The 9th day of August commemorates the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples, as adopted by the United Nations (UN) General Assembly in December 1994. This date also reflects when the first meeting of the UN Working Group of Indigenous Populations of the Sub-Commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights was held in 1982.

The theme for this year’s commemoration is “Indigenous Youth as Agents of Change for Self-Determination.” Self-determination is foundational to Articles 1 and 2 of the UN Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and works with the right to self-govern. Many Indigenous Youth are engaging in land stewardship practices and social, cultural, and economic matters in their own communities and schools or are learning how to do so. Some are already leaders engaging in climate action on the global stage.

As part of this year’s commemoration of the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples, The United Nations has identified three areas informing the right to self-determination of Indigenous Youth; these are:

  • Climate action and the green transition.
  • Mobilizing for justice
  • Intergenerational connections

While these three themes are interrelated, the theme of climate change and the green transition aims to recognize the different roles that Indigenous Youth play in contributing to their own families and to sustaining their communities, and how youth are integral to facilitating a transition to alternative energy solutions. Look for the commemorations online on August 9th.


By Leela Viswanathan


(Image Credit: Li An Lim, Unsplash)

Indigenous data sovereignty addresses the misuse, cooptation and stealing of Indigenous traditional knowledge and cultural heritage. Indigenous data sovereignty is defined as “the ability for Indigenous Peoples, communities and Nations to participate, steward and control data that is created with or about themselves.” The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), which upholds the inherent and inalienable rights of Indigenous Peoples, is foundational to recognizing the rights of Indigenous Peoples worldwide, and is crucial to Indigenous data sovereignty in research.

At the core of Indigenous data sovereignty, are the rights of Indigenous Peoples to collect, own, store, and use the data collected about and with Indigenous Peoples, including information about Indigenous cultures, ways of life, and territories. The disaggregation of population data and other statistics regarding Indigenous Peoples remains controversial, because it also informs the politics of recognition, the rights of Indigenous Peoples, and the protection of Indigenous lands.

Several resources can guide researchers  to uphold Indigenous data sovereigntyFAIR principles (i.e., Findable, Accessible, Interoperable, and Reusable) promote open access to data, while “CARE Principles for Indigenous Data Governance” (i.e., Collective benefit, Authority to control, Responsibility, and Ethics) centre on how data collection and research objectives should directly benefit Indigenous Peoples. Furthermore, the First Nations Information Governance Centre (FNIGC) promotes First Nations principles of OCAP®  (i.e., ownership, control, access, and possession) and training, to outline how First Nations’ information and data “will be collected, protected, used, or shared.”


By Leela Viswanathan


(Image Credit: Andrew George, Unsplash)

The United Nations Paris Agreement states that signatories (also referred to as “Parties” to the agreement) should “respect, promote and consider their respective obligations on human rights” and to integrate these into their climate actions. The agreement “sets long-term goals to guide all nations to substantially reduce greenhouse gas emissions to limit the global temperature increase in this century.”  Since 2020, Parties must outline their long-term goals and climate actions through “Nationally Determined Contributions” or NDCs.

In November 2022, the Centre for International Environmental Law and the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights released a toolkit to guide Parties on how to integrate human rights in NDCs. The toolkit, “Integrating Human Rights in Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs)”, centers public participation and domestic planning processes in formulating NDCs and integrating human rights obligations of Parties into “the implementation, monitoring, and evaluation of the NDC.” The toolkit consists of seven sections. Section 5 of the toolkit (pp. 23-27) sets out three recommendations that address integrating the rights and traditional knowledge of Indigenous peoples in NDCs:

  • Recommendation 5.1 Integrate obligations articulated by UNDRIP in the preparation and implementation of the NDC.
  • Recommendation 5.2 Respect the free, prior, and informed consent of Indigenous Peoples.
  • Recommendation 5.3 Integrate and respect traditional knowledge in the preparation and implementation of the NDC.

The section also provides reflection questions for Parties to consider throughout the process of including Indigenous peoples in the further development of climate adaptation and mitigation policies.


By Leela Viswanathan


(Image credit: Dan Meyers, Unsplash)

In May 2016, Canada endorsed the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), almost ten years after it was adopted by the UN General Assembly. As an international law, “UNDRIP affirms Indigenous rights to protection of the environment” and has increasing potential to inform environmental protection policy in Canada.

According to Article 25 of UNDRIP: “Indigenous peoples have the right to maintain and strengthen their distinctive spiritual relationship with their traditionally owned or otherwise occupied and used lands, territories, waters and coastal seas and other resources and to uphold their responsibilities to future generations in this regard.” Article 29 goes further to highlight the rights of Indigenous peoples to the “conservation and protection of the environment.”

In Canada, UNDRIP is gaining traction in guiding environmental policy. Bill C-69 was passed in 2019 and resulted in changes to the federal environmental impact assessment process, including requiring “early and regular engagement with Indigenous peoples based on recognition of Indigenous rights and interests from the start.” Bill C-69 can be interpreted as an effort by the Canadian government to build consistency between Canada’s environmental protection policies and UNDRIP.

In June 2021, Bill C-15, a bill to ensure that “the laws of Canada are consistent with” UNDRIP, passed third reading in the Senate, and will now require “meaningful consultation” with Indigenous peoples before implementation. It remains uncertain whether or not Bill C-15 will also ensure that Indigenous treaties are honoured.


By Leela Viswanathan


(Photo Credit: Gunnar Ridderstrom, Unsplash)