International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples: Unions commit to fight discrimination

photo: United in Jujuy, Argentina: Trade unions and Indigenous peoples stand strong against reforms that threaten their rights

On the International Day of the World’s Indigenous People, 9 August 2023, Indigenous peoples’ organisations and trade unions, highlight the extreme forms of discrimination faced by native groups.

This includes:

  • The lack of rights to self-governance or access to their lands.
  • The exploitation and pollution of their lands that effectively destroys livelihoods and displaces them.
  • The absence of or deficient access to basic services, such as education and healthcare, that continues the negative legacy of historical subjugation.

The global trade union movement will work to end the economic ghettoization of the world’s Indigenous peoples into low-paid jobs that undervalue their work. We will continue to fight the inequalities they face and pledge to support their inclusion into unions.

An inclusive economic model

According to the ILO, Indigenous peoples represent approximately 6.2 per cent of the world’s population or 476.6m people. Of this number, 18.2 per cent live in extreme poverty, on less than US$1.90 a day. This compares to 6.8 per cent of the population of non-Indigenous people.

Indigenous peoples are more likely to participate in the informal economy, where decent work deficits are larger and access to social protection is limited or non-existent. Governments must work to reduce these deficits and formalise informal jobs to reduce work-related abuses and rights violations faced by many marginalised native groups.
There is a need for an inclusive economy that looks beyond GDP and economic growth to ensure that the material needs of Indigenous peoples are satisfied and such glaring inequalities are reduced.

Just transition including Indigenous peoples

While the majority of Indigenous men and women continue to live in rural areas, there is growing migration to urban areas because of the theft of their lands and the adverse impacts of climate change.

Governments have an obligation to respect, protect and fulfil the rights of Indigenous peoples when taking action to address climate change with just transition measures. They must be consulted and have the right to participate in decisions that impact them. Furthermore, the knowledge they can share to address the pressing environmental challenges facing the world must be acknowledged, valued and utilised.

Solutions are in a New Social Contract

Including the voices of Indigenous workers in unions is vital to a thriving workers’ movement and will help to ensure that no worker is left behind. While overrepresentation in the informal economy of Indigenous workers and workers from other excluded groups poses challenges, we are resolved to build a fully inclusive trade union movement. This is key to a New Social Contract that puts the economy in the service of humankind and saves people and the planet from the threat of destruction.

The ITUC calls for a New Social Contract founded on six workers’ demands: climate friendly jobs with just transition; rights for all workers; wage justice including a minimum living wage for all workers; universal social protection; equality and inclusion. These are crucial to build just and resilient societies and economies that are truly inclusive of all working people, including Indigenous workers.

In this context, the ITUC urges states to ratify and apply ILO Convention 169 on Indigenous and Tribal Peoples along with Convention 105 (forced labour) and Convention 190 (violence and harassment).

Realising the 2030 agenda will not be possible if the exclusion and inequality shaping the daily lives of Indigenous peoples is not urgently addressed.

On 9 August, Equal Times will feature interviews with Indigenous trade union leaders from Chile, Norway and New Zealand.

For social media materials, including a video on Brazil, click here.

International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples 2023 - Brazil
by [ITUCCSI->]