27 April 2015
The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination opened its eighty-sixth session this morning, hearing an address by Yury Boychenko, Chief of the Anti-Racial Discrimination Section, Research and Right to Development Division of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. The Committee also adopted its agenda and programme of work for the session and paid tribute to Mr. Waliakoye Saidou of Niger, a Committee Member who passed away on 10 December 2014.
In his opening statement, Mr. Boychenko said that the world had taken great strides forward in the elimination of racial discrimination since the adoption of the International Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination in 1965. Yet racial discrimination against individuals and groups on the basis of their race, colour, descent, or national or ethnic origin was still a daily affair and persisted in every region of the world. Some of those achievements and challenges had been discussed in the context of the twenty-eighth session of the Human Rights Council, during which delegates raised awareness about the significant number of legislative changes which had occurred as a reaction to the Committee’s concluding observations. Delegates also stressed the importance of cooperation with civil society, which was one of the main sources to obtain information from the ground, and which was considerably contributing to raising awareness of the work of the Committee.
Mr. Boychenko remarked that on 1 January this year, the International Decade for People of African Descent had started, under the theme “Recognition, Justice and Development”, as proclaimed by the General Assembly, and stressed that the promotion and protection of human rights of people of African descent was a priority concern for the United Nations. The Durban Declaration and Programme of Action acknowledged that people of African descent were victims of slavery, the slave trade and colonialism, and continued to be victims of their consequences. The Programme of Activities for the Decade identified priority areas and specific actions, including education and awareness-raising about the history and contributions of people of African descent, participation and inclusion in all spheres of society, discrimination in the administration of justice, adoption of special measures, promotion of the right to development and other measures against poverty, access to quality education, employment, housing and health, and multiple forms of discrimination. The International Decade was a valuable opportunity for the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to focus attention on the situation of people of African descent as a particular group facing discrimination and to strengthen the protection of their human rights, said Mr. Boychenko, and thanked the Committee for their contribution to the adoption of the Decade and programme of activities adopted by the General Assembly.
Committee Experts expressed their appreciation for the report and the work of the Anti-Racial Discrimination Section and commended its active partnership with the Committee. Experts noted that the proposed adoption of a Declaration on the Rights of People of African Descent would enable a number of bodies working on racial discrimination to develop synergies, and said that it was important to expand cooperation at the regional levels between those bodies and agencies. In addition to people of African descent, due attention should also be given to people coming from Africa who suffered various forms of discrimination.
In his response to the comments raised by the Experts, Mr. Boychenko said that the Anti-Racial Discrimination Section tried to enhance collaboration with international and regional organizations and mechanisms, and noted that this largely depended on available resources. Regional bodies focused on issues of regional relevance and the Section played a role in supporting regional bodies with technical expertise and a global perspective on racial discrimination.
Jose Francisco Cali Tzay, Committee Chairperson, said that during this session, the Committee would review reports of six countries, namely France, Guatemala, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Sudan, Germany, and Denmark. The Committee would also consider two cases under communications, and would examine several urgent action requests.
The Committee will next meet in public at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, 28 April, to hold an informal meeting with non-governmental organizations from France, Guatemala and Bosnia and Herzegovina, whose reports it will examine this week.
For use of the information media; not an official record