In my continuous effort to inspire and empower Indigenous Peoples so they can do what inspires them, we created a checklist that allows Indigenous Peoples to track the response efforts to COVID-19 by States around the world.

For the last 8 weeks I’ve had conference calls with Indigenous Peoples representatives and experts (I’ve had the privilege of working with for the past 18 years) from all around the world to check in with them and talk about the work that we usually do at the United Nations but can’t because of the quarantines and travel bans.

The idea was to launch this checklist with the new website, but couldn’t hold that off any longer as the circumstances of Indigenous Peoples are deteriorating around the world.

This checklist is to inspire, yes, but more importantly to empower Indigenous Peoples in these times. Because the responses to the pandemic vary around the world we came up with this checklist to ensure that the rights of Indigenous Peoples enshrined in the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) are respected universally.

We were inspired by the Human Rights Watch checklist but know that the rights and circumstances of Indigenous Peoples are distinct and therefore need a more tailored checklist. I hope you find this checklist valuable.

Please share this with your friends, government representatives as I genuinely believe this list will help many Indigenous Peoples.

Without further ado, here’s the checklist. Btw, if something isn’t on the list that doesn’t mean that its lawful. If something happens on the ground and doesn’t feel right…chances are its not right.


  • Is quality affordable health care and services accessible for everyone in your community/people? (UNDRIP 24)
  • Has the government taken special measures to establish health programs for Indigenous Peoples? (UNDRIP 24)
  • Does the government recognise Indigenous Peoples’ right to maintain indigenous traditional medicines and health practices? (UNDRIP 24)

Public information

  • Is the government providing your community with timely, accurate, and accessible information, in cooperation with Indigenous Peoples, on hygiene, physical distancing, quarantine, prevention and other information on the spread of the pandemic in your indigenous language? (UNDRIP 16.1)
  • Is the government challenging the negative impacts of COVID-19 on your community and actively opposing those who have raised legitimate concerns? (UNDRIP 16.1)

Cultural integrity/cross-border contact

  • If the government is closing borders, does it allow your Indigenous Peoples to return to their communities? (UNDRIP 36.1)
  • Is the government ensuring that restrictions on movement also include your community/territory to prevent the spread of COVID-19? (UNDRIP 36.1)
  • Does the government respect and support indigenous measures to stop the spread of COVID-19 in your community? (UNDRIP 3, 36.1)
  • Does the government maintain the possibility for cross-border contacts and collaboration with members of your Indigenous Peoples or other Indigenous Peoples? (UNDRIP 36.1)
  • Are businesses and governments ensuring that your cultural heritage, traditional knowledge and expressions are not misappropriated or taken without permission? (UNDRIP 31.1)
  • Does the government allow you to access your religious and cultural sites when you wish?


  • Is the government taking proactive steps so your people can continue to perform their traditional occupations without restriction? (UNDRIP 26.2)
  • Are businesses and governments ensuring your people’s right to own, use, develop and control your lands, territories and resources? (UNDRIP 10, 26.2)
  • Are businesses and governments providing adequate redress, restitution and compensation for dispossession, use or exploitation of lands, territories and resources? (UNDRIP 8.2, 28.1, 32.3)
  • Has the government ensured that conservation of natural resources on your traditional territories respects your right to conserve and protect the environment on their own terms? (UNDRIP 29.1)
  • Has the government established or extended protected areas on your territory with their free, prior and informed consent? (UNDRIP 29.1)
  • Has your people or community established conservation areas within your territory? (UNDRIP 29.1)
  • Are businesses and governments preventing storage or disposal of hazardous materials on your lands and territories without your free, prior and informed consent? (UNDRIP 29.2)


  • Are emergency powers used in a way that is lawful, necessary, and proportionate?
  • Are emergency powers time-bound and covered by legislative or judicial oversight?
  • Does the government continue to recognise your people as distinct peoples with collective rights with your own institution? (UNDRIP 3, 18)
  • Does the government continue consultations with Indigenous Peoples’ autonomous institutions before approval of measures and projects that may affect you? (UNDRIP 19, 32.2)
  • Is the government temporarily suspending its performance of human rights obligations to human rights treaty bodies?
  • Is the government taking steps to establish accountability and prevent abuse of crisis-management enforcement? (UNDRIP 40)
  • Is the government’s use of digital surveillance technologies to respond to the pandemic narrowly tailored to protect the right to privacy, assembly, and expression?
  • Does the government refrain from entering your community and only enter with the authorization of your traditional authority/representative institution, following clearly established protocols to reduce transmission risks?
  • Does the government ensure that your traditional authority / representative institution is informed on reducing transmission of the virus, practice of physical distancing and involved in risk reduction strategies?


  • Has the government developed special measures to promote and maintain the occupations of your Indigenous Peoples/community? (UNDRIP 17.1, 20.1)
  • Has the government adopted special measures to protect your people from forced labour? (UNDRIP 17.3)

This checklist is just the start, a taste, a small preview, of what you’ll find on the website that we’re developing under the codename Project IndiGenius. But that’s for another Medium post.

For now, I would like to acknowledge the people that either inspired this endeavor through sharing thoughts and words on the many conference calls and livestreams, or contributed their time, energy and more into drafting this:

Anna Sinkevich, Atama Katama, Atina Pamei Gaare, Beaska Niilas, Brandon Maka’awa’awa, Carson Kiburo, Charm Skinner, Daria Egereva, Freddy Sebastien, Hindou Oumarou Ibrahim, Hunanatu Matoke, Iniquilipi Inick Chiari-Lombardo, Jocabed Solano, Kenneth Deer, Marina Ycha, Melanie Nielsen, Mikaela Jade, Oranee Jariyapotngam, Paulo Lugon Arantes, Rebecka Forsgren, Rochelle Diver, Ruth Suwaksiork, Sachem Hawk Storm, Teanau Tuiono, Tomohiro Harada, Victor Anthony Carmen-Lopez, and others.

Ghazali Ohorella has a vision for Maluku to emerge as an indigenous nation built on the Alifuru heritage, with a governance structure made of traditional elders and leaders, with services like education, healthcare, etc. that respect and embrace the Alifuru way of life.

As a product of the indigenous Alifuru people and an idealist with 18 years of experience advocating for the rights of Indigenous Peoples at the United Nations, Ghazali’s Why is to inspire and empower Indigenous Peoples so that they can do what inspires them.

Ghazali is an anteambulo, and often described by friends as a “machine” working to open up spaces and to provide tools for Indigenous Peoples. In doing so he has worked with many indigenous movements, organisations, governments, NGOs and State representatives around the world.

Ghazali co-chaired a UN General Assembly session during the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples in 2014, and addressed the UN General Assembly in 2017 celebrating the 10th anniversary of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Ghazali is also a trainer in a number of programs on the rights of Indigenous Peoples, and served as the representative for Indigenous Peoples in the negotiations on the UNFCCC’s Local Communities and Indigenous Peoples Platform on traditional knowledge.

Ghazali is a board member of Drumbeat Media, an NGO that produces videos and documentaries for and of Indigenous Peoples around the globe.

Ghazali is the host of GOMALUKU a podcast in which he documents his process and talks with Indigenous Peoples’ representatives on a wide range of topics including their thoughts, failures, the lessons they’ve learned, the hard, their aha moments, and the sacrifices they made to claim their Rights.

Other places you can follow Ghazali online:

Medium: http://www.medium/com/gomaluku
Youtube: Ghazali Ohorella

Indigenous | Maluku | Idealist