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The 20th Session of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues Starts April 19!

En español

On April 19-30, 2021, the 20th session of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues will take place. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, this year’s session will be primarily virtual, and its theme will focus on “Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions: The Role of Indigenous Peoples in Implementing Sustainable Development Goal 16.”

After decades of Indigenous leaders pushing for inclusion and representation at the United Nations, on July 28, 2000, the UNPFII was established as a high-level advisory body to the UN Economic and Social Council by resolution 2000/22. Since 2002, the UNPFII has been meeting annually. 

The UNPFII can be utilized by Indigenous Peoples to raise awareness, bring policy change to other UN bodies, and influence how Indigenous rights are implemented at the local and national levels. Over the past 20 years, the UNPFII has coordinated and commissioned over 76 studies, 59 reports, and over 60 publications. Members of the Forum have worked on drafting policies for UN agencies and have made recommendations to other UN bodies.

Some of the greatest achievements over the past two decades have been the networking and alliances built among Indigenous delegates and representatives from all over the world. The relationships, partnerships, and friendships built are core to the global Indigenous rights movement. Aside from the official talks, interventions, panels, official side events, and parallel events, what really also needs to be elevated are the side conversations in the hallways between delegations, UN agencies, funders, and State representatives. This is where true change happens. 


Check out our photo archives from past sessions of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues.


UNPFII - Past, Present, and Future - An Interview With Andrea Carmen

Andrea Carmen (Yaqui), Executive Director of the International Indian Treaty Council, has been involved with the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues since its beginning, and in this radio program, she tells us all about the history of the forum, the present state of the forum, and the forum's future.

Kenneth Deer on the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues

The UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues was established on July 28, 2000, by resolution 2000/22, with the mandate to deal with Indigenous issues related to economic and social development, culture, the environment, education, health, and human rights. Cultural Survival recently spoke to Kenneth Deer (Mohawk) about the history and work of the Permanent Forum.

Listen to more programs from the UNPFII


Join us in amplifying Indigenous Peoples' voices this year at UNPFII with a series of events and opportunities below. 

1. Join the conversation! 

What are the pressing issues affecting your Indigenous community?

Create a short video (up to 2 minutes) by April 30 and post it on Twitter and Facebook using #UNPFII20 #WeAreIndigenous #Proud2BIndigenous.

Share your photos from the past UNPFIIs using the same hashtags. 


2. Attend a UNPFII side event. 

A full list of side events can be found here. 


Models for Strengthening Indigenous Governance Systems

Tuesday, April 20, 2021
11:15 am - 12:30 pm ET 

Sustainable Development Goal 16.7 seeks to ensure responsive, inclusive, participatory and representative decision-making at all levels. We will hear from Indigenous leaders working to strengthen traditional forms of Indigenous governance and decision-making, especially as it relates to the implementation of Free, Prior and Informed Consent, the governance of resources, land rights and tenure, to understand models for improving implementation of SDG 16.7 for Indigenous Peoples

Co-hosts: Cultural Survival, Maya Leaders Alliance / Toledo Alcalde’s Association,
ACIN-  Asociación de Cabildos Indígenas del Norte del Cauca Çxhab Sala Kiwe, Aldeia Vanuíre, Brazil

Missed it? Watch it here: 



Indigenous Youth Strengthening Institutions through Media

Wednesday, April 21, 2021  
11:15 am - 12:30 pm ET 

We will hear from three young Indigenous women in how they are strengthening institutions through media and their contribution to the advancements of sustainable development in their communities.  

Estrella Jhonaí Gutiérrez Vásquez, Radio comunitaria Jënpoj, Mexcio  
Zorayda Lorena Jamioy Tisoy,  Emisora Waishanya, Colombia 
Ipiak Slendy Montanhuano Ushigua (Sapara), Colegio Tsitsanu, Ecuador

Missed it? Watch it here:



Shareholder Advocacy for Indigenous Communities 
Thursday, April 22, 2021, at 12:00 pm ET

We welcome Bernadette Demientieff of the Gwich’in Steering Committee and Pavel Sulyandziga of the Aborigen Forum to highlight their recent shareholder campaigns and corporate engagements and to share how Indigenous Peoples can harness shareholder advocacy strategies to target companies that are proposing harmful projects and creating the conditions for human rights violations. In addition, Galina Angrarova (Buryat) from Cultural Survival, Ben Cushing from Sierra Club and Christen Dobson from Business & Human Rights Resource Centre, among others, offer perspectives from human rights advocacy groups on the forefront of shifting corporate behavior towards respect for the rights of Indigenous Peoples. 

This panel is presented in partnership between the Gwich'in Steering Committee, Cultural Survival, Business & Human Rights Resource Centre and First Peoples Worldwide. 

Visit First Peoples Worldwide's website for more information

Missed the event? Watch it here:



Teach-in: How to Maximize Your Advocacy Effectiveness using the Universal Periodic Review, Treaty Bodies, and the High-Level Political Forum to Advocate for Indigenous Issues 

Thursday,  April 22, 2021
1:00 - 2:30 pm ET   

Come learn about international human rights mechanisms, including the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) and UN Treaty bodies, the High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development and how they can aid in your advocacy efforts and put pressure on governments, locally, nationally, and globally, to respect Indigenous Peoples’ rights. Presentation by Joshua Cooper, Executive Director, Oceania Human Rights & Dean, Global Leadership Academy for Human Rights Advocacy.

Co-hosts: Cultural Survival, Oceania Human Rights, Global Leadership Academy for Human Rights Advocacy

Missed it? Watch it here:


Indigenous Languages: Investing in Education and Media as Effective Tools to Revitalize and Promote Transmission of Language and Traditional Knowledge

Monday, April 26, 2021 
1:00 - 2:30 pm ET 

This side-event will be an opportunity to hear an update from UNESCO on the Global Action Plan on the International Decade of Indigenous Languages and share solutions and strategies Indigenous People have implemented in media and education, and the urgent steps that must be addressed at the national and international levels to curb the critical loss of Indigenous languages. 

Co-hosts: UNESCO/ International Funders for Indigenous Peoples/ Cultural Survival 

Registration link:



Setting a Precedent for Freedom of Expression for Indigenous Peoples through Community Radio in Guatemala

Wednesday, April 28, 2021
11:00am- 12:30pm ET


A historic case is pending before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights to decide on the right of Indigenous Peoples to their freedom of expression through the use of community radio in Guatemala. Hear from grassroots leaders and other experts about the evolution of the case and its possible precedent for Indigenous Peoples throughout the Americas.

Co-Hosts: Suffolk University Human Rights and Indigenous Peoples Clinic, Maya Lawyers Alliance, Cultural Survival


Missed the event? Watch it here:




Indigenous Media Caucus:  “Are Indigenous voices being heard?” A global study on the state of Indigenous broadcasting and its role in Meeting SDG 16

Thursday, April 29, 2021
11:00 am - 12:30 pm ET

SDG 16 “Peace Justice and strong institutions” includes a target to Ensure public access to information and protect fundamental freedoms, in accordance with national legislation and international agreements. Are we meeting that goal for Indigenous Peoples? Learn from a study on this topic co-produced by UNPFII Indigenous Media Caucus, Cultural Survival, and WACC. 

Co-hosts: Cultural Survival, WACC, Indigenous Media Caucus

Jenni Monet, Award-winning Indigenous Investigative Journalist
David Hernández Palmar, International Indigenous Film Showcase of Venezuela
Jose Manuel Ramos Rodriguez, Researcher, Caucus Study


3. Watch the UNPFII on UN WEB TV starting Monday.

Learn more about the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues here.

On Monday, April 19, U.S. Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland will deliver a keynote address at the 20th Session of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues.

Secretary Haaland will address the Forum at approximately 3:45 p.m. ET in virtual remarks that will be live-streamed at