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A guide to ILO Convention
No. 169

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Banner picture by:
Janice Collins
and
True Blue Aboriginal Arts


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Identification

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“It’s a way of life
It’s a way of thinking.
It’s the rituals and ceremonies,
And it is also a set of values
How you treat people
How you respect other people.
Sort of live and let live”.

Raja Devasish Roy, Chakma, Bangladesh

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There are more than 5000 indigenous peoples around the planet. All together they constitute more than 370 million people living in more than 70 countries. They are peoples who have inhabited their territories before nation states were created and they have cultures, languages and customs that are different from the societies in which they now find themselves.

There is no global consensus about a single definition of indigenous peoples.  Indigenous peoples are known under many names such as native, aboriginal, first nation, adivasi, janajati and hill tribes. ILO Convention No. 169 uses the inclusive terminology of “indigenous and tribal peoples”. For practical reasons, this is hereafter used interchangeably with “indigenous peoples”.

In some countries, self-identifying as an indigenous people is seen as controversial as some governments may fear that identifying some groups as indigenous peoples will eventually create ethnic conflict or even fragmentation of  the nation state. However, it is widely recognised that the recognition of indigenous peoples’ rights within the framework of states is essential for good governance, democracy and inclusive development. In most countries around the world, multiculturalism is a living reality. Giving recognition and democratic rights to all groups is not leading to conflict, but rather preventing it.

In this section you can find the criteria for identification formulated and used in ILO Convention No. 169. You will find an introduction to the concept of self-identification, as well as some examples of how the terms are interpreted in different regions and countries.

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