The fourth edition of the ‘State of the World’s Indigenous Peoples’ (SOWIP) released by the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) says First Nations are insistently invisible in Botswana’s official statistics.
The UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (DRIP) forms the basis for developing new laws, policies and guidelines that uphold the rights of indigenous peoples. But since the Declaration’s adoption in 2007, only three countries in Africa (Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo and Republic of the Congo) have formally recognised indigenous peoples’ identity and rights.
Although the report did not explicitly mention Botswana, the report stated what was already obvious that the country was not doing enough with regards to treatment of Basarwa. “Various national courts—in Belize, Botswana, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Guatemala, Kenya, Mexico, the Russian Federation and other countries—have cited the Declaration in their decisions on cases involving indigenous peoples or have issued rulings aligned with the provisions of the Declaration,” states the report.
However, despite the slow progress, the report says more needs to be done to ensure the rights of indigenous peoples. During former president Dr. Ian Khama’s reign, the U.S State department labelled Botswana’s discrimination against the Basarwa a “principal human rights concern.” Also during his tenure, the Botswana government was condemned by Survival International, Botswana High Court, United Nations, the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights, amongst others, for the ill-treatment and eviction of Basarwa from their ancestral land.
Amongst other things, the State of the World’s Indigenous Peoples’ says there still remain a number of issues to be resolved including “legal and structural barriers to indigenous peoples’ full, equal and effective participation in political, economic, social and cultural life.”
The report also warns that failure to fully recognise the rights of indigenous peoples, including their rights to land, territories and resources, could probably result in lower standards of wellbeing among them.
“Too often, they have poor access to health care and education, resulting in lower life expectancy, higher poverty rates, and higher child and infant mortality rates,” states part of the report.
On statistics, the report underscores the need for data disaggregation, particularly to measure progress on the SDGs. The report also recommends census offices to incorporate survey questions on the size of indigenous populations and their situations; increasing targets and indicators on indigenous peoples in national data censuses and household surveys.