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ILO Convention No. 169

ILO Convention No. 169 is a legally-binding international instrument open to ratification, which deals specifically with the rights of indigenous and tribal peoples. Today, it has been ratified by 20 countries - mainly in Latin America, Europe and the Asia-Pacific region. Once it ratifies the Convention, a country has one year to align legislation, policies and programmes to the Convention before it becomes legally binding. Countries that have ratified the Convention are subject to supervision with regards to its implementation.

Securing rights and respecting differences
The Convention recognizes that indigenous and tribal peoples’ cultures and identities form an integral part of their lives - and that their way of life often differs from that of the dominant population. Theses differences are to be respected through the recognition of, among other things, their own customs and institutions, languages and beliefs.

The spirit of the Convention is one of non-discrimination. In recognition of the fact that indigenous peoples are likely to be discriminated against in many areas, the Convention from the outset states their right to enjoy the full measure of human rights and fundamental freedoms. It calls for the adoption of special measures to safeguard the persons, institutions, property, labour, cultures and environment of these peoples, and stipulates that these special measures should not go against the free wishes of indigenous peoples.

Convention No. 169 has 44 articles covering issues ranging from indigenous peoples right to land, to social security and health, vocational training and rights concerning recruitment and conditions of employment.

Consultation and participation
One of the major problems facing indigenous and tribal peoples is that they often have little or no say in decision-making that directly affects their lives. Therefore, the right to consultation and participation is regarded as the cornerstone of the Convention, on which all its provisions are based. The Convention requires that indigenous peoples are consulted and can freely participate at all levels of decision-making, in policy, legislative, administrative and development processes affecting them.

The Convention provides a framework for dialogue and negotiations between governments and indigenous peoples, with the objective of reaching agreement or consent.

The regular supervision of the implementation of the Convention is undertaken by the ILO’s Committee of Experts on the Application of Conventions and Recommendations (CEACR), which monitors the implementation of all ILO Conventions.

Supervision of ILO Conventions >>

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How to use Convention No. 169
Martin Oelz, Legal Officer, Equality Team, International Labour Standards Department

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A guide to ILO Convention
No. 169

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