Indigenous Peoples at the United Nations: Project Access Online

In this self-paced introductory-level course you will learn about the ways in which Indigenous Peoples can engage with and advocate at various bodies and mechanisms of the United Nations.

 Course type: Self-paced course
Duration: 3 modules
Estimated effort: 2 3 hours per module
 Requirements: Internet connection

Course syllabus Meet the experts FAQs


Are you an Indigenous representative looking to engage with the United Nations? Do you work with Indigenous Peoples and want to support them in their advocacy efforts? The United Nations Development Programme and Project Access Indigenous Partnership are pleased to offer a FREE self-paced introductory-level course on Indigenous Peoples at the United Nations. This course consists of three modules and brings together leading Indigenous experts who share their expertise on relevant multi-stakeholder forums and was originally developed by the Tribal Link Foundation.

Course highlights and outcomes

  • Gain a deeper understanding of the history and impact of Indigenous Peoples' advocacy at the UN
  • Understand the key platforms for advocacy at the UN
  • Gain the skills to effectively advocate on Indigenous issues at the UN 
  • Join a community-of-practice committed to effective Indigenous advocacy at the UN
  • Receive a certificate of completion from the course partners

Learning objectives

By the time the course is completed, you will:

  • Become familiar with the history of Indigenous Peoples' movement for recognition at the United Nations
  • Understand opportunities for Indigenous Peoples' engagement and advocacy at the United Nations 
  • Have the knowledge of the entry points for Indigenous Peoples' engagement with various bodies and mechanisms of the United Nations

Course topics

The course will cover the following topics: 

  • Module 1: History of Indigenous Peoples at the United Nations
  • Module 2: The United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues
  • Module 3 Part 1: Human rights-related instruments for Indigenous Peoples
  • Module 3 Part 2: The SDGs and Rio Conventions

Course completion requirements

To receive the certificate of course completion, participants must:

  • Listen to all course lectures
  • Pass four quizzes
  • Complete the course survey

Click “Enroll” to register today. The course content is now available. You may start and complete the course at any time. When you complete all the course requirements, your certificate of course completion will be generated automatically and will become vailable for download directly from the course room.

If you have any questions, please contact the Learning for Nature team at

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Course Includes

  • 7 Modules
  • 24 Activities
  • 4 quizzes
  • Course Certificate
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Course syllabus

WelcomeModule 1Module 2Module 3 Part 1Module 3 Part 2Key take-aways

Welcome to the course

This module serves as an introduction to the course.


  • Roberto Mukaro Borrero “Introduction to Project Access”

OPTIONAL: Orientation to the course

Before you get started, we recommend familiarizing yourself with the course structure and exploring some useful tips for making the most of this learning experience. Click here to orient yourself to the course.

OPTIONAL: Instructional video

To learn how to take the course, in this instructional video we will walk you through our course room and explain how to complete the course activities.

Module 1: History of Indigenous Peoples at the United Nations

This module provides an overview of the history of Indigenous Peoples’ work at the United Nations, outlining the way towards the adoption of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

REQUIRED: Lectures

  • Andrea Carmen “History of Indigenous Peoples at the United Nations”
  • Andrea Carmen “UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples”


Quiz 1: History of Indigenous Peoples at the UN

This quiz checks your comprehension of the material covered in Module 1 lectures.

OPTIONAL: Discussion forum

  • Why did Indigenous Peoples originally seek international attention to their issues in the 1920s? How have these issues changed for you and your community since then?
  • What do you feel is the biggest challenge for the implementation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples?

Module 2: The United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues

This module provides an introduction to the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, outlines key ways for Indigenous Peoples to participate in the Forum, and offers recommendations for preparing an intervention for the Forum.

REQUIRED: Lectures

  • Mirian Masaquiza “UNPFII history and mandate”
  • Ghazali Ohorella “Preparing interventions for the UNPFII”


Quiz 2: The United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues

This quiz checks your comprehension of the material covered in Module 2 lectures.

OPTIONAL: Discussion forum

Now that you have reviewed the guidelines for preparing interventions for the UNPFII and examined sample interventions, we invite you to try your hand at your own intervention. Create an outline of your intervention and share it with other course participants. We encourage you to review and comment on the submissions of your peers.

Module 3 Part 1: Human rights-related instruments for IPs

This module outlines opportunities for Indigenous Peoples to engage with the Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, UN Treaty Bodies, UN Voluntary Fund, and the OHCHR Indigenous Fellowship.

REQUIRED: Lectures

  • Jose Francisco Cali Tzay “United Nations Treaty Bodies”
  • Rodion Sulyandziga “Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples”
  • Jose Francisco Cali Tzay “Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples”
  • Morse Flores “United Nations Voluntary Fund”
  • Morse Flores “OHCHR Indigenous Fellowship Programme”


Quiz 3: Human rights- related instruments for IPs

This quiz checks your comprehension of the material covered in the lectures of Module 3 Part 1.

OPTIONAL: Discussion forum

Among Indigenous Peoples, there are many unresolved cases of human rights abuses, some of which have endured over generations.

Now that you have a better understanding of the mandates of each of the three main bodies charged with promoting Indigenous Peoples’ rights worldwide, can you better identify the limits of their respective mandates? Can you share any examples?

Based on their strength and limitations, do you feel that these three bodies (UNPFII, Special Rapporteur, and EMRIP) can work together more effectively? If so, can you share examples of how?

Module 3 Part 2: The SDGs and Rio Conventions

This module outlines opportunities for Indigenous Peoples to engage with UNFCCC, CBD, and UNDP Equator Initiative.

REQUIRED: Lectures

  • Janene Yazzie “High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development”
  • Graeme Reed “UNFCCC and Indigenous Peoples”
  • Q”apaj Choque “Engaging with the Convention on Biological Diversity”
  • Martin Sommerschuh “UNDP Equator Initiative”


Quiz 4: The SDGs and Rio Conventions

This quiz checks your comprehension of the material covered in the lectures of Module 3 Part 2.

OPTIONAL: Discussion forum

In June 1992, Indigenous Peoples, environmentalists, activists, and heads of state gathered in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, for the Earth Summit and the Global Forum. The Earth Summit, officially called the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED), brought together 118 heads of states. The presence of Indigenous Peoples at UNCED and the Global Forum focused the world’s attention on their inherently profound and respectful relationship with the environment, and the destruction of this relationship due to human rights abuses.

In what ways have the Rio Conventions shifted the narratives for Indigenous Peoples at the country level? Is your community aware of or in contact with a national focal point for the SDGs and the conventions? If so, what has been the outcome of your interaction with the focal point?

Key take-aways

This module summarizes the key messages and take-aways from the course.


Tai Pelli, Trainer and Mentor of the Project Access Global Capacity Training Workshop for Indigenous Peoples, summarizes the key messages and take-aways from the course.

Course experts

Andrea Carmen, Yaqui Nation, became a staff member of the International Indian Treaty Council in 1983 and its Executive Director in 1992. Andrea was IITC’s team leader for work on the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.In 1997, she was one of two Indigenous representatives to formally address the UN General Assembly for the first time at the UN Earth Summit +5.  In 2006, Andrea was selected as Rapporteur for the UN Expert Seminar on Indigenous Peoples’ Permanent Sovereignty over Natural Resources and their Relationship to Land, the first Indigenous woman to serve as a Rapporteur for an UN Expert Seminar. Andrea has been an expert presenter at UN bodies and seminars addressing a wide range of issues. In 2019 she was selected to represent North America Indigenous Peoples on the new Facilitative Working Group for the UNFCCC Local Communities and Indigenous Peoples Platform for its first three years of operation. She currently serves as co-chair for that UN body.


Janene Yazzie is the Sustainable Development Program Coordinator for the International Indian Treaty Council and the Council’s representative as co-convenor of the Indigenous Peoples Major Group of the UN High-level Political Forum on the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals. She is also a co-founder of Sixth World Solutions LLP, Navajo Nation Little Colorado River Watershed Chapters Association. She is a community organizer and human rights advocate who has worked on development and energy issues with indigenous communities across the United States. She has built expertise in infrastructure policy, integrated land and water management, and restoration and protection of traditional ecological knowledge systems. Locally, she is the manager of Indigenous Infrastructure and Policy for LatinGroup LLC., through which she serves as project manager for the Laguna Broadband Network project led by the Pueblo of Laguna Utility Authority. She also serves as co-chair of the Traditional and Cultural Values Subcommittee of the Navajo Nation Genetics Research Policy working group. She sits on the advisory board of the Oxfam Land Rights Now Campaign and is also a member of the Right Energy Partnership, an international initiative led by the IPMG to apply a human rights framework in sustainable energy development projects globally.


Roberto Múkaro Borrero has a distinguished and diverse background in policy and program development and human rights advocacy, including in specialization on the rights of Indigenous Peoples. He retains over 20 years of experience actively engaging the United Nations system in thematic areas such as sustainable development, climate change, the information society, and the Organization of American States, among others. He has served on the staff of the International Indian Treaty Council and the American Museum of Natural History, as well as an independent contracting consultant for UNESCO, PBS, and other notable institutions. A published writer, an accomplished artist, and musician, Roberto is a member of the Taíno Tribal Nation, an Indigenous Peoples whose traditional homelands extend through the Greater Antilles to the Southern tip of Florida in the US. In 2012, he was traditionally sanctioned a kasike (chief) of the Guainía Taíno tribal community. He has an educational background in communications and cultural studies. Roberto is currently serving as the Interim Director of the Tribal Link Foundation.


Ghazali Ohorella is an idealist and anteambulo for Indigenous Peoples. He is indigenous to the Alifuru People of Maluku, with an unshakeable belief in a bright future for all Indigenous Peoples of the world. Often referred to as “a machine,” everything Ghazali says and does is geared towards inspiring and empowering 476 million Indigenous Peoples so that they can do what inspires them. He uses his many years of experience in indigenous rights advocacy and high-level negotiations to open spaces and create an enabling environment for Indigenous Peoples at the international level that is built on the right to self-determination.

Mirian Masaquiza Jerez is a kichwa woman from Ecuador, with an extensive background on indigenous issues for more than 20 years and more than 15 years of experience at the international level. Mirian has worked as a government representative, a UN staff member and an indigenous activist.

Mirian rejoined the UN in 2010 as a Social Affairs Officer at the Indigenous Peoples and Development Branch of the Secretariat of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues in DESA. Most of her work is related to the rights of indigenous peoples as well as such issues as gender, cultural and educational matters, climate change, inter-agency affairs, outreach, political analysis, and non-governmental organizations. Her geographic area of responsibility is Central and South America and the Caribbean.


Rodion Sulyandziga is an Udege (“Forest People”), one of the small-numbered  indigenous peoples from the Eastern Siberia community of the Russian Federation. Their total population is 1587. He is the Founding Director of the Center for Support of Indigenous Peoples of the North/Russian Indigenous Training Center (CSIPN/RITC) with a special consultative status with the UN ECOSOC.  Since 2019, Rodion has been a member of the UN Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (EMRIP) and of the Facilitation Working Group of the LCIP, Local Communities and Indigenous Peoples Platform on Climate Change under the UNFCCC.  Rodion has a PhD in Social Science.


Of mixed Anishinaabe and European descent, Graeme Reed works at the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) as a Senior Policy Advisor, ensuring that federal and international climate policy safeguards First Nations’ rights, jurisdiction, and knowledge. He has had the opportunity to represent the AFN at the COP 23, COP 24, and COP 25 of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. Since 2019, he has been the Co-Chair of the International Indigenous Peoples Forum on Climate Change. In his spare time, he is a doctoral candidate at the University of Guelph, studying the intersection of Indigenous governance, environmental governance, and the climate crisis


Morse Caoagas Flores currently serves as Human Rights Officer in the Rule of Law, Equality and Non-Discrimination Branch of the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in Geneva. As such, he functions both as the Secretariat of the UN Voluntary Fund for Indigenous Peoples and the Coordinator of the UN Indigenous Peoples and Minorities Fellowship Programmes since 2005.

Prior to his current post, Morse worked with other UN agencies, CSOs and other intergovernmental organisations (International Labor Organization, Franciscans International, Inter-Parliamentary Union, UN Indigenous Peoples Partnership, etc.) in various capacities in Geneva for over 10 years in the fields of human rights and international cooperation and development.


Q”apaj Conde Choque, Aymara from Bolivia, is the Associate Programme Management Officer in the Peoples and Biodiversity Unit at Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity. He previously served as Indigenous Fellow in the World Intellectual Property Organization (2013–14) and Legal Officer in the Centro de Estudios Multidisciplinarios-Aymara (2016–17). As a member of the Red de Jóvenes Indígenas-LAC, he served as a co-chair of the Global Indigenous Youth Caucus (2017-18). Mr. Conde studied law at the Universidad Mayor de San Andrés. He holds a Master’s of Law from the University of Seville and a Doctor of Juridical Sciences from the Indigenous Peoples Law and Policy Program at the University of Arizona Law.


Martin Sommerschuh is the Coordinator of UNDP’s Equator Initiative. He leads the Equator Prize, supports community dialogues with Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities, and is passionate about finding ways to scale Indigenous and local solutions. A visit to Ecuador’s Yasuní park turned Martin’s lifelong fascination with remote places into determination to help their traditional stewards manage them for the benefit of us all. He has worked with Indigenous communities facing climate change and extractive industries in the Andes and the Amazon. Out of UNDP’s Regional Hub for Asia and the Pacific, he has supported efforts to globally improve Indigenous peoples’ access to climate finance. A German national, he holds an MA in Political Science from the University of Munich. Martin is fluent in Spanish and French.


Jose Francisco Calí Tzay is Maya Kaqchikel from Guatemala, with experience in defending the rights of Indigenous Peoples, both in Guatemala and at the level of the United Nations and the OAS. He was founder and member of a different indigenous organizations in Guatemala and as well Ambassador of Guatemala to the Federal Republic of Germany and was President of the Committee for the Elimination of all forms of Racial Discrimination, a treaty body from which he was elected for four consecutive periods of 4 years each. He was Director of Human Rights at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Guatemala; he was member of the Presidential Commission against Discrimination and Racism against Indigenous Peoples in Guatemala (CODISRA) and President of the National Reparation Program for Victims of the Internal Armed Conflict.


Tai Pelli is a writer and public speaker and a Borikén Taíno Tekina, a Taíno Indigenous teacher and historian of the Caribbean Ancestral territory of the Taíno Peoples, including Puerto Rico. She is also an International Relations and Human Rights Officer of the United Confederation of Taíno People, and Co-founder and Co-President of the Caribbean Amerindian Development Organization. Tai is a Local, National and International Human Rights, Environmental Rights, Women’s and Indigenous Peoples’ Rights Advocate. She has been an authorized Indigenous Delegate and Expert at the United Nations Bodies, Mechanisms and UN Conference of the Parties, particularly on the issue of environmental violence and its impact on the reproductive health and the lives of Indigenous Peoples for many years, representing both the United Confederation of Taíno People and the International Indian Treaty Council.

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