The International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples 2013  

August 2013




ABColombia are pleased to recognise the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples this 9 August, and would like to highlight the ongoing struggles faced by Colombia’s indigenous population, who make up 3.4% of the population.[1]



Embera woman, Chocó Department

Photo: Oxfam GB


The United Nations Declaration on the rights of indigenous people was approved by Colombia on 13 September 2007, and signalled an important step in recognising the rights of the 102 indigenous groups that live within Colombia.

However, there is still a long way to go in reaching full equality for these communities; statistics show that of the many problems facing Colombia today, indigenous people are disproportionately affected.

Indigenous people bear the brunt of forced displacement, violent attacks, poverty, sexual violence and health problems, and suffer grave human rights abuses, despite their rights outlined in the Constitution of 1991. More than 60 of the 102 indigenous groups in Colombia are threatened with extinction.[2]

In 2013 the International Day of the World’s Indigenous People focused on the theme: "Indigenous peoples building alliances: Honouring treaties, agreements and other constructive arrangements".

ABColombia welcome the attention on this important theme. Of particular focus for many indigenous groups are the ILO Convention 169 and prior jurisprudence of the Constitutional Court (such as Auto 004), including the right to Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC). In 2012 the UN reported that none of the FPIC processes in Colombia had been adequately carried out.[3] The National Indigenous Organisation of Colombia (Organización Nacional Indigena de Colombia - ONIC) reports that 80 per cent of concessions for the implementation of economic projects in their territories were granted without prior consultation.

The extractive industry, and in particular mining, is a pervasive issue for many of the indigenous communities in Colombia and large-scale economic projects in indigenous territories are already major contributors to indigenous groups being at risk of extinction. In ABColombia’s latest report on mining, we called for greater protections for threatened indigenous communities and for companies to recognise Indigenous Peoples’ right to Free, Prior and Informed Consent.

In Colombia many indigenous communities have formed organisations to defend their rights.

The ONIC, founded in 1971, brings together indigenous groups from across the country to demand protection of their territories and to defend indigenous rights. Meanwhile within the Awá Indigenous People various groups (including UNIPA, CAMAWARI and ACIPAP) have come together to develop their own Ethnic Rescue Plan (Plan de Salvaguarda Étnica).


 Fact File

In 2012, 16,154 indigenous people were displaced in Colombia - 7% of the total number. Indigenous people are twice as likely to be displaced as other groups.[4]

Between 2002 and 2009 1400 indigenous people were murdered.[5]

The infant mortality rate among vulnerable indigenous communities is almost ten times higher than the Colombian average.




More information


•  Read more about ABColombia’s Emblematic Cases: The Embera and The Awá


•  See ABColombia’s report on Indigenous Peoples ‘Caught in the Crossfire’


• See ABColombia's report on mining 'Giving it Away: the Consequences of an Unsustainable Mining Policy in Colombia'






[1] National Colombian Census, DANE - 2005 Census
[2] The Colombian Constitutional court in decision Auto 004 of 2009 identified 34 groups and the ONIC a further 30 at risk of physical or cultural extinction.

[3] UN, Report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights on the Situation of Human Rights in Colombia, 2012, p18. 
[4] CODHES Report on forces displacement, Informe de desplazamiento forzado en 2012 (in Spanish)
[5] ONIC, Palabra Dulce, Aire de Vida, p. 12. (2010).


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