Exploring the technical assistance activities of the International Labor Organization in the field of indigenous peoples: Development and Human Rights in the Andean Indian Program (1954-1968)

Martin Breuer,Bielefeld University:

In 1954, the International Labor Organization (ILO) launched the Andean Indian Program (AIP), a rural development project aiming to assist Andean countries in integrating the indigenous peoples of the highlands, the Quechua and Aymara, into the respective national communities. Only three years later, the organization adopted Convention No. 107 called Indigenous and Tribal Populations Convention, which is considered the starting point for the establishment of an international regime of indigenous rights. Both Convention No. 107 and the AIP were presented by contemporaries and historians alike as complementary cornerstones of ILO’s activities in the field of indigenous peoples.

Focusing on the history of the AIP and taking into account ILO internal documents, this article explores the relation between the AIP and Convention No. 107. It argues that ILO’s technical assistance activities in the field of indigenous peoples were only partially connected to Convention No. 107 and furthermore ignored the discourse on indigenous rights. This article, therefore, helps to recalibrate the reading of ILO’s agenda in the field of indigenous peoples in the period under consideration and contributes new insights to the historiographical discussion of the ambivalent relationship between human rights and development discourses in the post-WWII international arena.

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