What is the ILO?

The International Labour Organization (ILO) was established in 1919 as a specialised agency of the United Nations (UN). It has its headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland. Representatives from governments and employer and worker organisations from 173 member states have set themselves the target of improving global social security as well as living and working conditions.

A total of 23 states have meanwhile ratified Convention No. 169 (February 2018).

Further information on the organisation’s history, structure, tasks and goals can be found on the International Labour Organisation's (ILO) home page.


ILO Convention No. 169

The total number of indigenous people on earth is estimated at around 370 million people in over 70 countries. Their ways of life are mostly shaped by their special bond with nature, which has characterised their culture for centuries. However, their livelihoods are today increasingly under threat. Political and economic interests that seem unavoidable in the course of globalisation threaten the ways of life of many indigenous peoples.

To date, the International Labour Organisation’s (ILO) Convention No. 169 remains the only international national norm guaranteeing the indigenous peoples legally-binding protection and entitlement to a variety of basic rights. In 44 articles, the convention for “peoples in independent countries who are regarded as indigenous” and “tribal peoples in independent countries” guarantees the fundamental rights of the indigenous peoples. The Convention was agreed in 1989 and came into force on 5 September, 1991.

To date, it has been ratified by 23 countries, namely Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Costa Rica, Central African Republik, Chile, Colombia, Denmark, Dominica, Ecuador, Fiji, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nepal, the Netherlands, Nicaragua, Norway, Paraguay, Peru Spain and Venezuela. Five European countries have signed the Convention so far: Norway, Denmark, the Netherlands, Spain, Luxembourg.


Click here to view the full text of ILO Convention No. 169

The ILO Convention No. 169 coordinating body

The coordinating body calls for ratification of ILO 169 to reinforce the rights of the indigenous peoples in our globalised world. Signing of the Convention should not only be the task of the countries in which the indigenous peoples dwell. Due to globalisation, the impact and thus also the threat to the indigenous peoples is forever growing. Signing the Convention would therefore also reshape economic and foreign policy sustainably, with consideration for human rights.



The coordinating body is formed of the following organisations:

  • Adivasi-Koordination in Deutschland e.V. (Kassel)
  • Agencia Latinoamerica de Sevicios Espeiciales de Información (ALASEI, Bonn),
  • Amnesty International, Sektion der Bundesrepublik Deutschland e.V. (ai Berlin/Bonn)
  • Arbeitskreis Indianer heute (Reichenhall i.V.)
  • Brot für die Welt (Stuttgart)
  • Deutsche Menschenrechtskoordination Mexiko (Munich)
  • Diakonisches Werk – Abteilung Menschenrechte (Stuttgart)
  • Freundeskreis Naturvölker
  • Fakultät für Soziale Arbeit (Eichstätt-Ingolstadt, Prof. Dr. Christian Beck)
  • FoodFirst Informations- und Aktionsnetzwerk (FIAN, Herne)
  • Gesellschaft für bedrohte Völker (GfbV, Göttingen),
  • Institut für Ökologie und Aktions-Ethnologie (infoe, Cologne
  • Klima-Bündnis e.V. (Frankfurt am Main office)
  • Menschenrechte 3000 (Freiburg)
  • Missio – Lateinamerikareferat des Missionswissenschaftlichen Institutes e.V. (Aachen)
  • Missionszentrale der Franziskaner e.V. (Bonn)
  • Ökumenischer Ausschuss für Indianerfragen in Amerika (ÖAI, Munich)
  • Pro Regenwald e.V.
  • Südostasien-Informationsstelle (Asienhaus, Essen)
  • urgewald (Sassenberg)
  • Vamos e.V. (Münster)