by Tawheeda Wahabzada
The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) refer explicitly to indigenous people in two places: Goal 2 (concerning productivity of small scale farmers) and Goal 4 (measuring gender parity in education), but to meet the SDGs commitment to leave no one behind, data are needed that go beyond tracking gender and age to identify all vulnerable groups, including indigenous peoples. Because indigenous people make up a small part of the total population in most countries—New Zealand is a notable exception—measuring their status and progress to the SDGs poses challenges for national statistical systems (NSS). In the United States, for example, the American Indian and Alaska Native (AIAN) population comprise 1.2 percent of the total population, and there are 567 federally recognized AIAN tribes, along with other indigenous peoples that do not have tribal affiliations.
At the 2016 International Open Data Conference (IODC), held last month in Madrid, Spain, several speakers emphasized the tendency for national statistics offices (NSOs) to consult with indigenous people without fully engaging and collaborating with them. During the Indigenous Open Data Summit and the Data + Indigenous session at IODC, Dr. Tahu Kukutai of the National Institute of Demographic and Economic Analysis, University of Waikato in New Zealand, argued that if we do not address the importance of open data for indigenous people, we will fail to address the commitment at the heart of the SDGs—to leave no one behind.
Including indigenous people:
Undercounting of indigenous populations remains prevalent, even in high-income countries. In New Zealand’s 2013 Census, the proportion of undercounted Maori people was 6.1 percent, which is higher than the undercounting of Asian (3 percent) and European (1.9 percent) populations. According to the US Census Bureau’s findings from the 2010 Census, “American Indians and Alaska Natives living on reservations were undercounted by 4.9 percent,” compared to the undercounting of Hispanic (1.5 percent) and African American (2.1 percent) populations.
Open Data Watch’s Open Data Inventory (ODIN) assesses the coverage and openness of official statistics including disaggregation by sex, age, and other relevant groupings. Although it does not explicitly consider disaggregation of data on indigenous peoples, links provided on the country profile pages permit a further review of published data finds little disaggregated data for indigenous peoples or other ethnic groups. An examination of ten countries selected from the United Nation’s second volume of the State of the World’s Indigenous Peoples, finds large gaps in the coverage of indigenous peoples. Table 1 shows the ten countries ranked by their overall ODIN score and reports whether country’s demographic, education, and health statistics are disaggregated by ethnicity or indigenous status. Even among the countries that have some indigenous data, many indicators are not disaggregated according to the ODIN’s representative indicators and recommended disaggregations. For example, Bolivia’s Instituto Nacional de Estadistica report data on the indigenous population disaggregated by sex and broad age groups, but the data are not disaggregated by five-year age groups. The Republic of Congo’s Institut National de la Statistique (INS) reported 2011 total fertility rate, but it does not report on other reproductive or other health indicators. Peru’s Instituto Nacional de Estadistica e Informatica is exceptional: its latest 2007 census on indigenous communities provides data on population by age groups (though not by five-year age groups), education staff, facilities, and attendance, along with health facilities and reported illnesses. Overall, there are significant gaps in indigenous health statistics. Without adequate health data on indigenous populations, we will fail to address the third goal of the SDGs: to ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages.
Table 1: Selected 2015 ODIN countries and availability of indicators on ethnicity or indigenous status
|Republic of Congo||103||Yes||Yes||No|
Opening indigenous data:
Censuses, surveys, and administrative data systems should be designed to provide sufficiently disaggregated data for indigenous people to monitor the SDGs and their own development goals. Data should be open for indigenous people to use in implementing socio-economic policies within their communities. To do this, NSOs must go beyond superficial engagement with target populations. In the spirit of openness, NSOs should increase engagement with indigenous peoples, allowing them a greater voice in data collection and dissemination. A strong, long-lasting commitment to engaging with indigenous populations entails building ties with indigenous communities and reaching out to collaborate with them.
Engagement with indigenous peoples can be incorporated in a country’s National Strategy for the Development of Statistics (NSDS), a powerful tool for planning, allocating resources, building stakeholder engagement, and advocating priority statistical sectors. New Zealand provides a good example. The NSO is already making an effort to provide sufficiently disaggregated data and to improve outreach to the Maori. The National Strategy for the Development of Statistics (NSDS) of New Zealand acknowledges that “there are important gaps in the portfolio of official statistics, especially economic, environmental, and Māori statistics.” To address such weaknesses, the national statistics system committed to having “Māori statistical needs and interests are identified, prioritized, and promoted across the Official Statistics System.”
The inclusion of indigenous statistical needs in the NSDS of New Zealand shows a key avenue for improving the role of indigenous groups within official statistics. Countries with significant indigenous populations should ensure their NSDSs address indigenous data gaps and pave the way for a greater role of indigenous communities in official statistics. Most importantly, NSOs should allow indigenous groups to participate in the creation and implementation of the NSDSs. This is the first step in cementing direct user-engagement. By incorporating indigenous user engagement in NSDS planning and implementation, NSOs will be held more accountable in the dissemination of data for indigenous people.
Data must go beyond conveying a story about indigenous people and should start serving their needs. Inclusiveness and openness will help give a voice to indigenous people.
 India’s Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation provides disaggregated data by Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes