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HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL HOLDS INTERACTIVE DIALOGUE WITH THE SPECIAL RAPPORTEUR ON RACISM AND RACIAL DISCRIMINATION

2 July 2018

The Human Rights Council this afternoon held an interactive dialogue with E. Tendayi Achiume, Special Rapporteur on racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, who presented two thematic reports to the Council.

The annual thematic report, she said, focused on the issue of racial discrimination in the context of laws, policies and practices concerning citizenship, nationality and immigration.  States had long used access to citizenship and immigration status as a discriminatory tool to curtail the rights and benefits of marginalized groups, and statelessness was thus often the result of longstanding discrimination and racist and xenophobic behaviours, rooted in legal frameworks.  Presenting the report combatting glorification of Nazism and neo-Nazism and other practices that aid the spread of discrimination, Ms. Achiume urged States to explicitly condemn and eliminate racist policies, not remain silent on the issue of racism, and refrain from exploiting economic concerns and national security fears in order to justify racist and xenophobic practices.

During the interactive dialogue, delegations shared the Special Rapporteur’s concerns about the increased manifestations of extremist ideologies, including right-wing extremism and neo-Nazism, and the resurgence of the explicit racial superiority narratives that promoted intolerance, xenophobia and racism that harmed vulnerable communities.  They condemned the manipulation of national security fears by ethno-nationalist groups, and the targeting of refugees and migrants by racist policies and racially-motivated violence.  States must refrain from exploiting economic discontent and national security concerns to foster xenophobic practices and end impunity for crimes of racial discrimination.  Attempts to falsify history contributed dissemination of toxic narratives of extreme ideologies and created a fertile ground for neo-Nazi tendencies, they said, and underlining the importance of an inter-sectional approach to racism and xenophobia, rejected anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, and racial discrimination of people of African descent.

Speaking were the delegations of the European Union, Togo on behalf of the African Group, Hungary on behalf of a cross-regional group of countries, the State of Palestine, Colombia, Brazil, Pakistan, Norway, France, Belgium, Iraq, the Netherlands, Spain, Botswana, Tunisia, Bulgaria, Venezuela, Iran, Mexico, Costa Rica, Russia, Argentina, Cuba, Côte d’Ivoire, India, Ecuador, Slovakia, Latvia, United Nations Women, Togo, Ireland, Nigeria, Italy, Djibouti, Morocco, South Africa, and Paraguay.

Also taking the floor were the following non-governmental organizations: World Jewish Congress; International Movement against all Forms of Discrimination and Racism (IMADR); The Palestinian Return Centre Ltd; Minority Rights Group International; International Youth and Student Movement for the United Nations; Al-Haq, Law in the Service of Man; European Union of Jewish Students; Human Rights Law Centre.
 

The Council will next hold a general debate on racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance.


Documentation

The Council has before it the Report of the Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance (A/HRC/38/52).

The Council has before it the Report of the Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance (A/HRC/38/53).

Presentation of Reports by the Special Rapporteur on Contemporary Forms of Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance  

E. TENDAYI ACHIUME, Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, introduced two reports to the Human Rights Council: an annual thematic report focusing on the issue of racial discrimination in the context of laws, policies and practices concerning citizenship, nationality and immigration, and a report combatting glorification of Nazism and neo-Nazism and other practices that aid the spread of discrimination.  Ms. Achiume thanked the United Kingdom for the invitation to visit the country, and also thanked Brazil, Morocco, the Netherlands, Poland and Qatar for accepting her requests for visits.
 
The annual thematic report, she said, explained the legal obligations of States to eliminate and redress racial discrimination where citizenship, nationality and immigration were concerned.  International human rights law required States to take action to combat intentional racial discrimination, recalled the Special Rapporteur, noting that States had long used access to citizenship and immigration status as a discriminatory tool to curtail the rights and benefits of marginalized groups.  Statelessness was often the result of longstanding discrimination against minorities, indigenous people and religious groups, and racist and xenophobic behaviours often combined with national security concerns, rooted in legal frameworks, she said.

Turning to the report combatting glorification of Nazism and neo-Nazism, Ms. Achiume said it explained how those ideologies rejected racial equality.  In recent years, she said, the rise of right-wing nationalism and populism in some countries had aided the popularity of neo-Nazi ideology.  Another worrisome trend was the growing use of new information technologies in promoting long-discredited and offensive myths of racial superiority.  The reports included various recommendations, including to States to explicitly condemn and eliminate racists policies, as too many States remained silent on the issue of racism, concluded the Special Rapporteur, calling upon States and political parties to refrain from exploiting economic concerns and national security fears in order to justify racist and xenophobic practices.

Interactive Dialogue

European Union shared concerns over the resurgence of xenophobic and racist rhetoric that harmed vulnerable communities, and said it would continue to take steps to protect the rights of non-citizens.  How could an intersectional analysis to achieve substantive racial equality be enhanced?  Togo, speaking on behalf of the African Group, was greatly concerned over the manipulation of national security fears by ethno-nationalist groups, and the targeting of refugees and migrants by racist policies.  The Council should raise awareness for the full implementation of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action.  Hungary, speaking on behalf of a cross-regional group of countries, was deeply concerned about increasing acts of intolerance based on religion or belief around the world, and reiterated that anti-Semitism was a violation of the freedom of religion and a manifestation of racism and discrimination.  Anti-Semitic violence was an attack on the core values and identity of these countries, said the speaker, and urged Member States to pursue legislation to combat hate speech and violence.

State of Palestine said that exclusionary policies that affected specific groups must be considered as a breach of the prohibition of racial discrimination.  The impact of Israel’s closure and blockade of Gaza on family life and marriage rights was severe.  The State of Palestine invited the Special Rapporteur to assess the situation on the ground.  Colombia called attention to explicit racial superiority rhetoric that promoted intolerance and condemned all forms of racial discrimination.  In Colombia, complementary human rights mechanisms for migration and discrimination were in place.  Brazil said racial discrimination in the context of legislation was a global issue, and warned that States must not exploit economic discontent and national security concerns in order to justify xenophobic practices. 

Pakistan believed in the equality of humankind and a life of dignity and hope for all, and actively supported global efforts in combatting racial discrimination.  Pakistan played an important role in the implementation of the resolution 16/18 on combatting intolerance and xenophobia.  Norway shared concerns about increased manifestations of extremist ideologies, including right-wing extremism and neo-Nazism, which posed an unacceptable threat to, and specifically targeted ethnic, religious, or other minority groups.  France thanked the Special Rapporteur for linking the risk of statelessness with certain types of xenophobia and discrimination, and noted that in many cases, it was the regulatory and institutional framework that created statelessness.  France shared the concern and commitment to end statelessness.

Belgium recognized the continued spread of racist acts and hate speech around the world and reiterated its commitment and support to the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action, noting that it was working with South Africa to make progress on this issue.  Iraq emphasised the importance of ending impunity for crimes of racial discrimination as otherwise they might increase in a society.  All measures must be taken to underline the importance of fighting xenophobia, including the fight against terrorist groups that established new patterns of discrimination against women and minorities.  Netherlands shared the concerns highlighted by the Special Rapporteur’s report about the rise of ethno-nationalism and xenophobic ideologies and encouraged the condemnation of such xenophobic narratives.  The Netherlands underlined the importance of an intersectional approach to racism and xenophobia.

Spain, a signatory to the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, stressed the importance of ensuring that access to citizenship was not embedded in discrimination, and asked about effective measures to guarantee the exercise of rights to persons at risk of statelessness.  Attempts to falsify history contributed to dissemination of toxic narratives of extreme ideologies and created a fertile ground for neo-Nazi tendencies, said Botswana, and urged States to address issues of equality and economic opportunities.  Tunisia shared the concern about the worsening phenomenon of neo-Nazism and negative consequences of the increase of hatred and incitement to hate, particularly online.  Tunisia invited all States to implement the provisions of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination.

Bulgaria said that the fight against anti-Semitism would remain one of its core policy priorities and regretted that anti-Semitism continued to raise its ugly head all over the world.  Bulgaria had taken specific steps to combat anti-Semitism and hate speech including on the Internet, and was reviewing national legislation on anti-Semitism in cooperation with Jewish associations.  Venezuela shared the concern over the adoption of discriminatory laws, policies and institutional practices against certain groups of persons in accessing citizenship, and in migration.  The scandalous migratory situation in the United States and parts of Europe was a cause of concern as it violated all the principles established by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  Iran shared concerns about the growing presence of Nazism, neo-Nazism, fascism, and right-wing policies, especially in several European and North American countries.  The Islamophobic trends, including hate crimes, mosque attacks, and anti-hijab laws, remained a serious matter of concern, as well as anti-immigrant attitudes.  Mexico said that racist and xenophobic ideologies were being used to violate the rights of indigenous peoples, non-citizens and other minorities, and, condemning racist discourse, asked about good practices in implementing counter-terrorism policies.
 
Comments by the Special Rapporteur on Contemporary Forms of Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance

E. TENDAYI ACHIUME, Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, in response to questions raised on the intersectional approaches to combatting discrimination, stressed the need for States to consider the situation of those vulnerable groups that faced intersectional discrimination, and remarked that in many cases, lawmakers required additional education on what an intersectional approach entailed.  People of African descent experienced extreme forms of xenophobia and the problems they faced were rooted in long histories of racial discrimination, she said, urging States to speak out, condemn extremism and build trust with minority communities, who must be active participants in the construction of national identities.  The ongoing Global Compact on Migration led the Special Rapporteur to focus her thematic report on migration-related issues, she noted, calling upon States to seriously pursue the documentation of migrants to combat statelessness.  Future reports would focus on the spread of hate and intolerance on the social media platforms.  Emerging counter-terrorism frameworks must keep sight of racial equality and States must not pursue efforts that marginalised vulnerable groups.

Interactive Dialogue

Costa Rica said that ethnic nationalism was one of the key factors promoting racial discrimination and noted the importance of analysing structural causes of racism.  Costa Rica was the first Latin American country to analyse circumstances leading to statelessness, which prevented persons from exercising their fundamental rights.  Russia shared the views of the Special Rapporteur concerning the changing narratives of Nazism and neo-Nazism, and said that in Ukraine and the Baltic States, there were neo-Nazi marches and desecration of monuments to soldiers who had fought against Nazism during the Second World War.  Argentina worked on raising the profile of people of African descent and their contribution to the Argentinian culture, as well as on promoting their culture and identity as a means to countering stereotyped social images and promoting cultural diversity. 

Cuba joined the Special Rapporteur in the rejection of racist ideologies and the extreme right and condemned the fact that certain countries adopted discriminatory measures against refugees only because they belonged to a certain ethnicity or religion.  Côte d’Ivoire noted with concern the glorification of the Nazi ideology and its spread due to new technologies.  With view to the upsurge of racist acts, Côte d’Ivoire called on all countries to step up efforts to stop such tendencies.  India regretted that even in the present day and age, the attitudes and thought processes of the bygone era continued to foment racial hatred, xenophobia and segregation, perpetuating divisions among States and societies.

Ecuador agreed with the Special Rapporteur’s recommendations, particularly concerning the silence of States when it came to racism, and hoped that the Global Compact on Migration would incorporate the principles of equality and non-discrimination.  The High Commissioner had warned that nationalism was the most destructive force to imperil the world, noted Slovakia and asked how a meaningful cooperation could be established between social media platforms and governments in the fight against racism while respecting the right to freedom of opinion.  Latvia noted that in the report Latvian non-citizens were mentioned in the context of “former citizens of predecessor states” and explained that Latvia had to deal with a legacy of illegal occupation by the Soviet Union.  In order to avoid massive statelessness, Latvia had created a temporary legal status of Latvian “non-citizens” which guaranteed the same rights as the citizens.

United Nations Women said that 25 States continued to discriminate against women in their ability to confer their nationality on an equal basis with men; more than 50 denied women equal rights to acquire, change or retain their nationality, including the ability to confer it on their spouses.  Togo was concerned about the revival of racist and extremist ideologies, including neo-Nazism, and called upon States to remove any discriminatory provisions and policies.  Ireland remained concerned by the high levels of gender-based discrimination and asked the Special Rapporteur how she would encourage States to amend their citizenship laws to ensure that no one was discriminated against.

Nigeria strongly condemned all forms of racial discrimination, racism, stereotyping and racial profiling of people of African descent in all parts of the world, and remained concerned about the persistent multiple forms of racism against people of African Descent, and their socio-economic exclusion and marginalization.  Italy confirmed its full commitment to preventing and combatting all forms of discrimination, and underlined the importance of adopting an intersectional approach to racial discrimination with reference to citizenship, nationality and immigration laws.  Djibouti voiced concern about the normalization and spread of racist and xenophobic rhetoric, which was all the more worrying when it came from political leaders and heads of States.  Djibouti supported the Special Rapporteur’s call for the establishment of a civil society coalition to fight hate speech and intolerance.

Morocco had adopted a number of measures to fight and eliminate racial discrimination, and hoped to soon host a visit by the Special Rapporteur to work together to step up the national system to combat racial discrimination.  South Africa expressed concern about the rise of racism in established democracies, which was why racism was criminalized in South Africa.  It called on States to redouble efforts in the fight against racism.  Paraguay noted that the ideologies of racial superiority constituted an attack on the principles of equality and dignity for all people.  What would the Special Rapporteur recommend in the field of education to prevent the spread of neo-Nazi ideologies on the Internet? 

World Jewish Congress took note with concern of record-high levels of anti-Semitism, in an affront to the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action.  The fight against anti-Semitism had to be a shared commitment by all, while the ties between anti-Semitism and neo-Nazi groups had to be addressed.  International Movement against All Forms of Discrimination and Racism (IMADR) endorsed the Special Rapporteur’s timely recommendations to combat racial discrimination in the context of citizenship, nationality and immigration status, intersecting with gender, religion and other grounds, and noted with concern that many States failed to combat racial discrimination.  Palestinian Return Centre Ltd brought to the Council’s attention the discrimination and restrictions imposed on Palestinian refugees in Lebanon, whose laws and ministerial decrees had erected a series of legal and institutional barriers that deprived Palestinian refugees of the right to work, to social security, and to join Lebanese trade unions.
 
Minority Rights Group International welcomed the report which was a timely contribution to the #iBelong campaign to end statelessness by 2024 and highlighted one of the fundamental root causes of the persistence and perpetuation of the phenomenon of statelessness globally.  International Youth and Student Movement for the United Nations was alarmed by the increase of xenophobia and the use of xenophobic slogans in Europe to target fears of the population and promote Nazism.  Al-Haq, Law in the Service of Man said that racism against Palestinians had been institutionalized in Israel since 1948.  It was entrenched in the Law of Return which granted citizenship to any Jewish person worldwide, while no comparable law guaranteed the right of Palestinians to receive citizenship or the right of Palestinian refugees to return.

European Union of Jewish Students noted the dramatic rise in far-right and populist rhetoric across the world, and urged the Council to adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s widely endorsed working definition of anti-Semitism.  Human Rights Law Centre said that the denial of essential medical care in Australia had become the latest tactic used against the refugees indefinitely imprisoned on Manus and Nauru islands.  There must be an urgent parliamentary inquiry into the deliberate medical neglect and fatal consequences caused thus far.

Concluding Remarks

E. TENDAYI ACHIUME, Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, in concluding remarks, thanked the States for their engagement with the mandate and the reports presented.  The report on statelessness had signalled an important need to raise awareness of the challenges and the gaps in citizenship laws, she said and urged the States to consult her website which contained additional recommendations and detailed guidance on how to amend laws in compliance with the international human rights law.  She highlighted, however, that raising awareness was critical not only for the policy makers and legislators but for the public in general.  Accepting that a distinction between citizens and non-citizens was permissible, she stressed that this could not be the case where the differences were racially discriminatory; discrimination on the basis of race, ethnic and national origin were not permissible even against non-citizens. 

An intersectional approach should not be seen to undermine the goal of racial equality; the two went hand-in-hand, and, properly understood, intersectionality aimed to ensure that the experiences of racial discrimination by minorities discriminated also on the basis of gender and other status, were accurately addressed by legal and policy interventions.  The education to prevent the spread of neo-Nazi ideology among the youth was an urgent issue, she said, which would hopefully be addressed in an upcoming thematic report.  In the context of combatting neo-Nazi ideologies and racism in general, it was essential that racial, ethnic and other minorities targeted by hate were represented in national histories, stories, and national representation.  Indeed, there was an urgency to defend civic space and protect organizations and individuals that were doing the hard work in terms of combatting racism and extremism.  The Special Rapporteur welcomed the contributions by civil society and non-governmental organizations and encouraged them to engage with the mandate, and concluded by calling upon States to explicitly condemn and eliminate racism, including by tackling structures that resulted in racial discrimination, and also to speak up in the media and election campaigns, as well as in the Global Compact on Migration negotiations.


For use of the information media; not an official record

HRC/18/106E