The Working Group on Indigenous Populations: its elimination and future within the Human Rights Council (HRC)

The Working Group on Indigenous Populations (WGIP) was the first mechanism exclusively dedicated to Indigenous Peoples at the United Nations. It was established as a subsidiary body of the Sub-Commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights in 1982 by Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) resolution 1982/34.

For the past 25 years it has acted as the reference for Indigenous Peoples’ rights. WGIP wrote the first draft of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as well as many studies of importance.  

The WGIP fulfilled two mandates:

  1. Reviewing developments pertaining to the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous peoples.
  2. Closely following the evolution of international standards concerning indigenous peoples' rights.

The activities carried out by the WGIP have succeeded in raising the profile of Indigenous Peoples internationally and in promoting the recognition of their rights.
The WGIP has introduced and supported a range of initiatives and activities including the UN Voluntary Fund for Indigenous Peoples and the UN Year for the World’s Indigenous Peoples. In1985 it began working on the Draft Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which was approved by the Sub-Commission in 1993. However, the Commission on Human Rights created a new Working Group that wrote a second draft, which was adopted by the Human Rights Council in 2006. A third version of the Declaration was finally adopted by the General Assembly (GA) in 2007.

In 2006, the Human Rights Council (HRC) replaced the Human Rights Commission, and the Sub-Commission and the WGIP thus no longer exist. An Experts Advisory Council of the HRC has now succeeded the Sub-Commission, but the role of this council has been downsized.