ACCESSIBILITY AT UNOG A A A A The United Nations in the Heart of Europe

COMMITTEE ON THE ELIMINATION OF RACIAL DISCRIMINATION CONSIDERS REPORT OF URUGUAY

25 November 2016

The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination this morning completed its consideration of the combined twenty-first to twenty-third periodic report of Uruguay on the measures taken by the State party to implement the provisions of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination.

Introducing the report, Alejandra Costa, Director for Human Rights and Humanitarian Law at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Uruguay, stated that Uruguay’s steadfast commitment to the protection and promotion of human rights required it to regularly present and explain its progress in that regard.  Interaction with the treaty bodies allowed for a direct dialogue with the United Nations human rights system.

Federico Graña, Director of Sociocultural Promotion at the Ministry of Social Development, informed that, for the first time in 2014, Uruguay had recognized the discrimination and historical mistreatment of Uruguayans of African descent.  There was an eight per cent quota for persons of African descent in State institutions, but there was still a long way to go before it was fully achieved.  In 2014, the campaign “You Need to Know” had taken place, with a focus on the newly adopted Affirmative Action Act.  A Month of the Persons of African Descent had been established, while other important days, such as the Nelson Mandela Day, were also marked, all with the view of raising awareness in that regard.

In the interactive dialogue which followed, Committee Experts praised progressive policies and the leadership of Uruguay in many social areas.  They acknowledged the adopted legislation, including the Affirmative Action Act, but wanted to hear more about its implementation.  Information was sought about the definition of the crimes of racism and racial discrimination, and a number of court cases in that regard.  Experts wanted to know about the situation of refugees and migrants in Uruguay, as well as domestic workers, who were disproportionately migrants or women of African descent.  Questions were asked about concrete steps taken to combat structural discrimination, and about promoting and integrating Afro-Uruguayan and indigenous peoples’ cultures in education curricula.  Other issues raised by Committee Experts included the status of indigenous people’s ancestral lands, the institute of prior consultation, the provision of free legal aid, and the representation of racial minorities in public and private sectors. 

Alexei Avtonomov, Committee Expert and Country Rapporteur for Uruguay, in closing remarks, said that for the first time in Uruguay’s history, people of indigenous or African descent appeared in statistics and were recognized as such.  It was encouraging that the State party was ready to respond to the historical challenges.  

Ms. Costa, in her concluding remarks, said that the quality of life of all Uruguayans had improved in recent times; specific policies were now being identified with the view of bringing an end to structural inequalities.  Observations and recommendations which would be received from the Committee would be very much valued.

The delegation of Uruguay included representatives of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Civil Service Office, the Ministry of Social Development, the National Institute for Women, and the Permanent Mission of Uruguay to the United Nations Office at Geneva.


At the beginning of today’s meeting, Anastasia Crickley, Chairperson of the Committee, stated that today marked the beginning of a 16-day campaign against gender-based violence.  The intersection between gender-based violence and racial discrimination needed to be continuously looked into and combatted.  Sometimes, oppression against women was obvious, but sometimes it assumed more subtle forms. 

The next public meeting of the Committee will be held on Monday, 28 November at 3 p.m., when the Committee will start to consider the eighteenth and nineteenth periodic report of Togo (CERD/C/TGO/18-19).

Report

The combined twenty-first to twenty-third periodic report of Uruguay can be read here:  CERD/C/URY/21-23.

Presentation of the Report

ALEJANDRA COSTA, Director of Human Rights and Humanitarian Law at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Uruguay, expressed satisfaction that Uruguay was presenting its report one year after its submission.  Uruguay’s steadfast commitment to the protection and promotion of human rights required it to regularly present and explain its progress in that regard.  In 1971, Uruguay had presented its initial report to the Committee, reminded Ms. Costa.  Interaction with treaty bodies allowed for a direct dialogue with the United Nations human rights system.  As recognized in the report, Uruguayans of African descent had been historically discriminated against.  Structural inequalities affecting that group were still persistent in spite of the progress made. 

FEDERICO GRAÑA, Director of Sociocultural Promotion at the Ministry of Social Development, stated that it was only in the mid-twentieth century that Uruguay had zealously started to address racial discrimination.  While legal changes had been made, those had not been sufficient to change the lives of persons of African descent in Uruguay.  For the first time in 2014, Uruguay had recognized the discrimination and historical mistreatment of Uruguayans of African descent.  There was an eight per cent quota for persons of African descent in State institutions.  The new Government had taken office in 2015 and elaborated a plan of action 2015-2020, in consultation with civil society.  A consultative council with civil society had been established in 2015, including several organizations representing Afro-descendants.  Different working groups focused on the difficulties in achieving the prescribed quota and in the participation of Afro-descendants in the education sector.  In 2014, the campaign “You Need to Know” had taken place, with focus on the Affirmative Action Act.  Informative brochures had also been produced and disseminated through numerous local offices of the Ministry of Social Development and civil society partners.   In 2016, 20 per cent of State bodies which needed to meet the quota requirement had undergone relevant training.  Special days had been held to raise awareness in different parts of the country.

In the first two years of its implementation, the affirmative action law had had a different impact in different areas.  For example, there had been a significant increase in the number of grants awarded to students of African descent; 13 per cent of all persons who received grants declared themselves to be of African descent.  In the executive branch of the central government, there were 1.7 per cent of persons of African descent; their percentage in the judicial branch stood at 1.1 per cent, while it was zero per cent in the legislature.  The National Civil Service Office had proposed that Parliament adopt changes to the law to empower the Office to check any vacancies for public office.  Until very recently, there had been no statistics on social demographics which took ethnic background into consideration.  Out of the total population of 3.28 million, according to the latest data, 11.5 per cent defined themselves as black.  Regarding social programmes, Mr. Graña explained that there was a high level of vulnerability in Afro-households, and the percentage of Afro-Uruguayans with access to such assistance was higher than that of others.  Uruguay was currently working on developing a protocol on preventing school dropouts.  Training campaigns on preventing racial discrimination had been carried out in classrooms.  A didactic guide on teaching on Afro-descent had been prepared this year.      

Regarding access to justice, the national police had been undergoing training since 2008.  Housing had been provided to 17 families in Montevideo, as a form of compensation for Afro-descendant families who had gone through forced evictions.  In July, the Month of the Persons of African Descent had taken place and was now added to the calendar of commemorative days and months; other important days, such as the Nelson Mandela Day, were also marked.  Academic research days on African descent had been carried out, while seminars had been held to look into institutional racism.  The idea was to raise awareness of that problem, in order to break down the myths contributing to stereotypes and persistent inequalities.

Questions by Experts

ALEXEI AVTONOMOV, Committee Expert and Rapporteur for Uruguay, expressed hope that for the next time the State party would be able to meet the deadline in submitting its periodic report.  The methodology in the report under consideration was praised.

Uruguay was generally acknowledged as an advanced country with e-government, which allowed for the involvement of more people in governing.  In the nineteenth century, genocides against indigenous people had taken place in Uruguay, which made them invisible today.   For the first time in 2011, Uruguay’s census had recognized indigenous people as such, and they could identify themselves as such.  That made it easier for the Committee to understand the ethnic breakdown of the country. 

Uruguay had had periods of emigration, followed by periods of immigration and emigration.  What were the reasons for the current emigration trends?

More information was sought on the collective presidency of Uruguay, which had been in place until 1993.

The makeup of the Uruguayan population was mixed, with people of European descent along with those of African origin and indigenous people.  There were Afro-communities in the north of the country, in addition to Montevideo.  Was the Afro-Uruguayan population homogenous or were there different subgroups?

There was a gap in education between Afro-descendants on one hand, and all other Uruguayans on the other.  Why were Afro-Uruguayans, especially girls, leaving school early, and were there any special measures in place to stop that?  The rate of teenage pregnancy among girls of African descent was higher than that of other teenage girls – what was the Government planning to do in that regard, to help those girls attain their education? 

Mr. Avtonomov noted that illiteracy was a problem to be dealt with.  What was the illiteracy rate breakdown among different groups in the country?

A question was also asked about indigenous peoples living on their ancestral lands.  Did any of them still live there?  Some territories should be assigned as ancestral lands.  Were there any plans to address the specific needs, particularly cultural needs, of Afro-descendants and indigenous people living in urban areas?

Were the Criminal Code provisions on racism invoked in courts and did they lead to actual processes and convictions? 

After the Brasilia Declaration, which made it possible for migrants to protect their rights, had migrants been subjected to discrimination, including in the work place?  Were reports of harassment of migrant workers more of a commonplace occurrence or an exception? A question was asked about whether Uruguay intended to accede to the International Labour Convention on Domestic Workers, which particularly affected migrants and Afro-descendants.  Free advisory services seemed not to be sufficiently staffed.  The delegation was asked to provide statistics on the number of services provided and how many people had been assisted that way. 

Details were asked about the inter-institutional commission with the task of monitoring recommendations of treaty bodies, created by a presidential decree in 2011, which had not met regularly since then.

Did the delegation have any information concerning the Roma/Gypsy community in Uruguay?

Another Expert said the history of Latin America was a history of the exploitation of natural resources.  He asked which indigenous peoples were officially recognized in Uruguay.   

Did the Uruguayan State have political will to ratify the ILO Convention 169, which referred to the rights of indigenous peoples in independent countries?  Prior consultations ought to occur before the implementation of any project?  Did those people have the right to self-identify?

A question was asked about ancestral sites and provisions in place to recognize them.

The Expert inquired whether the State party was taking stock of the contributions of indigenous people to the Uruguayan culture.

An Expert acknowledged and praised the existence of affirmative action in Uruguay.  How were existing laws being implemented?  For example, had only one person been convicted for promoting racial hatred and strife?  How many people had been punished under the law against hate speech?

What resources were dedicated to Uruguay’s indigenous peoples, he inquired?  How many people had benefited from the State’s housing programmes? 

The delegation was asked to provide data on the percentage of the prison population who were people of African descent.  Did the police profile that population?

There was a lack of definition in Uruguay’s legislation on what exactly constituted racial discrimination.  While Uruguay admittedly had good laws, they were often not implemented as well as they should be.

It was a good start that the State recognized its problems, another Expert opined.  Turning to the question of employment, he noted that only 2.7 per cent of posts in certain ministries were filled by people of African descent, and those were frequently lower-level positions.  Were there any provisions for the private sector?  There seemed to be subtle racism in giving jobs. 

What measures were being taken in the field of education to prevent inequalities and high dropout rates of students of African descent?

If there were a large number of domestic workers of African descent, and only two complaints on discrimination on the grounds of race, something was missing.  Was there a problem of underreporting?  What was the State party doing to encourage people to report abuse?

A question was also asked about the intersectionality of discrimination, for example Afro-descendants who were lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender.

An Expert asked for a clarification of the term “e-governance”.

He opined that Latin America had benefited most from the Durban Declaration.   Since the law on quotas was a recent one, it was difficult to speak about its successes or failures. 

People who came from a mixture of cultures, i.e. people of a mixed race, also ought to be covered by the census.

Another Expert said that incitement to hatred, whether racially or religiously motivated, or triggered by sexual orientation, was considered an aggravating element.  On the ground, however, there had been only one registered case of discrimination, which meant that there was a gap between the spirit of the law and its application on the ground. 

He also brought up the issue of legal aid and wondered if there was a financial qualification before legal aid was provided.  Was there a legally defined threshold of poverty?

Several Experts noted the lateness of Uruguay’s periodic report, while some said that the Secretariat had failed to translate the core document from Spanish.

Very rarely were there countries which recognized that they had erred in their past.  In that regard, Uruguay was to be congratulated for its acknowledgement of historic mistakes against indigenous people and people of African descent.  While the focus of the report was on the Afro-Uruguayans, others, such as indigenous peoples, were somewhat neglected.  What had happened to their ancestral lands?  Most of them lived in urban areas.

The Expert noted that the history of Uruguay was at times tragic.  Had the country been able to reflect that properly in school textbooks?  Did school children have a chance to learn about genocide, and how was colonization explained, she wondered?

The report of Uruguay was truly positive and constructive, said another Expert.  Given that there had been a plethora of actions to reconnect Uruguay and Africa, the delegation was asked to elaborate on the results of such efforts.   

The State party recognized the existence of structural discrimination against Afro-Uruguayans.  What was the State going to do about it, given that the rate of poverty of Afro-descendants was more than double that of other Uruguayans?  What was Uruguay doing to implement the Sustainable Development Goals?

With recognizing slavery as a crime against humanity, ground had been set for the emblematic law on affirmative action, which generated great expectations.  Could the delegation explain the discrepancy between the adopted quotas and the actual presence of Afro-Uruguayans in public institutions, asked the Expert? 

A question was asked on how far the reform of the Criminal Code had gone.  The delegation was again asked why Uruguay had not ratified ILO Convention 169.

The issue of migrants was raised by an Expert, who wanted to know more about the country’s migration and refugee policy.  How was Uruguay going to integrate foreign families into its society?  Had the issue of refugees not been addressed by Latin American countries as a whole?

An Expert said that Uruguay was called upon to define racial discrimination in line with the Convention.  Had courts’ decisions enforced the Committee’s decisions?

In June 2012, a national human rights institution had been established, on which Uruguay was congratulated.  Had the institution been called on to participate in the drafting of the report?  Had the institution issued an activity report since 2012?

The delegation was asked to provide an update on the report on the implementation of the national plan of action to combat racism.

The phrase “positive discrimination” was used in the State party’s report, but it was a contradictory term, which should be dropped and replaced by “affirmative action” or “special measures”. 

An Expert asked for details on the areas of cooperation between Uruguay and African countries. Why was the Commission to Combat Racism called “honorary”?

Another Expert noted that most domestic workers were Mexican migrants, which in itself was a sort of discrimination. 

Information was sought about the representation of ethnic and racial minorities in Parliament and municipal councils.

Did indigenous peoples have their own organizations, asked the Expert?

Another Expert inquired what kind of prejudices were conveyed by the media, and whether there was a body that could monitor discrimination in that sector and issue recommendations to the media.

Replies by the Delegation

The delegation said that in 2014 Uruguay had sent a core document to the United Nations, which had never been issued.  In 2016, an updated document had been prepared and submitted.

The International Labour Organization had used the experience of Uruguay to create Convention 189, and Uruguay had been the first country to adopt it.

The General Inspectorate for Labour was one of the oldest mechanisms used to oversee labour laws and conditions in Uruguay.  Decrees from 1967 and 1977 gave the Inspectorate broad powers of oversight, inspection and investigation.  The Inspectorate could close workplaces when needed.  When a non-governmental organization had submitted a complaint over the recruitment of Bolivian migrant workers, the Inspectorate had received a warrant to inspect a house where they had allegedly been.  The police had also intervened, and eventually four Uruguayan institutions ended up intervening in that case of worker exploitation.  An administrative dispute court had recently upheld a decision that the Bolivians were recruited illegally and acknowledged the vulnerability of migrant domestic workers.

Uruguay was among the leading countries in the world with the number of peacekeepers per capita.  Uruguay was currently involved in two peacekeeping operations.  Uruguay was committed to multilateralism and the principles of international peace and security.

A didactic guide was being put together, and the process had been slightly delayed as it had to be approved by the National Education Council.

The Foreign Ministry coordinated the preparation of national reports to human rights treaty bodies, in cooperation with the national human rights institution and civil society organizations, explained the delegation.

Software had recently been put in practice to allow for a more efficient following up of treaty body and Universal Periodic Review recommendations.  The tool would soon be made public.  Regular consultations with a large number of stakeholders were part of it, all with the goal of making the reporting system more professional.       
                                        
Comment by the Chairperson of the Committee

ANASTASIA CRICKLEY, Chairperson of the Committee, stated that today marked the beginning of a 16-day campaign against gender-based violence.  The intersection between gender-based violence and racial discrimination needed to be continuously looked into and combatted.  Sometimes, oppression against women was obvious, but sometimes it assumed more subtle forms. 

Replies by the Delegation

The delegation said that criminal legislation in Uruguay was arranged in such a way to prevent certain developments from occurring.  The idea was not only to deal with crimes, but also to anticipate them.  Hate crimes and hate speech were both punishable crimes.  There had to be due process as those were not minor offences.  Such crimes could be related to unfair dismissal on the grounds of racism.  Free legal aid in criminal cases was available.  Uruguay had taken on board a prosecutorial system, which provided full support to victims and gave them guarantees on the justice they could obtain. 

Uruguay was under a constitutional rule of law, and all organizations – public and private alike – needed to follow core principles.  If such organizations did not apply norms and instead expressed hate and discrimination, both penal and financial responses were in place.  In Uruguay, non-governmental organizations could also bring cases forward. 

All discrimination was considered completely illegal, stressed the delegation.  Individual complaints could be submitted to the Attorney General, and crimes of discrimination could be denounced by any person.  Reform of the Criminal Code was underway right now, but there was no legal vacuum in the meantime.  The Code of Criminal Procedures would also be accordingly adjusted.

The delegation explained that in 2015, out of 314 complaints received, some 26 per cent related to racial discrimination.  The majority of them occurred in the workplace and schools.   An honorary commission dealt with those complaints.

There were no rulings on racial discrimination, said the delegation.

It was stated that there were no sustained campaigns to raise awareness on racial discrimination, but various individual outreach initiatives had taken place. 

Eighteen was the age of criminal responsibility.  Adolescents deprived of their liberty were given different treatment from that of adults.  Some seven per cent of adolescents in prisons were of African descent, which was lower than the overall percentage of Afro-Uruguayans.  The Ministry for Social Development had a programme to assist adolescents when they left the juvenile prison system.  Until today, one third of participants in that programme were of African origin.

Turning to the issue of education, the delegation said that there was a race-based gap in school dropout rates. The dropout rate gap on ethnic and racial grounds had decreased, but still persisted.  Thanks to an electronic system, all families had an opportunity to register their children for the following year, even if the ongoing school year had not yet been finished.  The system allowed for tracking children’s academic progress and possible absenteeism.  Uruguay was trying to develop a strategy which would address the existing discriminatory behaviour in the educational system.  A didactic strategy was being crafted under a pilot project.

Adolescent pregnancies were a reality which cut across all populations in the Americas.  Structural racism and sexism particularly affected girls of African descent, making it a multidimensional issue.  Uruguay had still not conducted proper research into the subject.  Girls of African descent started having children earlier and had more children than other women, and their families had less resources, explained the delegation.  Currently, the Government was developing an inter-sectoral programme to address and prevent unintended adolescent motherhood.   

There was a prevalence of violence based on gender, which particularly affected women of African descent, more than half of whom reported having experienced violence.   

A delegate said that in primary schools, from the age of five, the subject of ethnic and racial matters was covered through the subject of education on the family.  From the third year of school, slavery was mentioned, and then different identities and beliefs were also discussed.  The influence of African and European music in national folklore was also discussed.  The contribution of Afro-descendants to the revolution was included in the curricula.
 
Competitive competitions were held to enter public service, all the while taking into consideration quotas for Afro-Uruguayans.

While there were programmes in place to reverse structural poverty, major challenges still remained, with many variables at play, the delegation acknowledged.  In the country as a whole, three per cent of Afro-descendants were illiterate, while the rate stood at 1.7 per cent for the rest of the population.

Uruguay had historically been a country open to immigration and refugees.  As of 30 September, there were 370 refugees in Uruguay and more than 300 awaiting to receive the status of refugees.  Some 28,000 residency permits had been issued to foreigners between 2011 and 2016.  Access to temporary residency was very rapid and it took only 48 hours after arriving to the country and expressing desire to reside there.  The rationale was to avoid having people in irregular situations.  Those requesting refugee status would also be given residency, and would have access to free education and health care on an equal footing with Uruguayan nationals.  The hardest area to deal with was housing, not only for immigrants but Uruguayan nationals as well. 

Statistics showed that some 38 per cent of recently arrived migrants worked in jobs requiring low qualifications; and the rate of unemployment stood at 9 per cent for migrant men and 18 per cent for migrant women.

Under the Brasilia Plan, resettlement plans for refugees were in place.  Uruguay was trying to widen its resettlement programme for Latin American refugees. 

Turning to the question of indigenous populations, it was explained that they were not identifiable as ethnic groups, but some of them were trying to achieve recognition in the history of the country.  Their historical contribution was underestimated.  Uruguay had received and accepted, during the Universal Periodic Review, recommendations on ratifying the ILO Convention 169, with the aim of starting internal consultations on that subject.  The Convention could still be ratified as there was still no negative decision in that regard, explained the head of the delegation.

Unemployment among youth was the highest for indigenous youth, followed by Afro-descendants and white Uruguayans.  Those who had not completed school had the highest rates of unemployment. 

There was a national plan in place to combat discrimination, but it had not received satisfactory input from civil society.  The State understood that there had to be a greater consensus in that regard, and to include input from all stakeholders, including, for example, Afro-Uruguayan women. 

Uruguay was one the pioneers in introducing legislation to combat trafficking of persons, stressed the delegation. 

Domestic employment seemed to particularly affect migrants; there was a current court case underway.  Afro-descendant women were disproportionately presented in that sector, and there were guidelines on how to help them move forward, including reinsertion in schools and greater social security.

Uruguay had not been very diplomatically present in sub-Saharan Africa, said a delegate.  From 2010 onwards, the country’s foreign policy had been redefined, and Africa was given much more priority.  Uruguay was taking concrete steps in that regard, and had opened embassies in Angola and Ethiopia, which included a representation to the African Union.  Uruguay was also involved in the initiative “South Atlantic Zone of Peace and Cooperation”, which brought together a number of South American and African countries. 

Follow-up Questions by Experts

KUT GUN, Committee Expert and Follow-up Rapporteur, reminded the delegation that previous concluding observations specifically requested Uruguay to submit a follow-up report, which had not been done yet.  

ALEXEI AVTONOMOV, Committee Expert and Rapporteur for Uruguay, acknowledged the active engagement of Uruguay in peacekeeping operations around the world.  Uruguay was a member of the Security Council, after being overwhelmingly voted in by the General Assembly.

Noting that today marked the beginning of a 16-day campaign against gender-based violence, he asked if there was a mechanism in place to protect and promote the rights of women.

Another Expert asked if teenage girls were allowed to continue with school if they were pregnant.

An Expert did not understand how there could be indigenous peoples without communities.  How were the authorities consulting with them in the process of prior consultation?

It was good to hear that Uruguay was saving the cultural expression of Uruguayans of African descent, but it was equally important to save the people themselves.  Uruguay should not embrace cultural practices without doing the same for their own African citizens.

The delegation was asked by several Experts to provide data on the percentages of Afro-Uruguayans and indigenous persons in prisons.

What seemed to be missing was a national policy to fight racial discrimination, instead of the current several individual programmes.

One Expert opined that planning was welcome and necessary, but implementation was more important, because people were suffering while the authorities were conducting their planning and consultations.

More information was sought on how the State would intervene when legal entities engaged in discriminatory behaviour.   How were complaints procedures facilitated for victims? A question was also asked on actions taken to combat discrimination in the informal economy.

The delegation was asked to provide more details about the status of independent human rights institutions in Uruguay.

What was being done in terms of social policy to aid underprivileged Afro-Uruguayan groups?

A question was also asked about the prevalence of mixed marriages between white and black Uruguayans. 

Replies by the Delegation

The delegation informed that Uruguay’s Embassy in Addis Ababa was only several months old and the Ambassador was still in the process of being accredited.

There was still no strategy for the continuation of education for schoolgirls who became pregnant, which was admittedly a problem in the country.    

On the other hand, Uruguay had a programme to combat gender-based violence and was very proud of it.  Ethnic and racial elements were included in the draft bill on gender-based violence, stated a delegate.  All institutions dealing with women in situations of domestic violence received adequate human rights training. 

The delegation stated that the legacy of indigenous and African cultures had been taken out of the history of the country for a long time. 

There were no indigenous communities living together as such, reiterated the delegation.  Because of the need to go through a national tripartite mechanism, the ILO Convention 169 had not yet been ratified, and was unlikely to be ratified in the near future. 

It was explained that there was an intention to secure the comprehensive protection of women, which would include combatting violence and labour discrimination.

An overall, comprehensive public policy on combatting racial discrimination was an overarching challenge, and something that had to be worked on.   The issue should not be dealt with only sector by sector.  Just a decade earlier, Uruguay had not been dealing with those issues at all.  The authorities needed to remain vigilant and active, and seek out input from all players involved.  It had to be ensured that the public policy adopted was adequate in dealing with Afro-descendants.

The delegation stated that Uruguay had special police officials trained to look into discrimination cases by legal entities.  Whatever kind of body committed such acts would suffer the consequences.  The laws might be on the books but were not 100 per cent applied in practice, which was a challenge that had to be dealt with.  Uruguay was a highly unionized country, and trade unions, which played an important role, had their own complaint mechanisms.  Encouraging people to lodge complaints and then helping them during legal proceedings were two ways to promote accountability. 

Uruguay had a good judicial system, but there was a challenge before it to increase awareness of racial violence and discrimination.  There was no full understanding of what all the problems and their causes were.  Appropriate answers would then need to be found.

The Human Rights Institution, an autonomous body, had submitted its contribution to the report under consideration.  The Institution was currently moving to new premises; it had the budget that it requested.

Regarding quotas for access to public jobs, the delegation reiterated that for Afro-descendants the quota stood at eight per cent, but that had not been met over the years, thus more work remained to be done in that regard.  There were no quotas for the private sector, except for persons with disabilities.

An effort was underway to bring the subject of the rights of people of African descent down to the grassroots, so that those people themselves appropriated these rights and become proactive.  No concrete surveys in that regard had been undertaken yet.

The delegation informed that currently there were two Afro-descendants in the Chamber of Deputies.

A delegate stated that there were, of course, instances of mixed marriages, but the power-balance in such marriages ought to be looked into.

Adolescents in detention were completely separated from adults, reiterated the delegation.  Seven per cent of imprisoned adolescents were Afro-Uruguayans.

Concluding Remarks

ALEXEI AVTONOMOV, Committee Expert and Rapporteur for Uruguay, said that the dialogue was open and frank on both sides.  There were problems for indigenous communities, who had been forcibly displaced during the genocide.  It was thus necessary to help rebuild their community conscience and awareness, even though the majority of those people now lived in urban areas, which made the task a bit harder.  For the first time in Uruguay’s history, people of indigenous or African descent appeared in statistics and were recognized as such.  It was encouraging that the State party was ready to respond to the historical challenges.  Problems which remained related primarily to the promotion of the rights of those two communities, in particular women.    

ALEJANDRA COSTA, Director for Human Rights and Humanitarian Law at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Uruguay, appreciated the dialogue which helped identify areas where progress had been made and where there were still bottlenecks.  The quality of life of all Uruguayans had improved in recent times; specific policies were now being identified with the view of bringing an end to structural inequalities.  Observations and recommendations which would be received from the Committee would be very much valued and would contribute to future progress.  The observations would be disseminated to national authorities and civil society stakeholders.    




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CERD16/030E