2024: Empowering Indigenous Peoples’ Economic Development through International Trade

The International Chamber of Commerce (ICC), the International Trade Centre (ITC), and the World Trade Organization’s Informal Working Group on Micro, Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises (WTO MSME Group), with the support of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), are calling for innovative ideas that support international trade by Indigenous Peoples.

Indigenous Peoples, or the earliest known people from a given geographical area, are present in more than 90 economies, represent 5,000 cultures and speak 40 per cent of the world’s 7,000 languages.1 Indigenous Peoples “own, occupy, or use a quarter of the world’s surface area”, conserving 80% of the world’s remaining biodiversity according to the World Bank. 2 However, recognition of the rights and interests of indigenous peoples is often insecure, sometimes leading to conflict, environmental degradation, and weak economic and social development. Additionally, although indigenous peoples make up around 6 per cent of the global population, they represent about 19 per cent of the extreme poor.3

There is a growing national and international effort to support trade by Indigenous Peoples as international trade can provide opportunities and lead to innovation for businesses of every size. Some examples are the Indigenous Peoples Economic and Trade Cooperation Agreement (IPECTA) of 2021, to strengthen indigenous economic empowerment in the Asia Pacific region, and more recently the 2023 United Kingdom – New Zealand trade agreement, which includes a world-first comprehensive Māori Trade and Economic Cooperation chapter. International trade can help provide economic opportunity to some disproportionately marginalised indigenous peoples as well as bring awareness about these unique cultures to all people around the world.

Goals of the Initiative

  • Raise awareness among businesses and policymakers of the particular difficulties indigenous peoples encounter when it comes to international trade.
  • Highlight best practices that are helping indigenous peoples to internationalize.
  • Support indigenous peoples’ participation in international trade with a view towards business innovation and resilience.

Call for proposals

The World Trade Organization (WTO) Micro, Small and Medium-Sized Enterprise Informal Working Group (MSME Group), in partnership with the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) and the International Trade Centre (ITC), are calling for proposals that help Indigenous Peoples to trade internationally. Small businesses, indigenous enterprises, industry associations, chambers of commerce and non-governmental organisations are invited to submit their innovative project ideas by 26 April 2024.

What kind of proposals are we looking for?

  • Proposals can focus on awareness-raising campaigns, competitions, capacity building, training and mentoring programmes.
  • Proposals should have an obvious international trade angle. For information on past competitions and winning proposals, please see the ICC-ITC-WTO MSME Group Small Business Champions website.
  • Proposals should be designed to be delivered by the entity making the proposal and should not focus on WTO negotiations, or proposed changes to WTO rules.

How to submit proposals

Proposals are open to businesses, indigenous enterprises, industry associations, chambers of commerce and non-governmental organisations and should:

  • detail the concept, aim, timeline and other information as appropriate
  • be no longer than three (3) pages
  • Optional – include a (maximum 3-minute) video shared via Wetransfer
  • have the approval and informed consent of the Indigenous Peoples being referenced
  • be sent to smallbusinesschampions@wto.org in Word or PDF format by 26 April 2024.

Key information to be provided 

When submitting a proposal, please ensure that the following points are covered:

  • name of the organisation
  • short description of the organisation
  • name of the proposed project
  • challenge faced/issue to be addressed
  • short description of the project, including activities to be organised
  • aim(s) of the project (including any specific outcomes)
  • timeline for the project
  • evidence that the Indigenous Peoples have been consulted and have given their approval to submit the proposal
  • how promotion by the ICC, ITC and WTO MSME Informal Working Group can support your proposal
  • contact person (name, telephone, email)
  • short bios of the persons implementing the project

Selection process

The selection of proposals will be carried out by representatives of the ICC, ITC, WTO MSME team and with the inputs of WIPO.

Winners will be announced at the WTO on MSME Day, 27 June 2024.

Award details

All awards are non-financial and no money will be provided to participants for the project. ITC will provide training on marketing/branding and pitching as well as offer tailored technical coaching and mentoring as needed, while the ICC will provide discounted access to an ICC Academy course. WIPO will provide access to relevant distant learning courses free of charge for representatives of Indigenous Peoples, as well as local communities. Winning submissions will also be promoted by the ICC, ITC and the WTO MSME Group through their communication channels and all winners will receive a certificate.

For any additional questions, please reach out to smallbusinesschampions@wto.org.