The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on indigenous peoples, along with the context of violence and territorial dispossession to their detriment, forces us to think of solutions from the most varied legal and political spheres. On the occasion of the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples, celebrated on August 9, this essay summarizes the way in which international law has addressed self-determination, with an emphasis on the need to strengthen its application to indigenous peoples. This is because of the imperative to preserve the existence of such peoples and their cultures, and the need to mitigate the effects of environmental crises of which the exposure to pathogens displaced from their natural habitat – such as SARS-COVID-2 – is only one manifestation.
In 1994, the UN General Assembly chose August 9th as the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples. This day serves a moment for civil society, states, and the international community to reflect on the challenges in ensuring respect for indigenous peoples’ rights. This essay will focus on the right to free, prior and informed consultation (FPIC), which faces major challenges in its implementation. This right was recognized in constitutions that established a new model for the participation of indigenous peoples in state decisions. In the 80’s and 90’s, various states in the Western Hemisphere began to define themselves as multicultural societies and abandoned the previously dominant integrationist constitutional paradigm. This paradigm was based on two main premises: i) indigenous peoples’ cultures tend to extinguish due to their unsuitability to the economic and social order; and ii) public authorities must mediate the assimilation of indigenous peoples to the rest of society, guaranteeing them minimum economic and social rights.