ELLA Guide: Promoting Indigenous and Ethnic Minority Rights in Latin America

ELLA is the Evidence and Lessons from Latin America programme


During the decade of the 1990s, a strong and vibrant movement of indigenous and ethnic minorities emerged in Latin America, embracing common demands for state recognition as part of a new and more inclusive concept of citizenship. Most of these demands were included in the international and regional human rights agreements which many Latin America countries have ratified. By doing so, states formally recognise indigenous and ethnic minorities as a collective actor with rights that must be protected and guaranteed, in particular by harmonising domestic legal frameworks and building innovative public policies that recognise these groups as a community that shares a common identity and enjoys specific rights. This ELLA Guide analyses how Latin American countries have worked to recognise indigenous and ethnic minority rights, in particular by including collective rights in their constitutions and domestic legal frameworks, building public policies with a pluricultural approach and adopting new forms of recognition when gross human rights violations have been committed. The legal development of these rights at the international level, and the regional court’s activism, have also been key to ensuring these rights are ultimately realised. The Guide covers these responses at the country and regional level, as well as highlighting key organisations and publications that may prove to be useful resources for readers in other contexts.

Key Lessons:

The international and regional development of collective rights has helped to strengthen indigenous and ethnic minorities’ demands for recognition as part of a new, more inclusive concept of citizenship.

Building public policies inspired by intercultural principles represents a useful tool for indigenous and ethnic minorities’ empowerment, while at the same time that dealing with structural exclusion.

The Latin American experience demonstrates that a regional human rights court can be effective in pushing forward progressive improvements in indigenous and ethnic minority rights.


Toledo, C. ELLA Guide: Promoting Indigenous and Ethnic Minority Rights in Latin America. ELLA, Practical Action Consulting, Lima, Peru (2013) 16 pp.

Published 1 January 2013