Are you an Indigenous community whose rights or ancestral territories are being harmed by business activity? Or do you accompany such a community? The OECD Guidelines may help you fight for respect of Indigenous Peoples’ rights.

What the OECD Guidelines say about Indigenous Peoples’ rights

The OECD Guidelines refer to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) and call on companies to respect all internationally recognised human rights, including of Indigenous Peoples, and address human rights harms. You can use the OECD Guidelines to demand that companies:

  • Avoid causing or contributing to harms to Indigenous Peoples’ rights and address and remediate such harms when they occur. This includes the right to free, prior, and informed consent (FPIC). The Guidelines refer to practical advice, including on FPIC, in OECD due diligence guidance.
  • Help prevent or mitigate harms to Indigenous Peoples’ rights that are directly linked to their business.
  • Avoid reprisals against Indigenous Peoples who speak out against business activity, and remediate harm from such reprisals.
  • Carry out human rights due diligence that takes into account distinct and intersecting risks faced by marginalised or vulnerable groups, including Indigenous Peoples.
  • Pay special attention to people facing heightened risk due to marginalisation or vulnerability, including Indigenous Peoples.
  • Engage meaningfully with impacted Indigenous Peoples, including throughout due diligence. Companies should eliminate barriers to engagement by Indigenous Peoples. Engagement is “meaningful” if it is ongoing, timely, accessible, appropriate, and safe for Indigenous Peoples and if it involves two-way communication, demonstration of good faith (meaning respect, honesty, and genuine intent to find solutions to the harms), and responsiveness to Indigenous Peoples’ views.


To counter ambiguity on the collective nature of Indigenous Peoples’ rights in the Guidelines, civil society should remind companies and complaints bodies that UNDRIP endorses the collective nature of Indigenous Peoples rights – as well as other core rights, such as the rights to self-determination and culture. To encourage the broadest possible interpretation of the right to FPIC, civil society should refer to guidance on FPIC in the International Finance Corporation Performance Standards (which are referenced in Chapter VI of the Guidelines), to the specific Indigenous community’s own protocol for FPIC, and to other good practice of following Indigenous communities’ own protocols for FPIC.

Read the text

  • Chapter II (General Policies): paragraphs 10-13 and 15; commentaries 14-23, 25, and 28
  • Chapter IV (Human Rights): all paragraphs and commentaries, especially commentary 45
  • Chapter VI (Environment): paragraph 2; commentaries 66 and 72

Additional important information

What are the OECD Guidelines?

The OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises on Responsible Business Conduct (OECD Guidelines) are recommendations from governments to companies on how to act responsibly. The OECD Guidelines set non-binding standards for responsible business conduct across a range of issues important to communities, such as human rights, workers rights, and the environment, and also cover issues such as corruption and taxation.

Governments that follow the OECD Guidelines must establish a non-judicial complaints body called a National Contact Point for Responsible Business Conduct to promote the Guidelines and handle complaints about harmful business activity. The Guidelines set good standards for all companies, but complaints can only be filed against two types of companies operating across borders:

  1. multinational enterprises headquartered in a country that follows the OECD Guidelines, or
  2. multinational enterprises operating in a country that follows the OECD Guidelines.

How can you use the OECD Guidelines?

Civil society can use the Guidelines to:

  • Raise community awareness about company standards.
  • Talk to companies to demand better conduct.
  • File complaints when companies fall below the standards.
  • Advocate for strong laws and policies on corporate responsibility.

 Further resources