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Bangladeshi delegation visits Denmark, Norway and Sweden for inspiration in their work on indigenous and tribal peoples’ issues

On April 25th 2012 a delegation of 6 members from Bangladesh, including 3 high-level government officials, left Bangladesh to visit Denmark, Norway and Sweden in order to experience how the Nordic countries have implemented indigenous peoples’ rights into their national policies and legislations.

The indigenous and tribal peoples have for a longer period appeared on the national agenda in Bangladesh and the government has expressed willingness to engage with the issue.   The indigenous and tribal peoples, which make up 2 % of the population, consist of 45 different ethnic groups, each with their own distinct language, culture and heritage and live predominantly in the north and south eastern part of Bangladesh.

The study tour was facilitated by International Labour Organisation (ILO) as a part of their project to build capacities on indigenous and tribal peoples’ issues in Bangladesh within the framework of ILO Convention 169. ILO has been working with this issue since 2009 with funding from the Danish Embassy.

Why Scandinavia?
The Scandinavian countries’ track record is outstanding in relation to the ratification and implementation of legislation on indigenous and tribal peoples’ rights. Norway was the first country in the world to sign ILO Convention no. 169. In addition Denmark has a long history of working with and supporting indigenous peoples’ rights around the world and has among other things supported the work on indigenous and tribal peoples’ rights in Bangladesh over the past 12 years.

The Scandinavian countries are recognised for having established a very open and positive relationship between indigenous people and national governments. The relationship has been achieved through dialogue and consultations and as a result the indigenous peoples in Scandinavia have strong organisations, self-ruling institutions and parliaments.
A special interest for the delegation was to see the legal and administrative arrangements for indigenous peoples living within the Scandinavian territories and gather ideas and inspiration for their future work.

 The delegation together with the representation from Greenland

Inuits, Samis and indigenous peoples
The indigenous peoples of Scandinavia include the Samis in Norway, Sweden and Finland and the Inuits of Greenland (within the Danish Realm)   Even though they are very different from the indigenous peoples of Bangladesh, the efforts put into preserving their rights and implementing conventions into national policies and legislations has great similarities. The experiences and potential synergies between Scandinavian and Bangladeshi initiatives have great potential for the future work on indigenous peoples in Bangladesh.         

The Bangladeshi delegation brought a lot of new perspectives back from their study tour. Some of the key lessons learned from the Scandinavian countries were basic principles for empowering indigenous peoples that could be shared across borders as well as examples on how to secure the government’s commitment and active participation to promote, protect and implement the rights of indigenous peoples including ILO Convention no. 169.

Both the successes and the challenges that the Scandinavian countries have encountered in the process can serve as valuable guiding principles in the continued work for the indigenous and tribal peoples in Bangladesh.

The study trip was not only a chance for the Bangladeshi delegation to learn from the Scandinavian countries but also an opportunity to share their own experiences from Bangladesh. As the delegation met with representatives from all three countries there were great opportunities for knowledge sharing across borders.  

The delegation at the Prime Minister's office in Denmark 



Info on ILO Conventions on indigenous and tribal peoples

- ILO Convention No. 107
The Indigenous and Tribal Populations Convention (No.107), adopted by ILO in 1957, was the first international convention dealing with the international obligations of States to the rights of indigenous and tribal peoples (ITP). The Convention covers issues as land rights, education, vocational training, social security and health, rural industries and conditions of employment. The convention was until 1989 ratified by 27 countries until a new convention, No. 169, revised the convention. From this date No. 107 could no longer be ratified, however, it is still in force in 18 countries including Bangladesh.

ILO Convention No. 169
The Indigenous and Tribal Peoples Convention (No.169) was adopted by ILO in 1989, which replaced No. 107 in order to meet the development discourse in the modern world concerning ITP. While No. 107 focused on ITP as temporary populations, which should be modernised and integrated, No. 169 focus on ITP as permanent societies and aim to recognize ethnic and cultural diversity. The convention has been ratified by 20 countries, including Denmark in 1996. The cornerstone of the convention is the right to consultation and participation and the right of indigenous peoples to decide priorities for development. Bangladesh has not yet ratified Convention 169.

- Read more about ILO and Convention no. 169 at:

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