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Namibian development policies failing to assist most marginalized minorities

27 January 2003

A new report from Minority Rights Group International (MRG) expresses serious concern over the treatment of minority communities in Namibia who remain disadvantaged, marginalized and at risk in a country of extreme disparities in wealth, high unemployment and dangerous levels of rural poverty. MRG’s report highlights the detrimental affects of development policies which fail to consult minority groups or consider the impact on their lives and means of livelihood.

Disadvantaged communities in Namibia typically lack access to basic education provision, employment, health services and shelter and are often exploited as sources of cheap labour and live in segregated conditions. MRG’s report establishes the need for participation of minorities in the policies which affect them and the crucial need to ensure that minorities and indigenous peoples are given strong legal rights to land in accordance with principles of non-discrimination.

Of particular concern is the government’s attitudes to problems encountered by the poorest and most marginalized communities including the 31,000 strong San (‘Bushman’) population who are traditionally hunter-gatherers. San life expectancy is some 22 per cent lower than the national average, they lack access to basic education and their income levels are the lowest in Namibia. A process of dispossession of their lands has left the San vulnerable and highly dependent on neighbouring communities (often as low paid labourers) since it has stripped them of their traditional livelihoods.

Minority Rights Group International calls on the Namibian government to ensure through policies including affirmative action that minorities and indigenous peoples are represented in local and national government and are able to participate fully in development programmes and legislation that affects them. Furthermore, the government should implement immediate measures to ensure that marginalized minorities and indigenous peoples including the San are given legal rights to land corresponding with areas traditionally inhabited by these peoples.

Notes for editors

  1. MRG’s report, ‘Minorities in Independent Namibia’ by James Suzman, is available online.
  2. Minority Rights Group International (MRG) is a non-governmental organization working to secure the rights of ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities and indigenous peoples worldwide, and to promote cooperation and understanding between communities.

For interviews, further information or copies of ‘Minorities in Independent Namibia’, please contact the MRG Press Office on [email protected].