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15 Indigenous Human Rights Organizations to Follow

#1. International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs

The International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs (IWGIA) was founded in 1968 with a vision of “a world where all indigenous peoples fully enjoy their rights, participate and are consulted on decisions that affect their lives”. Today, IWGIA is one of the largest global human rights organizations dedicated to promoting, protecting and defending indigenous peoples’ rights.

IWGIA works and cooperates with indigenous peoples’ organizations and other international institutions to promote implementation and recognition of indigenous peoples’ rights. It does this through capacity development as well as advocacy on all levels. The organization is focused on indigenous peoples in Latin America, Asia, Russia and Africa. It works and implements more than 30 projects around the world.

#2. Cultural Survival

Cultural Survival has been advocating form indigenous peoples’ rights and their self-determination, political resilience and culture since 1972. It envisions “a future that respects and honors indigenous peoples’ inherent rights and dynamic cultures, deeply and richly interwoven in lands, languages, spiritual traditions, and artistic expression, rooted in self-determination and self-governance”.

With headquarters in Massachusetts, the Cultural Survivals also holds offices in Guatemala, Mexico, Pana, Nepal, Nicaragua, Canada and South Africa. Its work is based on the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The organization engages in advocacy, media, public education, as well as in providing platforms to empower and raise voices of indigenous peoples to claim their lands, ecosystems, cultures and right to self-determination.

#3. Survival International

Survival International is the only global organization concerned exclusively with tribal peoples’ rights, helping them to protect their lands, defend their lives and determine their own futures. According to Survival International’s mission the organization “exists to prevent annihilation of tribal peoples and to give them a platform to speak to the world so they can bear witness to the genocidal violence, slavery and racism they face daily”.

The core activity of the Survival International is lobbying those in power with a mission to achieve “a world where tribal peoples are respected as contemporary societies and their human rights are protected”. The organization was established 1969 and since then it has gained thousands of supporters worldwide and became a very well-known catalyst for change.

#4. Minority Rights Group International

Minority Rights Group International (MRG) is an international NGO working for advancing the protection of ethnic, linguistic and religious minorities and indigenous peoples around the world. The MRG conducts campaigns in over 50 countries while working with around 150 partners to ensure that voices of minorities and indigenous people are heard.

The organization uses media, cultural programs, legal cases, publication, training and education to support minorities and indigenous people to maintain their rights to land and languages and to be able to fully participate in public life, as well as have equal opportunities in employment and educations. The MRG holds consultative status with the UN Economic and Social Council and observer status with the African Commission for Human and Peoples’ Rights.

#5. Amazon Watch

Amazon Watch was founded 1996 as nonprofit organization for protection of the rainforest and advancement of the rights of indigenous peoples in the Amazon Basin. The organization partners up with environmental and indigenous organization and campaigns together with them for human rights, corporate accountability and the preservation of the ecological systems in Amazon.

Amazon Watch strives for a world in which governments, civil society and corporations respect the collective rights on indigenous people about any activity performed over their territories and resources. It envisions a world that values and honors biological and cultural diversity and the critical contribution of tropical rainforests to planet’s life support system. The work of Amazon Watch is focused on three main priorities: to stop Amazon destruction, advance indigenous solutions and support climate justice.

#6. Center for World Indigenous Studies

The Center of World Indigenous Studies (CWIS) is an independent NGO founded in 1979. It represents a global community of indigenous studied scholars and activists who are working to advance the rights of indigenous peoples by applying traditional knowledge.

The CWIS has been one of the leading international indigenous peoples’ think thank for over 40 years, working to ensure that indigenous communities can safeguard their rights and resources. The organization is dedicated to understanding the ideas and knowledge of indigenous peoples, as well as economic, political and social realities of indigenous nations. So far, the CWIS managed to draft 27 laws and regulations, as well as mentor and educate over 3.500 students on indigenous people’s rights, digitize over 4.000 original tribal documents and promote indigenous strategies for equitable taxation and self-government.

#7. Forest Peoples Programme

The Forest Peoples Programme is a human rights organization that works with indigenous forest people across the world to secure their livelihoods and their land rights. It works with 60 indigenous organizations across the globe and supports them in their vision of how forests should be managed, based on respect for the rights, identities, cultures and knowledge of the peoples who know them the best.

The organization was founded in 1990, and since then it has grown to a successful NGO with consultative status with the UN Economic and Social Council. It uses practical projects, advocacy and capacity building to support forest people to deal directly with outside actors that shape their lands and livelihoods. The organization supports and advances the right to self-determination of indigenous and forest peoples, ensures they have access to justice and advocates for legal and policy reforms that are consistent with indigenous and forest people’s rights in international law. The Forest Peoples Programme also uses networking as a tool to share information and build solidarity for coordinated action amongst a wide range of actors.

#8. Incomindios

The Incomindios is a Swiss based human rights organization founded in Geneva in 1974 with a purpose to give the indigenous people access to the UN institutions in Geneva. Incomindios is an independent organizations that address the concerns of indigenous people and campaigns for their rights worldwide, with a special focus on North, Central and South America.

Since 2003, Incomindios holds the consultant status at the UN Economic and Social Council. The organization’s goal is for indigenous peoples to be able to decide about their social order, culture, economic forms and policies independently, as well as that the rights of indigenous peoples such as the right to self-determination, and rights to land, resources and intellectual property and fully enforced and respected.

#9. World Rainforest Movement

The World Rainforest Movement (WRM) was established by activists from different parts of the world in 1986 as a response to destruction of forests in the global South and consumption of tropical timber products in the global North. It supports indigenous and forest peoples, peasants and other communities in the global South and defines itself as an international initiative for environmental justice and respect for human and collective rights.

The main role of the organization is to support struggles that defend the collective rights and self-determination of indigenous people who live in Africa, Asia and South America. This is entailed in supporting indigenous groups who are resisting the enclosure of their territories by extractive industries and different economic interests. To achieve this, the WRM partners up with community groups, and other social and environmental justice organizations and social movements.

#10. Saami Council

The Saami Council is an NGO comprised of Saami member organizations based in Sweden, Finland, Norway and Russia. It was established in 1956 to deal with Saami policy tasks and it became one of the oldest indigenous peoples’ organizations.

The primary goal of the Saami Council is promotion of Saami interests and rights in the four countries where Saami are living by rendering opinions and making proposals on issues concerning Sami people’s rights, livelihoods, language and culture. The Saami Councils works to consolidate the feeling of affinity amongst the Saami people to receive recognition of a nation and to maintain their political, cultural, social and economic rights. The organization also actively participates in international processes that are concerned with topics of indigenous people, human rights and environment and arctic.

#11. Indian Law Resource Center

The Indian Law Resource Center is the US based NGO and advocacy organization that was established in 1978 by Indian Americans. The organization provides legal assistance to indigenous peoples in the US to fight against oppression and racism, and to protect their environment, lands, cultures and ways of life, as well as to realize their other human rights.

The organization’s goal is to overcome grave problems that threaten indigenous people by advancing the rule of law, and by establishing national and international legal standards that protect and preserve their dignity and human rights. It challenges governments to apply equality before the law of all indigenous people of the Americas.

#12. Native American Rights Fund

The Native American Rights Fund (NARF) was founded in 1971 to provide legal assistance Indian organizations, tribes and individuals across the US who do not have adequate representation. Since then, the NARF became known for representing Native Americans in major cases defending tribal sovereignty, treaty rights, and ensuring Indian education and natural resource protection. Its focus is on applying treaties and existing laws to guarantee that governments respect their legal obligations.

The NARF is composed of staff of 16 lawyers who handle over fifty major cases at any given time. The organization accepts cases on the basis of their importance in establishing important principles of Indian law and setting precedents. The NARF acts a consultant to policy makers, and works with other Native American organizations, as well as religious and civil rights groups to shape the laws that include the civil and religious rights of all Native Americans.

#13. Indigenous Environmental Network

The Indigenous Environmental Network (IEN) was founded in the US in 1990 by indigenous peoples and individuals to address economic justice and environmental issues with a mission to “protect the sacredness of Earth Mother from contamination and exploitation by respecting and adhering to indigenous knowledge and natural law”.

The IEN helps indigenous communities and tribal governments to build their capacities and develop mechanisms to protect their sites, air, land, water and natural resources. It achieves this by organizing campaigns and raising public awareness of environmental issues affecting indigenous people’s rights. It also develops initiatives to impact policies and build alliance amongst tribes, indigenous communities and organizations, ethnic organizations, youth, faith-based and women groups, and other environmental organizations. One of its goals is to protect human rights of indigenous peoples to be able to practice their cultural and spiritual beliefs.

#14. Coalition for the Human Rights of Indigenous Peoples

The Coalition for the Human Rights of Indigenous Peoples is a human rights organization that seeks full implementation of the UN Declaration in Canada. It works on ensuring that government use the Declaration to reform laws and policies so that rights of indigenous people are upheld without discrimination.

It also urges human rights tribunals and courts to use the Declaration to interpret state obligations and human rights of indigenous peoples, as well as institutions representing indigenous communities to use it as a framework to advance their rights. The organization works closely with other civil society organizations to maintain the Declaration as a living instruments and with educational institutions to include it in their curriculums and teacher training. Last, but not least, the Coalition works with corporations and investors to ensure their human rights policies and business practices incorporate the standards in the Declaration.

#15. Land Rights Now

Land Rights Now is a human rights NGO that campaigns to secure community and indigenous land rights everywhere. It conducts open campaigns through which it engages media, active citizens, organizations and communities to promote land rights of indigenous peoples. It openly calls for governments and those in power to take action.

The goal of the organization is to secure land rights of indigenous communities across the world, from the Amazon to Eastern Africa, Andes or the Alps, and from Norway to Timor Leste. According to Land Rights Now, indigenous communities customarily own 50% of the world’s lands, while they legally own just 10%. This makes land more vulnerable as it is in the hands of powerful actors that “create large plantation or fossil-fuel projects” which “not only undermines the human rights of local people, but also threatens human the human race’s ability to achieve sustainable development, end poverty and fight climate change”. For these reasons, Land Rights Now amplifies the voices of indigenous communities and helps them defend their land rights across the world.

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