Indigenous Rights & Representation


Indigenous Rights & Representation

To sustain the biocultural diversity associated with their ways of life and landscapes, Indigenous Peoples must realize the rights and duties enshrined within UNDRIP; to have self-representation and an effective voice in their future.

What is it?

Colonial processes in many parts of the world have often alienated the lands and resources and undermined the languages, values and governance systems of Indigenous peoples. Often stereotyped as ‘backward’ and rendered voiceless, these stewards of biocultural diversity remain marginalized under the current global political and economic system. In 2007, the UN General Assembly adopted the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), which it calls “an important standard for the treatment of indigenous peoples”, including important areas for biocultural diversity such as land, food, cultural expression and Indigenous governance. This universally-recognized declaration is a potentially powerful tool, acknowledging the holistic worldviews of indigenous peoples, which contain paradigms to enable us to live richly, and sustainably, with the planet’s diversity. The global community must now work to advance the implementation of this important document.

For centuries Indigenous Peoples and other marginalized minorities have been subject to the indignity of having others speak about them or for them. Self-representation enables people to tell their own stories on their own terms, both for the benefit of their own communities and for the benefit of global biocultural diversity.

Why is it important?

Indigenous territories contain a high percentage of the earth’s remaining healthy ecosystems and biodiversity ‘hotspots’. When Indigenous and local communities have Free Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC), or the ability to express their own development priorities, there are positive consequences for environmental and cultural integrity, and for the long-term development of their countries. Conversely, large-scale transfers of land and resource rights, without transparency or full legal process, harm Indigenous communities and ecological integrity.

As the custodians of sacred sites, and the people who maintain the resilience of landscapes and nurture agrobiodiversity, Indigenous Peoples need to be recognized as central and equal partners in understanding and maintaining the diversity of language, life and landscape on the planet.

How is The Christensen Fund involved?

The Christensen Fund is not a funder of classical “human rights” work, yet virtually all of our work – whether around food sovereignty, climate change or traditional knowledge transfer – is built upon the understanding that communities need their own voice and rights within national governance systems if they are to contribute to addressing local and global challenges. We therefore actively support international processes to enable Indigenous Peoples and local communities to have a voice in the policies and forums that concern biocultural diversity at global level (for example, in relation to UNDRIP and other UN Conventions such as the Right to Food and the Convention on Biological Diversity); and we help our grantees realize their rights and responsibilities in regards to land, food, languages and lifeways within our regional programs. Self-representation is a central principle in all of our grantmaking, and each prospective grant is subject to an FPIC and intellectual property review. The Christensen Fund does not pretend to speak on behalf of our grantees or the communities they serve, and we do not support or engage in political activities. We never gains rights to local or Indigenous intellectual property, nor do we support the transfer of those rights to others.