Mobile Indigenous Peoples


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Purpose: Report to be presented to the General Assembly in September/October 2024


Pursuant to resolution 51/16 of the Human Rights Council, the Special Rapporteur on the rights of Indigenous Peoples will dedicate his forthcoming thematic report to the topic ²The Situation of Mobile Indigenous Peoples². The report will review the challenges faced by mobile Indigenous Peoples, and the initiatives undertaken by States, Indigenous Peoples and other stakeholders to recognize and respect their rights. 

The report will address the situation of pastoralists, herders, hunter-gatherers, shifting agriculturalists, seafaring/maritime peoples and other mobile peoples who self-identify as Indigenous under international human rights law, such as Sami reindeer herders in northern Scandinavia, Bedouins in the Middle East and Maasai pastoralists in eastern Africa. At least 500 million people worldwide identify as pastoralists.[1] In some cases, States have failed to affirm the Indigenous status of self-identifying mobile peoples, instead characterizing them as ethnic minorities or claiming that all people are Indigenous to the country. The itinerant or semi-itinerant lifestyles of mobile and semi-mobile Indigenous Peoples are deeply rooted in historical, ecological, and cultural factors. Their livelihoods often “depend on common property use of natural resources,” “where mobility is both a distinctive source of cultural identity and a management strategy for sustainable resource use and conservation.”[2]  As Indigenous Peoples increasingly migrate to urban areas,[3] the specific needs and rights of mobile Indigenous Peoples are often overlooked. Understanding the complexities of their way of life is crucial for protecting their human rights.

Pastoralists and other mobile Indigenous Peoples who protect the biodiversity of rangelands through sustainable land use and livestock production face threats to their livelihoods and food security as lands become degraded and privatized. Mobile peoples commonly experience eviction and forced or induced sedentarisation. Displacement can occur when States declare Indigenous Peoples’ territories as empty or “terra nullius” where there is no evidence of permanent human settlement. Due to this failure by States to recognize and respect their mobile lifestyles, mobile Indigenous Peoples face great barriers in accessing basic fundamental rights, including education, health care, and justice.

There are increasing efforts to protect natural grasslands and rangelands and the rights of mobile Indigenous Peoples who conserve and depend on them for their physical and cultural survival. The United Nations has taken a number of actions that address the rights of mobile Indigenous Peoples including the adoption of resolutions on promoting sustainable pastoralism and rangelands[4] and on innovations in sustainable rangelands and pastoralism,[5] and a decision regarding land tenure.[6] In 2023 “Transhumance, the seasonal droving of livestock” was inscribed on the Representative List of Intangible Cultural Heritage for Humanity.[7] At the request of pastoralists, NGOs, research institutions and governmental organisations,[8] the General Assembly declared 2026 the International Year of Rangelands and Pastoralists[9] to be facilitated by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO). The year 2024 was designated the International Year of Camelids to promote awareness of the economic and cultural importance of camelids.[10]

The rights of mobile Indigenous Peoples must be understood and addressed under the framework of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, International Labour Organization Convention 169 on Indigenous and Tribal Peoples (ILO Convention No. 169) and other applicable international and regional human rights instruments. These international standards recognize Indigenous Peoples’ rights to their lands, territories, natural resources, self-government, self-determination, and way of life, which form the basis of their collective identity and their physical, economic and cultural survival.

At the non-State level, the Dana Declaration on Mobile Peoples and Conservation (2002) was adopted by scientists and representatives of mobile peoples to protect biodiversity while furthering respect for the rights of Indigenous Peoples. The Dana Declaration was endorsed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) [11] and followed by the Dana+20 Manifesto on Mobile Peoples (2022). The Manifesto specifically calls on the United Nations to issue a report on the situation of Mobile Indigenous Peoples with specific recommendations for upholding their rights.[12]

The Special Rapporteur’s forthcoming report will address the global situation of mobile Indigenous Peoples, incorporating and expanding upon previous findings including those of the United Nations Permanent Forum on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNPFII) on the “Impacts of land use change and climate change on indigenous reindeer herders’ livelihoods and land management, including culturally adjusted criteria for indigenous land uses”[13] and on “Resilience, traditional knowledge and capacity building for pastoralist communities in Africa;”[14] the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) “Good Practice Guide on Pastoralism, Nature Conservation and Development;”[15] the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), “Review of climate hazards and pastoralists’ responses in the IGAD region”;[16] and the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) forthcoming Global Land Outlook thematic report on “Global Land on rangelands and pastoralists.”[17]

The report will examine impacts of extractive, tourism, conservation, climate change and green financing projects, as well as discriminatory laws, and other activities and practices on the collective rights of mobile Indigenous Peoples. The report will address the particular situation of transboundary mobile Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral territories span national borders and who encounter discrimination, displacement, lack of recognition, restricted freedom of movement and limited access to basic services. Cross-border tensions and conflicts can expose mobile Indigenous Peoples to armed conflicts, harassment from border security forces, and other human rights abuses. Mobile Indigenous Peoples living in voluntary isolation and initial contact also face great challenges that require targeted responses by States.

The Special Rapporteur wishes to receive inputs by responding to the annexed questions that will inform his forthcoming report to be presented at the 79th session of the General Assembly in October 2024. The Special Rapporteur requests submissions from Member States and inter-governmental entities, UN agencies, funds and programmes, Indigenous Peoples and organizations, civil society actors, humanitarian and development organizations, national human rights institutions, business representatives and other stakeholders, to contribute to the preparation of the report.  Submissions can be made to by 15 March 2024 in English, French or Spanish. Please, limit the inputs to 10 pages. Please, indicate in the subject of your email ² Submission to 79th General Assembly report².  All submissions will be published on the OHCHR mandate webpage, unless otherwise requested in your submission. Please, indicate in your email if you do not wish your submission to be made public.


The Special Rapporteur is particularly interested in receiving inputs on any or all of the following issues, including case studies and specific examples of best practices led by Indigenous Peoples as well as initiatives taken by States, international organizations and other entities.

Land and resource rights

  1. Please provide examples of law, policy or other safeguards developed, in compliance with international human rights standards, to protect against the eviction and forced or induced sedentarisation of mobile Indigenous Peoples from their traditional territories, including access to effective remedies such as judicial recourse, restitution and fair compensation.
  2. Please describe the impacts of extractive industries, tourism projects, conservation initiatives and climate change mitigation and adaptation measures on mobile Indigenous Peoples’ rights and indicate whether they are consulted on projects that impact their lands, territories and resources. Please identify any other existing threats to mobile Indigenous Peoples’ land rights.

Political, economic and social rights

  1. Please indicate whether mobile Indigenous Peoples are guaranteed political representation and explain their level of participation in decision-making at the national, regional and local level. Please indicate if their rights are recognized in Constitutions or other relevant laws.
  2. Please identify the main barriers to mobile Indigenous Peoples’ participation in political, economic or social projects that impact their rights.
  3. Please provide information on whether the Indigenous knowledge of mobile Indigenous Peoples, including their governance institutions, legal systems, land administration, food systems, and livestock herding is being incorporated into the decision-making of the State and relevant laws and policies.
  4. Please indicate the challenges mobile Indigenous Peoples face to fully enjoy their economic, cultural, and social rights, including access to health services, education, employment opportunities, housing, and the justice system.  
  5. Please describe the impact that national borders have on the full enjoyment of the human rights of transboundary mobile Indigenous Peoples, whose ancestral territories span national borders. 
  6. Please describe the impact of internal or international conflicts on mobile Indigenous Peoples and indicate whether the specific needs of mobile Indigenous Peoples are included in transitional justice and post-conflict policies and programmes.
  7. Please describe the specific challenges faced by mobile Indigenous Peoples living in voluntary isolation and initial contact.

Identity, recognition and culture

  1. Please indicate whether the identity of mobile Indigenous Peoples is legally recognised by the State and if not, describe the implications that non-recognition has on the realisation of their rights.
  2. Mobile Indigenous Peoples are at greater risk of human rights violations due to intersecting forms of discrimination including but not limited to women and girls, persons with disabilities, LGBTI and gender diverse persons, older persons and children. Please explain the specific situations and views of these groups and the requirements needed to ensure that their rights are recognized and protected.

Good practices

  1. Please provide examples of resilience, good practices and strategies led by Indigenous Peoples and their organisations to improve the lives of mobile Indigenous Peoples.
  2. Please provide information on measures taken by States and international organisations to address the needs of mobile Indigenous Peoples in both law and practice and explain how the impact of these measures has led to the promotion, protection, and fulfilment of their rights, in particular  the measures to ensure that mobile Indigenous Peoples have access to adequate healthcare; employment opportunities; culturally appropriate education and language instruction; housing, drinking water, sanitation and other essential services.
  3. Please, provide information on mobile Indigenous People’s access to technical and financial support, global markets and direct financing of conservation practices or any other initiatives.

[1] World Bank Brief, Moving Towards Sustainability: The Livestock Sector and the World Bank, 18 October 2021

[2] World Alliance of Mobile Indigenous Peoples (WAMIP)

[3] A/76/202 para. 11.

[4] United Nations Environment Programme (2016). 2/24. Combating Desertification, Land Degradation and Drought and Promoting Sustainable Pastoralism and Rangelands - UNEP/EA.2/Res.24.

[5] United Nations Environment Programme (2019) 4/15. Innovations in sustainable rangelands and pastoralism - UNEP/EA.4/Res.15.

[6]  Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (2019) 26/COP.14.

[7] The UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage (2023) 18.COM 8.b.14

[8] “The Cancun Statement” Promoting Sustainable Pastoralism and Livestock Production for the Conservation of Biodiversity in Grasslands and Rangelands, CBD COP 13, 2016.

14 December 2016 - Cancun, Mexico.

[9] A/RES/76/253, see also

[10] A/RES/72/210

[11] ICUN World Congress, Barcelona, Spain, 2008.

[13] E/C.19/2012/4

[14] E/C.19/2013/5

[15] Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity. 2010. Pastoralism, Nature Conservation and Development: A Good Practice Guide.

[16] Rodgers, C (2022) “Equipped to Adapt? A Review of Climate Hazards and Pastoralists’ Responses in the IGAD Region” Nairobi: IOM & ICPALD.


Next Steps

Responses should be submitted by 15 March 2024

Email address:

Email subject line:
Submission to 79th General Assembly report

Word limit:
4000 words

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Accepted languages:
English, Spanish, French