United NationsDépartement des Affaires Économiques et Sociales Développement Durable

Integrating Indigenous knowledge and State-of-Art Earth Observation Solutions for Implementation of SDG’s


    With the challenges of accelerated technological inequalities amongst Indigenous Peoples, there is an urgent need to bridge the gap with these imbalances, including language barriers, access to TIC and gender inclusion to meet SDG targets. Earth Observations based tools which include satellite, aircraft, and ground monitoring technologies, can play a major role in providing transformative pathways through hands-on training and capacity development. This practise launched by key stakeholders and partnership at the UN-HLPF 2020 identified the challenges and opportunities for Indigenous Peoples’ engagement in the co-creation and use of EO based solutions complementing Indigenous knowledge.


    To reduce the sense that SDGs have been overlooking Indigenous peoples as active participants in attaining the Goals, as opposed to mere recipients. Specifically, with the emergence of the global data revolution and associated new technologies are a double-edged sword for indigenous peoples. Convert, this regional collaborative effort representing Indigenous communities and key actors in the field of EO & ICT to create a platform to identify the challenges and opportunities to develop and implement culturally relevant EO data-based tools and solutions enabling its widespread impact to climate change, women, and youth empowerment. The launch event and follow-up activities were designed as scalable and replicable worldwide and aimed to chart the path forward for creating opportunities for employment, skills training, and gender inclusion.

    Contribution to SDG Implementation

    This initiative has been structured to address the techno-cultural complexities and the role of EO based tools and solutions that have high relevance to complement Indigenous communities’ knowledge and potential to contribute to achieve 2030 targets. Using the lessons learned during Covid-19 pandemic, the activities were designed and implemented by mobilizing stakeholders and partnerships to offer sustainable innovations, and access to technologies to address the issues of inequalities relating to technological imbalance, specifically youth empowerment, language barrier and gender inclusion.

    Implementation methodologies

    The activities were implemented in phased approach. The project was devised and launched as a side event at UN HLPF 2020, aligned with its theme “Accelerated solutions for Indigenous Peoples 2030 agendas using EO based solutions”. The event was a collaborative effort using in-kind resources from global partners covering FILAC, CANEUS, GEO, NASA, amongst others and led by 19 distinguished contributors’ representing Indigenous as well as key authorities in the field of EO and ICT. These experts and 454 participants shared methodologies, experiences and lessons learned that can support follow up and SDG implementation in key areas of land/river/ocean/seas where the rights agenda needs more support. These inputs also offered insight on broader issues, e.g., the technology gaps and the pandemics, innovation challenges, need for job creation for women, youth, Indigenous capacity development in decision-making, and data sovereignty. The results specifically helped to identify several follow-up activities, e.g., pilot projects, training programs as well as challenges covering climate change, food security, amongst others. Several of these activities are being pursued through FILAC-CANEUS 5-year 2021-2025 cooperation agreement. In the second phase, with financial and in-kind resources, a global challenge “leave no one behind” was designed and undertaken by UNOOSA, FILAC, CANEUS, CNES, ESA, etc. The challenge was to design a solution using one or combination of satellite-based technology to mitigate near and long-term impacts on food production of COVID-19 pandemic on indigenous communities. Several teams of young Indigenous students & entrepreneurs from 21 countries participated and the winning team was offered an opportunity to present at the UN Food Systems Summit in Sept 2021.


    The results from the completed and ongoing activities offer following key measurable impacts on SDG implementation by contributing to the goals to bridge the technological and gender inequalities. 1. Helping and empowering Indigenous communities from 21 countries with emerging technology-based solutions. 2. Focused programs through Indigenous Intercultural University to address the accelerated technological inequalities. 3. “leave no-one behind” challenge having long-term impact on sustainable food systems as well empowerment of youth. 4. Formulation of dedicated multi-year program for integrating EO and Indigenous Knowledge for accelerating SDG implementation. The key messages include: (a) Indigenous knowledge must be considered to complement to EO-based solution for SDG implementation, and (b) The results further underlined the gaps and barriers impacting technological inequalities which appear growing especially due to Covid-19 pandemic and the challenges to meet the 2030 targets.

    Factors and Constraints

    The major challenges for integrating and using EO and Indigenous knowledge for the implementation of SDGs at National and local levels include: a. The issue of linking emerging EO methods with Indigenous knowledge and effective ways to balance such practices. b. The issue of Indigenous Peoples being key stakeholders for different knowledge systems and mutual learning from each other. c. The importance of existing tribal and Indigenous data governance protocols and procedures. d. The importance for developing the tools to support the local language needs, and challenges with the “technical terms” which may be discouraging to local practitioners.

    Sustainability and replicability

    Sustainability The EO based tools and solutions are available freely to support the SDG implementation in key areas of land/rivers/ocean/seas worldwide at various levels, e.g., local, national. Additionally, the key partners representing Indigenous communities and the EO technology developers / providers have necessary mechanisms in place to sustain the outcome from these activities. Moreover, FILAC and CANEUS have recently signed a cooperation agreement which covers 5-year implementation plan. Replicability The model for the accelerated solutions for Indigenous Peoples 2030 agendas using EO based solutions and the global challenges can be replicated worldwide to support SDG implementation. The partners FILAC, CANEUS, UNOOSA, CNES/ESA have the system in place to extend through ActInSpace and UN-COPUOS. Additionally, the Indigenous Intercultural University network can support its adoption. The pilot projects and capacity development programs are also able to adapt to select focus areas.

    COVID-19 Impact

    The partners, FILAC, CANEUS and UNOOSA had organised special events in 2020 to reflect on the lessons learned from the Covid-19 pandemic and how EO can contribute better during such situation. These lessons are particularly important for the indigenous community due to its significant impact on economy, food security, health, education, and ecosystems, thereby causing a major setback in achieving SDG’s, especially ‘leaving no one behind’. While the EO data played an important role for providing prescriptive analysis to help the decision-making process, this initiative will be able to support efforts to building back better from COVID-19 impacts. For example, power space technologies, big data, analytics, models can be extremely useful in building implementing scenario-based approaches.

    This initiative does not yet fulfil the SMART criteria.
    09 July 2020 (start date)
    01 March 2021 (date of completion)
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