Indigenous Peoples are culturally distinct from mainstream groups in national societies with unique spiritual ties to their ancestral lands. Historically, many Indigenous Peoples have suffered from abuse and discrimination and are often among the most marginalized, vulnerable and poorest segments of the population. As land connected people whose livelihoods and cultural identities are based on the natural environment, indigenous communities are particularly vulnerable if their lands and resources are impacted, transformed or encroached upon. In many countries, weak legal protections and the marginalized economic and social status of Indigenous Peoples restricts their capacity to defend their rights and interests in lands and natural resources and participate in the benefits of economic development. As a consequence, Indigenous Peoples may be more vulnerable to the adverse impacts associated with project development than non-indigenous communities. This vulnerability may include loss of identity, culture and livelihoods, as well as exposure to impoverishment and diseases.

Since the adoption in 2007 by the United Nations of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), the private sector, civil society and multilateral agencies have developed a number of guides and tools that explain UNDRIP’s principles and their impact on private sector development. Recognizing the rights of Indigenous Peoples, building open and meaningful engagement, understanding and applying the principles of free, prior and informed consent (FPIC), and sharing project benefits are key issues for companies with projects that impact Indigenous Peoples’ land and communities.