The Right to Health and Indigenous Peoples, with a Focus on Children and Youth: report

10 August 2016
The Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
To the 33rd session of the Human Rights Council


Through resolution 30/4, the Human Rights Council requested the Expert Mechanism to carry out a study on the right to health and indigenous peoples, with a focus on children and youth, which was presented to the Council at its 33rd session in September 2016.

OHCHR and McGill University organized an Expert Seminar on the Right to Health and Indigenous Peoples, which took place in Montreal, Canada on 21 and 22 February 2016. The Seminar also provided an opportunity for exchange among academics, practitioners and other experts on this issue.


This report consists of a critical analysis of the content of the right to health vis-à-vis indigenous peoples and a review of the legal obligations of States and others in terms of fulfilling that right.

Indigenous peoples’ concept of health and well-being is generally broader and more holistic than that of mainstream society, with health frequently viewed as both an individual and a collective right, strongly determined by community, land and the natural environment. Indigenous concepts of health often incorporate spiritual, emotional, cultural and social dimensions in addition to physical ones.

Indigenous peoples’ concept of health is frequently disregarded within nonindigenous health systems, creating significant barriers to access (see A/HRC/30/41, para. 31). Indigenous peoples worldwide experience higher rates of health risks, poorer health and greater unmet needs in respect of health care than their non-indigenous counterparts.

Although this is the first study of the Expert Mechanism focusing on the right to health, previous studies have addressed the links between access to justice and the health of indigenous women and indigenous persons with disabilities (A/HRC/27/65), the health implications for indigenous peoples of disaster risk reduction initiatives (A/HRC/27/66) and the importance of indigenous cultures and languages for the health of indigenous peoples (A/HRC/21/53).

Inputs received

The Expert Mechanism requested contributions from States, indigenous peoples, NHRIs and other stakeholders to the study. The views presented in these documents are those of the submitting organizations, and may not reflect the views of the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples or the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.


Indigenous peoples and others: