalezca la cultura, cosmovisión y contribuya al buen vivir (estos tres son los más fuertes en la población indígena)
- Y por último el tema de cómo fortalecer las expresiones organizativas que trabajan por y para los pueblos indígenas y que a su vez son organizaciones indígenas como las municipalidades indígenas, concejos de ancianos, organizaciones de comadronas, grupos artísticos mayas que rescatan la cultura ancestral.

Adjunto en el archivo PDF más comentarios. Hacer clic en el vínculo https://we.tl/t-B0mu2e4Nnc

Es una política muy completa.
1. Contiene aspectos muy relevantes como la autodeterminación de los pueblos indígenas y la consulta previa a intervenciones.
2. En cuanto a el impacto social es inexorable el cambio que genera la tecnología, sin embargo, debe incluirse en toda intervención para favorecer a la población indígena y reducir la brecha digital.
3. En cuanto a las lenguas indígenas es imperativo desarrollar las actividades sobre todo consultas a líderes y expertos indígenas en el idioma de la localidad, y no priorizar el costo beneficio.
En las intervenciones a través de proyectos que haya mayor participación directa de los beneficiarios.

Se podría abordar la política de los pueblos indígenas como participantes activos y no solo como beneficiarios. Los pueblos indígenas, con apoyo del sector público y sociedad civil, son catalizadores de cambios sociales. En cambio, si planteamos que únicamente son beneficiarios de las intervenciones, podemos transmitir el mensaje de que su beneficio se da únicamente gracias a las intervenciones externas. El involucramiento de los pueblos indígenas desde el diseño y evaluación de intervenciones y políticas es necesario, más allá que únicamente en los procesos de validación e implementación.

contiene lineamientos generales de cómo incluir a tomadores de decisiones desde el diseño de los proyectos para que respondan a sus necesidades e intereses; también se les incluye en el seguimiento y evaluación de la implementación. Al igual que opinó Justo, veo que el tema de inclusión de mujeres y jóvenes está contemplado de manera muy general. Considero que debiera darse más énfasis a la participación igualitaria en el diseño, toma de decisiones, ejecución, monitoreo y rendición de cuentas. Hacer explícito que dependiendo del grupo etario los intereses y necesidades son diferentes, y a pesar de que hay todo un desarrollo de estrategia específica, debiera abrirse dos espacios más específicos: participación de mujeres y participación de jóvenes. Estos dos grupos suelen ser excluidos en los grupos de toma de decisión, por lo que debiera incluírseles de forma intencionada. De igual forma creo que debiera incluirse de que se buscará un equilibrio entre las propuestas y acciones indígenas y las no indígenas, porque a veces la balanza se inclina más por un extremo, atropellando al otro grupo, en donde por lo general coexisten.

• Me parece una propuesta bastante ambiciosa. Me parece que podría necesitarse mayor precisión en cuanto a la aplicación de los lineamientos.
• Considero que puede ser necesario clarificar mejor cuáles son y la forma en la que los principios, las herramientas y los recursos planteados se pueden aplicar en cada etapa del ciclo de un programa.
• Se podría sugerir que se definan indicadores de monitoreo de la implementación de la política.
• Sugiero incluir un glosario para tener claridad en cuanto a varios de los términos que se enuncian. Por ejemplo: sólidas consultas, integración efectiva de los pueblos indígenas, grado de autosuficiencia, entre otros.
• No indica cuál es la temporalidad.
• Aunque define “pueblos indígenas”, quizá es conveniente desagregar si está dirigida a toda la población que cumple con los criterios que allí definen, o si hay especificidades en cuanto a mujeres, edades, etc.

Las cinco políticas me parecen ajustadas a la realidad considerando el contexto guatemalteco sobre el contexto mundial. Respecto a la uno de identificar a los pueblos indígenas es un extremo ya que hay reconocimiento en la Constitución Política de la República, aunque, en la práctica son otras las realidades. Este es el punto ya que mientras USAID tiene bien clara la ruta de las políticas, en el país, por ejemplo, respecto a la política cuatro de salvaguardar los derechos y el bienestar de los pueblos indígenas, dentro de Guatemala se viola constantemente este tema al existir uso excesivo y fuera de la consulta a los pueblos indígenas de los recursos naturales, el más cercano es el caso del río Cahabón.

En el marco de la identificación de los pueblos indígenas hay dos extremos, uno relacionado a la exclusión, discriminación y racismo prevaleciente en el país por ciertos grupos y por el otro lado el extremismo de líderes indígenas del país al privilegiar la cosmovisión maya por sobre el desarrollo socioeconómico de la población indígena.

En conclusión, podemos decir que el verdadero reto está en cómo implementar esta política de pueblos indígenas de USAID en un contexto político social como el caso de Guatemala. Este documento es para un análisis más profundo y requiere de expertos que tengan la capacidad de ser objetivos y contundentes con sus argumentos.

DRAFT USAID Policy on Indigenous Peoples’ Issues es un valioso esfuerzo de la Agencia en enfocar sus esfuerzos en pueblos indígenas. Aunque el documento se enfoca en la situación de adversidad de los pueblos indígenas a nivel mundial, se hace poca referencia a las configuraciones históricas de sometimiento y violencia política de varios siglos, procesos por el que atravesó la mayoría de los pueblos indígenas en América Latina. Recordar la historia permite entender que los esfuerzos deben trascender la perspectiva sectorial y de corto plazo.

No está claro en la propuesta de política cómo el enfoque de pueblos indígenas se complementa con la de identidad. Entendí que se tratan estas dos perspectivas como una sola en la propuesta de política. Esto trae algunos problemas, por ejemplo, cuando se hace referencia a los pueblos indígenas generalmente se desconoce la división política-administrativa establecida, pues los pueblos indígenas no se identifican como municipio o departamento. Esto también ocasionaría dificultades en la identificación del área de intervención o cobertura de determinado proyecto o programa.

En varios países y regiones de países con mayoría de población indígena no habrá que identificar a los pueblos indígenas (pues son la mayoría); sin embargo, no se precisan los mecanismos de construcción conjunta, consulta o articulación para estos casos (por ejemplo, el Altiplano Occidental de Guatemala).

Ayudaría mucho que la Agencia incorporara una perspectiva teórica sobre conceptos muy importantes en la propuesta de política, por ejemplo: pueblo, comunidad, indigenismo, autodeterminación, autosuficiencia, inclusión, exclusión, etcétera.

Considero importante tener espacios de consulta permanente hacia los pueblos indígenas; es decir, establecer mecanismos permanentes de participación. El momento crítico sin duda es identificar a los líderes idóneos (con legitimidad y representatividad) o a las organizaciones de pueblos indígenas (con capacidades de gestión), ya que en lo interno de los pueblos indígenas también hay luchas de poder y, por ende, de intereses.

Aunque la política establece claramente que la consulta no cede a los Pueblos Indígenas la facultad de un veto real, es fundamental que los aportes y lecciones aprendidas avancen hacia la construcción de perspectivas teóricas desde los pueblos indígenas y así contrarrestar ese punto de vista indigenista, culturalista o de teatro que inunda la literatura desde los otros sobre los pueblos indígenas

Thank you for the opportunity to comment on the Draft USAID Policy on Indigenous Peoples’ Issues. Minority Rights Group International (MRG) found the document to be clearly framed, helpful to your employees and other stakeholders as well as to indigenous peoples and those who work on indigenous issues. It is heartening to note that its tone reflects both the importance of addressing issues concerning indigenous peoples, the push towards ensuring genuine indigenous participation, and engaging with them as authentic partners in development processes. We hope that the comments below will help strengthen this further.

Executive Summary

This is well framed and coherent. We would recommend a reference to free prior and informed consent (FPIC) in the third objective of the policy, while noting the caveat concerning U.S. policy introduced with this concept on p.2 under Safeguarding Indigenous Peoples’ Rights and Well-Being (more below).

We would suggest that objective three could read as follows:

3) Empower indigenous peoples to exercise their rights, participate in decision-making processes that impact them, and practice self-determined development keeping in mind the principles of Free Prior and Informed Consent.
On p.2 we would like to introduce a caveat to the point titled Engage Indigenous Peoples, which while well framed does not recognise the needs of “non-contact” peoples. This could be overcome by the addition of the phrase … ‘with the exception of indigenous peoples in initial contact or voluntary isolation’ at the end of the sentence as it currently stands. Thus:
The Policy strongly encourages direct engagement with indigenous peoples by USAID staff and implementing partners across the Programme Cycle, with the exception of indigenous peoples in initial contact or voluntary isolation.

Also on p.2 MRG would like to make three further substantive points:

(a) That the draft ought to reconsider whether the caveat as current framed is strictly necessary:
However, the United States does not interpret FPIC to require actual consent in the sense of conveying an actual veto right to indigenous peoples in that context.

While we appreciate the position of the United States and its concern over the balancing of development projects and indigenous rights, we respectfully submit that the caveat as currently framed defeats the concept of consent and its core purpose of safeguarding indigenous peoples’ rights. We accept that consent does not need to include a veto, but to rule it out explicitly ab initio on every occasion, bereft of specific contexts pre-determines a form of consent which defeats the object and purpose of the principle.

Decisions of the Inter-American Court and Commission on Human Rights, the African Court and Commission, and recommendations of UN Treaty bodies in countries where USAID works, all point to the need to justify any activities that have not obtained FPIC on the basis of exhaustive necessity and proportionality tests. As explained by the UN Special Rapportuer on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, this should give rise to the operating presumption that FPIC is required for development projects in or near indigenous territories. Invoking the reductionist concept of a veto obscures this nuanced rights-based conception of FPIC and its role in guaranteeing the realization of fundamental rights. Its ultimate effect is to polarize discussions, rather than facilitate good-faith engagement with indigenous peoples as authentic partners in development processes.

(b) Besides the caveat being overstated in our opinion as raised above in (a), we are also concerned at its reiteration in the same words in several places (pp.16, 21, 25), which we feel is repetitive and tilts the balance against the tone and content of the document.

(c) In our opinion the notion of “limited consent” (p. 16) is also ambiguous and unhelpful from an operational perspective and should be replaced with the unqualified term “consent” as contained in the concept free prior and informed consent which is addressed.

(d) We would like to instead highlight and commend the tone, language and action exhorted on p.27, in the last paragraph before the text box, which commences: “If the SIA…” which contains the discussion on the impact of FPIC, and is framed much more in keeping with principle as it has evolved.

The understanding of FPIC that has emerged under international human rights law standards and is reflected in the policy documents of most international organizations, including the International Finance Corporation, together with the aforementioned description on p. 27 provide a constructive operational approach to engagement with indigenous peoples. Considering the above we would therefore respectfully suggest removing all the references to FPIC as a veto contained in the document.


This section is well framed and clear, and we would like to make four specific points.

First, to commend the articulation of the “definition” question and highlight that in including ‘self-identification’ along with the ‘recognition of this identity by others’, the document is working with the most progressive interpretation of the question. We would however like you to consider a slight modification to points (h) and (g), to the following formulation, (added words in bold):

(h) historical continuity with pre-colonial and/or pre-settler societies or descent from populations inhabiting the country at the time of establishment of present state boundaries

We believe that this formulation which draws from ILO Convention 169 is more inclusive of groups in Asia and Africa where questions of historical continuity are more complex.

(g) resolve to maintain, reproduce and transmit, their ancestral environments and systems as distinctive peoples and communities, to future generations.

We believe such a formulation will better reflect the values of environmental and cultural stewardship that are significant to most indigenous cultures.

Second, we would recommend making specific reference to the Leave No One Behind principle, the general call of the Sustainable Development Goals and their importance for indigenous peoples, both as primary custodians of the environment, as currently acknowledged, and the potential of their continued marginalization due to structural discrimination and interest in their lands and resources. We think these references could be added to either the paragraph commencing ‘Working with indigenous peoples…’ or ‘At the same time…’.

Third, on p.4, we suggest a grammatical change replacing ‘this will’ with ‘to’ to the sentence as indicated below in bold. Our suggested formulation is:

This policy aims to deepen the impact and sustainability of USAID’s assistance by effectively engaging indigenous peoples as key local partners, to advance the Agency’s effort to promote self-reliance in the countries where USAID works.
Fourth we would like to reiterate the call made above in commenting on the Executive summary, in including the phrase ‘keeping in mind the principles of Free Prior Informed Consent’ to the third objective identified (p.5).
Identifying Indigenous Peoples

We would like to reiterate the point made above about an addition to point (h) and (g) in the list of characteristics identified in the context of indigenous peoples. Further we would recommend the addition of another caveat to the last paragraph on p.6 (insertion in bold):

USAID’s work with indigenous peoples must be done with sensitivity to the historical and political dynamics in a given region and country especially mindful of the nature and impact of socio-economic and legal exclusion. In situations where…

Indigenous Peoples and Development: Challenges and Opportunities

We found this section to be particularly well framed and necessary. We would like you to consider four minor modifications, none of which change the basic thrust of the section.

First, under Challenges, we would suggest that there ought to be recognition up front that indigenous peoples may have a different world view on what constitutes development. Thus the list of factors identified as to why ‘indigenous peoples have failed to benefit from development interventions in the past’ is accurate, but ought to acknowledge that some of this can also be attributed to a form of development being imposed on indigenous peoples that differs from their world view. We believe this idea could be captured in the following sentence:

It is important to acknowledge that the model of development interventions proposed have on occasion, deviated significantly from long-held indigenous values, and have as a consequence been perceived as a zero-sum game by a range of stakeholders, resulting in poor or contested implementation.

Second, we would like to draw attention and encourage you to cite the recently published UNFPA Fact Sheet on Indigenous Women’s Maternal Health and Maternal Mortality, which we participated in framing in conjunction with UNFPA, which highlights the differential experience in maternal health access of indigenous women. We submit that this strengthens the evidence you offer on p.9 over the differentials for women and girls from indigenous communities. The document is available at https://www.unfpa.org/sites/default/files/resource-pdf/factsheet_digital...

Third, we would call for the addition of the following phrases (in bold) to the paragraph under Opportunities:
…Indigenous knowledge has propelled human progress in transformative ways, such as through the domestication of corn and potatoes (…), and via more subtle contributions in fostering sustainable livelihoods. In addition, 25% of modern medicines….
Fourth, in the text box articulating USAID’s commitment we would like to recommend inserting the phrase ‘in development projects’, thus:

For USAID, inclusion of indigenous peoples in development projects will provide an opportunity to address the singular challenges of historically underserved peoples.

Fifth, we appreciate that you draw attention (p. 8) to the fact that “while indigenous peoples make up just 5% of the earth’s population, they accounted for 40% of environmental defenders killed in 2015 and 2016 and 25% in 2017”. We believe that it is of particular importance to highlight the context in which such killings occur. They increasingly arise in situations where indigenous dissent to development projects impacting on their rights is branded as “anti-development” and indigenous leaders are criminalized for their involvement in organizing protests or opposition to such projects (on this topic see the 2018 annual report of the UN Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples to the Human Rights Council UN Doc A/HRC/39/17). This point relates back to the importance of avoiding reducing FPIC to a veto/no veto discussion and instead framing it as a means through which indigenous peoples’ can assert their collective rights without fear of repercussions in the form of labelling, criminalization, violence or killings.

Policy Objectives

In keeping with the general tone and content of a policy that has been coherently framed we commend you on this section, while raising two additional points that we feel will strengthen the values attributed to indigenous peoples.

First, on p.11, in the paragraph commencing ‘In addition to integrated interventions...’ we propose adding to the list of factors, the confluence of which are acknowledged as part of the ‘intractable development challenges that indigenous peoples face’. Thus, with our recommendations in bold, we suggest the following formulation to the sentence:
The intractable development challenges indigenous peoples face are the result of a confluence of factors often related to geographical isolation, linguistic barriers, structural and other forms of discrimination or social stigmatization, the historical and on-going imposition of large-scale development projects impacting on their rights, limited asset accumulation and historical and socio-economic factors not least their distance from sites of power and policy making.

Second, we would like to reiterate our suggested addition of the phrase FPIC to the titled objective (3), which in line with our comment on the executive summary we recommend is formulated as:
Empower indigenous peoples to exercise their rights, participate in decision-making processes that impact them, and practice self-determined development keeping in mind the principles of Free Prior Informed Consent.

Operating Principles

In general, we find that the articulation of these operating principles provides clear guidance to likely end-users of this document as to the values and actions required. We particularly appreciate the concise nature of the Identify, Analyze, Engage, Safeguard and Partner principles. We would recommend attention to the following issues.
First, on p.13 at the very top, it is not clear what the drafters intend by the phrase:

This policy should be applied to all countries and contexts in which indigenous peoples are identified, including in countries that do not formally recognize indigenous peoples who live in their boundaries.

We commend the second half of the statement, which accounts for situations where States may seek to disempower indigenous peoples through non-recognition. We are however unclear as to who is referenced in the phrase ‘which indigenous peoples are identified’. In other words, is there a body of literature or an institution that identifies indigenous peoples? Since this is likely to be contentious, we recommend a reference to the definitional aspect identified earlier in the document, including the combination of self-identification in conjunction with recognition by other indigenous peoples.

Second, on p.14, the exhortation to engage with nearby communities, in our view, is not framed strongly enough. We would recommend that this be changed to a positive exhortation, replacing ‘It may be advisable’ to ‘We strongly encourage...’ Thus the sentence could read:

We strongly encourage OUs and other stakeholders to engage in some level of consultation with nearby communities as part of the IDA to identify potential points of tension or conflict to better inform USAID’s approach to engagement with indigenous communities.

Third, we recommend specific reference to the role of women in the text box of Essential Elements of a Good Consultation. Thus we would suggest that the final, well-made point in the box is strengthened (our recommendation in bold) to:
Recognition that indigenous peoples are not monolithic groups, but rather include a diversity of stakeholders especially indigenous women. Consultations should account for this diversity.

Fourth, in light of the emerging practice among indigenous peoples in countries across the world in developing their own protocols and policies for consultation and FPIC (see 2018 report of the UN Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples “Free Prior and Informed Consent: Human Rights based Approach” UN Doc A/HRC/39/62 paras 42, 57), we suggest that the following text (in bold, below) be added on p. 15

Missions should also establish a climate of mutual trust, ensure that consultations proceed in good faith, and establish mutually agreed upon procedures or “rules of engagement.” In cases where indigenous peoples have developed their own protocols and policies in relation to consultation and FPIC these should form the basis for engagement with them.

Fifth, we commend the aspiration expressed about a two-way flow of information in the final paragraph of the section on Engage Indigenous Peoples. We would however request the addition of a sentence to acknowledge the difficulties of achieving this, ideally inserted between the sentence beginning ‘The aim...’ and ‘It also helps...’:

We call upon stakeholders to be particularly mindful that the manner, mechanism and medium of communication may act as a barrier to achieving a two-way communication, and that appropriate additional steps may be necessary to ensure this objective is met.

We also suggest that the term “participatory” be introduced before social and “human rights” before impact assessment in this section. Thus the sentence could read:

It also helps both USAID and potentially impacted communities to identify potential harms and consider risk mitigation approaches through a participatory social and human rights impact assessment…

In this regard, we refer you to internationally recognized best practice guidance on participatory impact assessments developed in the context of the Convention on Biological Diversity: “Akwé: Kon Voluntary guidelines for the conduct of cultural, environmental and social impact assessments regarding developments proposed to take place on, or which are likely to impact on, sacred sites and on lands and waters traditionally occupied or used by indigenous and local communities”.
Sixth, we draw attention to our point made in the Executive Summary over what we perceive as an overuse of the caveat attached to FPIC in the penultimate paragraph on p.16. we respectfully submit that this caveat weakens the spirit of both the concept of FPIC and the generally progressive tone of the section.

Seventh, in a similar vein to comments made earlier, we would like to suggest that the final paragraph on p.16 reads as follows (our recommendations in bold and strikethrough):

Limited Consent would be meaningless if the person or group were not given full information about the proposed activity and its potential impacts (“informed”) before the activity is initiated (“prior”). It is therefore critical that there not be any pressure or coercion to agree to the activity (“free”). While obtaining FPIC from indigenous peoples is generally considered to be the obligation of national governments, this standard is becoming increasingly embraced and recognised by businesses, and remains a best practice, among donors. Development organizations recognize its importance for engaging with indigenous peoples particularly where significant impacts are likely to occur as a result of development activity (e.g. resettlement).

Eighth, we would suggest strengthening the policy towards indigenous women by an insertion into the paragraph commencing ‘As is detailed...’ on p.17 which continues (our insertion in bold):
...through recognized leaders and customary decision-making mechanisms, while also ensuring that potentially marginalized members of the community, especially women, are included.
Further in the paragraph we would suggest another insertion (in bold):
... might affect certain subgroups’ ability to express their preferences, measures to mitigate this (such as anonymous ballots) should be implemented where possible.

Ninth, in the paragraph below the text box on p.17, we would recommend extending the list of potential risks that require due diligence. Thus (our insertions in bold) we believe the following formulation is preferable:

Due diligence should be carried out to identify potential risks relating to land possession or title, impact on ancestral lands and how these can be prevented and mitigated, environmental factors including a respect for culture, implementing partners, private sector partners/affiliates.

In a similar vein we would encourage the addition of similar points to the first paragraph on p.18, which could be formulated (our insertions in bold):
When indigenous peoples are stakeholders of a USAID intervention, such harms may include exacerbating conflict, disruption to livelihoods, damage to ancestral lands and/or traditions, inter-communal tensions caused by perceived inequitable distribution of assistance, or creating/stoking tensions between indigenous communities and the government, whose views must also be considered, or private sector (...).

Finally, in the last paragraph on p.18 we draw attention to the use of the word ‘partnering’ in close proximity to the word ‘Partnerships’ which starts the paragraph. The formulation below may be better:
Partnerships could include engagement and co-creating with indigenous peoples in all states of project design...

Indigenous Peoples and the Programme Cycle

This section is in keeping with the high quality, both in tone and content of this policy, and sets out clear instructions, with the chart on Approaches and Tools for Communication and Engagement particularly well structured. Our comments pertain to the point raised earlier about what we perceive to be an overuse of the caveat to FPIC, which in our view draws attention to what may be an exception in very many instances, but the repeated identification of this caveat undermines the spirit of FPIC in our view, and negatively casts what is a progressive policy document. Further to this we would like to emphasize the following textual adjustment.

On p.21 within the box, on the subject of FPIC, we commend the definition used, but would suggest some modifications to the Objectives to read instead as follows (our insertions in bold, not italicized):

FPIC is fast emerging as a universally accepted standard for consultation with indigenous stakeholders, wherein indigenous peoples must provide free, prior and informed consent before any development activities could be undertaken. While FPIC is not obligatory, it is an importance means of ensuring that USAID programs do no harm...

As noted earlier good practice (e.g Akwé: Kon Guidelines which have been cited by the InterAmerican Court of Human Rights, the African Commission and the UN Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples) requires that indigenous peoples are consulted in relation to the conduct of impact assessments and that they proceed on a consensual and participatory basis. While this is captured in the concept of co-creation we feel it would be good to be explicit in relation to opportunities to participate in SIA processes. We also feel that the language “has been determined” suggests a final decision has been reached, when in fact possible alternative locations should be addressed in consultations to obtain FPIC. We therefore suggest the following modification

Program Cycle Phases: This should take place as soon as a project location has been determined is considered in or near indigenous territories and specific potential impacts on indigenous peoples’ territories, rights, or resources have been identified (e.g. through a participatory SIA). Operating Units should review the Consultation Handbook for guidance.
In keeping with our comments throughout this response, we would recommend deleting the phrase that articulates the caveat to FPIC which commences with ‘However the U.S....’.

We would suggest deleting the caveat on p.25, in what is the last line to the sub-section on Activity Design.
On p.27, in the section on Implementation we have two points to draw attention to.
First, to commend, in line with the comments in the Executive Summary, the formulation of the policy where there may be adverse impacts on indigenous peoples (last paragraph).

Second to call upon you to consider including a right to remedy for indigenous peoples as a form of feedback on implementation. Thus the paragraph that commences ‘If applicable, project documents...’ could end with another sentence after ‘leaning heavily on what communities are already doing and what they know would work’. Thus:

Project teams should consider the creation of a forum that can solicit and receive feedback from indigenous peoples about their lived experiences of the project. This could take the form of a petition mechanism seeking remedies for potential harms that may materialise during the project life-cycle.

It is worth noting that this idea is already contained in the document in the section on Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning (p.28) where it recommends, in the final paragraph, that OUs ‘...establish a mechanism for receiving consistent and direct feedback from indigenous peoples, partners, and governmental units that are impacted by USAID programming. We submit that including the formulation proposed above would strengthen the feedback process and act both as a confidence building with indigenous peoples while acting as a deterrent where harms may not otherwise have been effectively mitigated.
Finally, in cases where FPIC is not forthcoming we suggest that in keeping with a rights-based approach there should be a reference to the necessity and proportionality tests

If there is no appropriate alternative site, USAID and the implementing partner should revise the scope of the project or activity if USAID believes this is the best decision under all applicable development assistance criteria, including the criteria of necessity and proportionality.

In addition to the citation of the UNPFA Fact Sheet on indigenous women’s maternal health differentials and the Akwé: Kon Guidelines on Impact Assessments, we would also encourage the addition of the following authoritative text on FPIC among the references: Cathal M. Doyle, Indigenous Peoples, Title to Territory, Rights and Resources: The Transformative Role of Free Prior and Informed Consent (New York/London: Routledge, 2014).

With congratulations on the tone and content of the policy and sincere thanks for the opportunity to engage with you in ensuring that the document serves the laudable aims it seeks to see implemented. We remain at your disposal should you or your colleagues have any questions or need any clarifications.

Amnesty International offers this response to the USAID call for comments on its draft Policy on Indigenous Peoples’ Issues. The organization welcomes this initiative by USAID to codify guidance for staff on engaging with Indigenous peoples and ensuring their rights are respected, protected and fulfilled throughout the planning, implementation and monitoring of development projects.

The policy states that “the United States does not interpret FPIC to require actual consent in the sense of conveying an actual veto right to indigenous peoples” (p 2). While Amnesty International does not support the use of the word veto to describe FPIC, as it fails to adequately encompass the complex, iterative and collaborative nature of FPIC, we also believe that it is inaccurate to say that FPIC does not require actual consent.

FPIC requires a specific, tailored analysis of each case, to determine the extent of rights that will be violated or may potentially be violated by a development initiative. In certain cases, the extent of the violation will be such that international law requires that consent be obtained from the Indigenous people before the initiative can proceed. This can be the case for example in situations where Indigenous peoples are to be relocated from their land, where their way of life will be significantly altered, where their access to areas of cultural heritage is restricted, or vital cultural heritage will be harmed. The claim that consent is not required is repeated throughout the document (notably p. 21, entry “Free, prior and informed consent” in the table “Approaches and tools for Communication and Engagement”). Amnesty International recommends that in order to reflect international human rights obligations and best practice, language around FPIC in the policy is modified to reflect this nuance. For example, the policy could state: “While it is misleading to describe FPIC as a simple veto power, in certain cases, the extent of the violation will be such that the consent of the Indigenous people will be required before the initiative can proceed”.
The document states “it is critical to determine whether the project will have a differentiated impact on indigenous stakeholders, and if such impacts are identified and they are negative, to work with them to develop effective mitigation measures” (p. 15). As part of the application of the FPIC framework, it should be recognized that in some cases, rather than seeking to mitigate a negative impact, which may not be sufficient to avoid an infringement of human rights, the action that leads to that negative impact may need to be left out of the project. The implication that mitigation is the sole response to negative impacts recurs throughout the document (for example p. 17, box “What is a Social Impact Assessment (SIA)?”).

The document states “Consent could take different forms, including written or oral (e.g., could be constituted by an affirmative vote in a communal assembly, in the latter instance); if there is reason to believe the presence of others might affect certain subgroups’ ability to express their preferences, measures (such as anonymous ballots) should be implemented where possible” (p. 17). In many Indigenous communities, decision-making processes are collective. The introduction by external actors of individualized decision-making mechanisms such as ballots may cause harm to Indigenous decision-making mechanisms which must be respected. While the risk that some sectors of Indigenous communities may not be able to participate adequately in decision-making processes is a real one, external actors should work collaboratively with Indigenous peoples to find ways to address this issue, without imposing measures that may infringe the right of indigenous peoples to maintain their decision-making institutions. In any case, where traditional structures of decision-making do not include sectors of communities, for example women, and/or LGBTI persons, steps need to be taken to ensure that they are consulted and their FPIC is sought.
The document states “In some countries, governments have a duty to consult indigenous peoples before an activity can be implemented that impacts on their rights or interests” (p. 21). This appears to refer to domestic law. The document should recognize that the duty to consult is a universal obligation in international law. As the UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples has noted, “The duty to consult is a procedural obligation that arises whenever indigenous peoples’ substantive rights stand to be affected by a particular action”. Amnesty International therefore recommends to modify this to “governments have a duty, deriving from international law, and in some cases additionally from domestic law, to consult indigenous peoples before an activity can be implemented that impacts on their rights or interests”.

The document states “a free, prior and informed consent (FPIC) process should be implemented as soon as the specific location for implementation, specific risks and specific stakeholders are known. Sometimes this will be after the project has been awarded” (p. 27). The UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples has noted that taking steps to initiate projects (e.g. the issuing of exploitation licenses to companies) may constitute a failure to respect the obligation to obtain prior consent. It may also negatively impact on the trust that Indigenous peoples place in consultation processes. It is therefore recommended to remove the sentence beginning “Sometimes this …”.

In some cases, Indigenous peoples may require technical assistance in order to have access to all the information they need in order to fully understand the consequences of proposed projects. The document should require that USAID ensure the availability of technical assistance in such cases. Furthermore, USAID should ensure that all necessary information is available to Indigenous peoples in a form and language that they can understand.

Amnesty International welcomes the approach of including a list of criteria, not all of which are required to be present in each case. The draft lists as one criterion for the identification of Indigenous peoples, “self-identification as a distinct indigenous social and cultural group, as well as recognition of this identity by others”. It is recommended to separate “recognition of this identity by others” from the first part and include it as a separate criterion, to avoid the implication that self-identification must always be buttressed by its recognition by others. In particular it is important to avoid the suggestion that the acceptance of self-identification by the state is required. The African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights has noted that “[t]here is a strong emphasis on the importance of the principle of self-identification among organizations working on indigenous issues” and does not link it to the recognition of that identity by others.

While the draft states that not all of the criteria need to be present in each case, a clear recognition that the criterion “historical continuity with pre-colonial and/or pre-settler societies” is rarely relevant in the African and Asian contexts would be very helpful; the idea that this is a necessary part of the definition of Indigenous peoples in all world regions is a common misconception, as noted by the African Commission report.

The document states that “In contexts where indigenous peoples’ organizations are absent, partnering with indigenous peoples may be facilitated by working with ally organizations that have helped to pursue the communities’ interests” (p. 19). It would be helpful to provide guidance to USAID staff notably in understanding that Indigenous peoples have forms of self-organizing that may not be immediately recognizable to non-Indigenous actors. Their forms of self-government may not be recognized by the state, may not be registered as formal institutions or legal persons, and may be non-hierarchical in nature. These structures should be recognized as Indigenous peoples’ organizations, which should be prioritized as partners for USAID when working with Indigenous peoples.

The document should require the establishment of a grievance mechanism, whereby Indigenous peoples who allege a violation of the policy are able to seek redress for harms suffered. Such a mechanism should be transparent, independent, sufficiently funded and accessible, and its existence should be clearly communicated to all Indigenous peoples affected by USAID-funded projects.

The document should make it clear that social impact assessments are obligatory in all cases where Indigenous peoples are impacted by USAID projects. This is regardless of whether initial assessments have identified potential harms to the rights of Indigenous peoples, because some harms may only be identified as a result of the SIA process. Guidance should be provided on how impact assessments can identify potential harms of projects to specific sectors of Indigenous communities, such as women, and LGBTI persons.

The document notes that “While indigenous peoples make up just 5% of the earth’s population, they accounted for 40% of environmental defenders killed in 2015 and 2016 and 25% in 2017”. The policy should provide guidance to USAID staff on how to identify risks to Indigenous HRDs. Consideration should be given to the establishment of a specific mechanism within USAID for monitoring risks to Indigenous human rights defenders and proposing mitigation measures.

The draft policy should state that, when due diligence is carried out in relation to implementing partners/sub-grantees (p. 17), a detailed assessment needs to be made of the implementing partners/sub-grantees’ human rights record. Where the implementing partner is known to have previously failed to uphold human rights, and in particular Indigenous peoples’ rights, steps should be taken, including clear rules of operation, monitoring etc., to ensure that this does not occur in the USAID project.

It is recommended that the policy require that operating principles include a sentence that USAID projects will not cause or contribute directly or indirectly to human rights violations, particularly of Indigenous peoples. This could come under point 4 - Safeguard Indigenous Peoples’ Rights and Well-Being.

On page 16 the draft states: “While obtaining FPIC from indigenous peoples is generally considered to be the obligation of national governments, among donors, this is a best practice. Development organizations generally recognize its importance for engaging with indigenous peoples where significant impacts are likely to occur as a result of a development activity (e.g. resettlement).” FPIC is an international human rights obligation for all governments; this obligation applies equally to USAID, as a government agency. It is therefore recommended that the policy should recognise the human rights obligations applying to the agency.

The section “INDIGENOUS PEOPLES AND DEVELOPMENT: CHALLENGES AND OPPORTUNITIES” opens with “In Indigenous peoples have failed to benefit from development interventions in the past, in part due to historical determinants of marginalization, geographical isolation and other complex challenges.” Amnesty International recommends that there be an acknowledgement here that Indigenous peoples around the world have been routinely discriminated against and marginalised, and that development interventions have failed to benefit them.

The team is to be commended for putting together a great policy on indigenous populations.

In the Executive Summary, it would be great to add one sentence summarizing the "decades of support the Agency has provided to indigenous people". I am aware of the work because I'm a Latin Americanist and lived and worked in LAC for 5 years before joining add and then another 2 when I joined USAID. I implemented a USAID funded child survival project in Peru with indigenous Quechua communities and I implemented a child survival project in Central America. I also worked for USAID in Bolivia, where we implemented projects with Aymaras.

In the introduction, it would be helpful to have a sentence explaining why the Agency feels the need now, in 2018, to have an indigenous peoples' policy.

I was really pleased to see the inclusion of Afro-Hispanic communities (who are often overlooked when one discusses indigenous populations in LAC) in this document.

On page 3, it would be helpful to have data to substantiate the claims that indigenous populations are stewards of "much of the earth's biological diversity".

Continuing on page 3: Many people would take issue with the statement: Their...traditional resource management strategies... among the most sustainable. Many indigenous populations still practice slash and burn techniques which have recently been shown not to be as beneficial as previously thought.

Page 10: Suggest adding the word "often" under Policy Objectives, bullet #1: Indigenous peoples...knowledge that often goes untapped..."

On page 11 when the policy suggests "standalone" projects to address root causes of marginalization- are these DRG projects? Not sure how a small one off project would successfully address centuries of marginalization.

He realizado una lectura rápida del documento “Política de USAID sobre temas de los pueblos indígenas” el cual considero que tiene varias propuestas que beneficiarían al desarrollo integral en los pueblos indígenas de Guatemala; por lo que felicitamos a USAID promover esta iniciativa, ojalá se pueda aprobar para que exista un marco de acciones para los próximos programas y proyectos en USAID, consensuado con pueblos indígenas y no solamente sean diseñados en el escritorio por un proyectista que vive en las grandes ciudades.
Me llama la atención de los tres objetivos de la política y los cinco principios operativos que propone mayor participación de los pueblos indígenas en el análisis de las necesidades, problemáticas y en base ello, sean invitados para la parte del diseño y la planificación de proyectos y otras actividades. No debe continuarse con el diseño y el desarrollo de comunidades indígenas sin que ellos se enteren de lo que se pretende hacer en sus territorios.
Me pregunto, ¿cómo piensan operativizar esta política en cada país? AKEBI, que es la organización donde trabajo, se ofrece en apoyar en el diseño de los mecanismos de operativización de dicha política, en Guatemala.

Comments on behalf of Gabrielle Bardall, Gender Advisor (IFES); Virginia Atkinson, Disabilities and Inclusion Advisor (IFES); Kyle Lemargie, Senior Advisor (IFES) and of Stephanie Plante, Centre for International Policy Studies (CIPS), University of Ottawa

We thank the United States Agency for International Development for this opportunity to comment on the new Agency Policy on Indigenous Peoples’ Issues. We support the comments of Patricia Jodrey, noting the momentum for the agency, as this policy seeks to provide indigenous peoples with meaningful decision-making authority and ultimately, achieve more inclusive development. Our contribution covers the following areas:

1. Indigenous Women, Empowerment and Political Rights
2. Indigenous Peoples and Disability Rights
3. Electoral Processes and Political Participation

I. Indigenous Women, Empowerment and Electoral Rights

We commend the Agency on making a commitment to gender mainstreaming and gender analysis, reiterated throughout the policy. However, the rights of indigenous women have arisen as a distinct focus within the broader framework of indigenous rights. The following recommendations are oriented towards drawing out this important aspect, especially in the area of civic and political participation.

As established in international frameworks, indigenous women experience a complex spectrum of human rights abuses and discrimination, based on their multiple and intersecting forms of vulnerability, including patriarchal power structures; multiple forms of discrimination and marginalization, based on gender, class, ethnic origin and socioeconomic circumstances; and historical and current violations of the right to self-determination and control of resources (A/HRC/30/41).
In consideration of these unique and specific issues, USAID’s policy on indigenous people may include direct reference to these distinct gender-based issues in the introduction of the issue, as well as within and throughout the other sections as applicable.

A few considerations for addressing indigenous women’s political participation throughout the USAID policy include:

1. Just as the policy recognizes the heterogeneity of groups of indigenous peoples, so must it also recognize the heterogeneity within a group of indigenous peoples, based on gender. Women and girls and men and boys will have different experiences of their compounding and intersecting identities based on their status as a member of an indigenous group, as well as based on their gender.

2. In recognizing the intersecting and overlapping identities of indigenous women, specific attention must also be paid to their political participation; indigenous men can not be assumed to represent the values, knowledge, and experiences of indigenous women. Indigenous women have the equal right to participate in public and political decision-making processes. However, in reality, indigenous women are often excluded from both indigenous decision-making structures and national political processes in states, due to patriarchal and colonial structures that exclude the perspectives of women and indigenous people (A/HRC/30/41).

3. While the Analysis of Indigenous Peoples’ Issues is instructed to be conducted in complement with the mandatory gender analysis, both these analyses should be understood not in only in complement but also in the ways that they overlap and intersect. In understanding how these analyses intersect, USAID will be able to identify the ways that ongoing discrimination in formal and customary levels has prevented indigenous women from playing a meaningful role in conflict prevention, political debate and the emerging post-conflict governance and monitoring processes (Indigenous women and Colombia’s peace process, 2017).

4. Where the policy clearly states the intent to “do no harm,” there must also be a recognition of the fact that in the battle to assert an indigenous community’s right to self-determination, the victim is often women’s rights, accused of being external to the indigenous struggle and an imposition of “Western values.” As international frameworks establish, “this false dichotomy between collective and women’s rights has, paradoxically, further entrenched the vulnerability of indigenous women to abuse and violence” and “stripped women of their right to self-determination by both violation against their collective rights, as members of indigenous communities and violations against their individual rights, as women” (A/HRC/30/41).

5. Indigenous women not only represent a unique subsection of the population that requires unique methods of participation, but they also represent an opportunity for unique solutions. Female indigenous human rights defenders and female indigenous women in politics can play a vital role in protecting women and indigenous communities and can be valuable resources in the context of balancing protections for all women and respecting the rights to self-determination and autonomy of indigenous communities (A/HRC/30/41).

6. As the policy recognizes respect for working with indigenous communities and identifying values held by those communities, so to should it recognize that indigenous women have identified the need for gender equality in their communities and state governments. Beginning with their own customary institutions and extending to the level of the international community, Indigenous women worldwide have asserted their demands for greater political participation. One of the identified needs of indigenous women is for the promotion of gender equality and for the creation of opportunities for appointments to decision-making positions within various bodies (E/C.19/2013/10).

With these specific interests and interventions in mind, we look forward to the revised policy and its specific impacts on the political empowerment of indigenous women.


II. Indigenous Peoples and Disability Rights

(3) Empower indigenous peoples to exercise their rights, participate in decision-making processes that impact them, and practice self-determined development

Recognizing the compounded structural inequalities that affect indigenous persons who are part of other marginalized groups, programs that reduce the attitudinal, communication, environmental and institutional barriers that restrict participation of indigenous persons with disabilities provides greater opportunities for all indigenous persons to participate in decision-making processes. Creating an enabling environment for the meaningful participation of indigenous persons with disabilities is critical to ensuring that all indigenous persons are empowered to exercise their rights.

5) Partner with Indigenous Peoples [emphasis below is additional language to an existing sentence]

Working with indigenous leaders and local indigenous communities, including indigenous persons who are multiply marginalized and thus may experience barriers to their full participation, is a critical element of achieving this vision.
The Inclusive Development Analysis must avoid perpetuating unequal power structures within indigenous communities by working with broad cross-sections of indigenous societies. Emphasis must be placed on co-creating development processes not only with leaders but also with groups run by and for indigenous persons with disabilities, indigenous women and indigenous youth.


III. Electoral Processes & Political Participation

We would like to emphasize the importance of the rights of indigenous people regarding inclusive participation in governance institutions of the state and within their traditional systems. This involves distinct needs for election processes, for example the importance of creating electoral codes autonomously and the provision of facilitated voting procedures, such as flexible or internet voting for off reserve and door to door ballots (mobile polls).

In defining challenges and opportunities, Page 8 of the Draft Policy notes:

'Similarly, conservation projects have often been marred by violence towards or expulsion of indigenous peoples from their territories (e.g., Chatty and Colchester, 2008). Development efforts like large infrastructure and resource extraction projects continue to have devastating impacts on the lives of indigenous communities. While indigenous peoples make up just 5% of the earth’s population, they accounted for 40% of environmental defenders killed in 2015 and 2016 and 25% in 2017. These direct threats are exacerbated by additional factors, like HIV/AIDS, urbanization and international migration, and a widening digital divide. It is also important to recognize the psycho-social impact of ongoing conflict and the lack of recognition for past atrocities or violence that many communities confront. Finally, indigenous peoples can also be more vulnerable than the majority population to climate threats as a result of physical geography (they may live in landscapes that are more exposed to climate hazards'

IFES recommends adding to this analysis the specific risks that indigenous peoples can face in environments of closing political space (for example under authoritarian or semi-authoritarian governance structures that limit access to justice, political representation, and civil society / media focus on their rights). Even in more open democratic political systems indigenous peoples face unique challenges in elections and political processes, and USAID Missions should consider these challenges when designing democracy strengthening programs. The following are risk areas that emerge from some of the global reporting on the indigenous peoples’ experience in elections and political processes and a selection of these points could be used to illustrate the problem:

• Malapportioned electoral districts, strong communal voting patterns and often-remote locations can make indigenous peoples a target for vote buying, electoral fraud, and/or intimidation.
• Often low levels of education and literacy, remoteness and a corresponding lack of access to information encourages deliberate use of misinformation to win indigenous peoples’ votes.
• Indigenous peoples are often recipients of government assistance, and pending government decision-making on land or entitlements cases can allow incumbents to misuse their authority towards political ends, making direct or implied threats to secure IP votes.
• Lack of state identification documents can create access barriers to the electoral process and state assistance programs, as well as international development assistance. While an issue for IPs in general, this can disproportionately affect indigenous women.
• Conflict Assessment Frameworks for elections need to be adapted as electoral violence triggers can be different for indigenous communities and can sometimes tie into systems of sanctioned violence through traditional justice.
• In many countries, political participation in district or state/province level legislatures is only permitted through national-level political parties. This narrows the possibility for the direct political representation of indigenous leaders and authorities.
• Indigenous peoples’ own authorities and governance systems are often not taken into account in local governance structures and processes of decentralization.

Last updated: November 30, 2018