While indigenous people have social, cultural, economic and political characteristics that are distinct from those of the dominant societies in which they live, they remain the most underprivileged and vulnerable groups of people.
The 5th volume of the State of the World’s indigenous peoples: Rights to Lands, Territories and Resources claims that the militarisation of indigenous peoples’ territories who are simply seeking to assert their land rights plays a major role in the violation of indigenous peoples’ rights to land.
“In Botswana and Zimbabwe, militarisation operations associated with conservation efforts have impacted the San since the beginning of the twentieth century, leading to the dispossession of lands and impoverishment,” states part of the report. The report also notes that the “fact that many indigenous territories in conflict and post-conflict areas are rich in minerals makes matters even more complex”.
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.
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.
The first publication of The State of the World’s Indigenous Peoples was published in 2009 and its major focus was on: Poverty and Well-being; Culture; Environment; Contemporary Education; Health; Human Rights and Emerging Issues. The report was well received and according to press reports, the publication revealed alarming statistics on indigenous peoples’ poverty, health, education, employment, human rights, the environment and more. This was the first United Nations publication and provided much needed information on the status of indigenous peoples throughout the world.