The 9th of August is set aside as a day to remember a group of people that have been forgotten for years and whose cultures and languages are at risk of being extinct. Indigenous people account for close to 370 million of the world’s population living across 90 countries. According to the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA) indigenous people make up for less than 5 percent of the world’s population and yet account for 15 percent of the world’s poorest people.
Indigenous people are said to speak an overwhelming majority of the world’s 7 000 languages and represent 5 000 distinct cultures. This population group has for years maintained social, cultural, economic and political characteristics that are different from the world’s most dominant societies. Regardless of their differences, all indigenous peoples from around the world share common problems related to the protection of their rights as distinct peoples. Natives have continuously sought recognition of their identities, way of life and their right to traditional land, territories and natural resources. Up to the present, indigenous peoples rights have for years been violated. Indigenous people are arguable amongst the most vulnerable and disadvantaged group in the world according to UNDESA.
The theme for 2018, international day of world’s indigenous peoples focuses overall on, ‘migration and movement’. This includes also the current situation of indigenous people, who as a result of losing their lands, territories and resources have been forced to migrate to urban areas seeking better prospects of life, education and employment. Additionally, some have also fled to other countries evading persecution and conflict in their home countries, alienating them from their tribal land and customs.
The indigenous peoples of Namibia include the San, the Ovahimba, Ovazemba, Ovatjimba, Ovatue and Nama. These communities experience myriad social, cultural and economic difficulties in relation to the mainstream populations of Namibia. The san people of Namibia are said to constitute approximately 1.3% up to 3.5% of the population. The majority of Indigenous people are said to have been dispossessed of their ancestral land and resources and often no longer have the rights over their territories. The Natives in Namibia are believed to be living in extreme poverty and their life expectancy is said to be way lower than the national average. The Draft white paper on the rights of indigenous people in Namibia even mentions that some of the San groups have completely lost their language whilst adapting languages of neighbouring groups.
The United Nations strives to make use of a human rights based approach to planning and policy making for development. This approach ensures that human rights principles, such as equality and non discrimination are met by duty bearers. The 10th SDG for example attempts to reduce inequalities for all peoples. This SDG includes aims to reduce the inequality amongst all population groups in Namibia. These aspirations are in-line with the second UNPAF pillar on Social Transformation which seeks to achieve equitable access to education, protection of rights and access of integrated social protection services by the most vulnerable groups.
Namibians and the rest of the international community must bend together in-order to protect the rights of indigenous people and ensure that their distinct and unique culture does not go extinct. UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres notes that, “the 2030 agenda for sustainable development must realize the rights of indigenous peoples across all the goals. Indigenous peoples must not be left behind.”