20 November 2017
The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination this morning opened its ninety-fourth session during which it will review anti-discrimination efforts by Serbia, Algeria, Jordan, Australia, Slovakia and Belarus. The Committee heard an address by Orest Nowosad, Chief, Groups in Focus Section, Human Rights Treaties Branch, Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, and adopted the session’s agenda and programme of work.
In his opening statement, Mr. Nowosad noted that this session was taking place at a time when the basic principles and rights enshrined in the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination were increasingly being challenged, notably by the so-called nationalist marches which had recently taken place in many countries. Deeply worrying was the normalization of intolerance in the public sphere, including by very senior leaders, and the recent high-profile expressions of racism.
The plight of migrants and refugees remained a matter of deep concern, said Mr. Nowosad and recalled the words by the High Commissioner for Human Rights: “We cannot be a silent witness to modern day slavery, rape and other sexual violence, and unlawful killings in the name of managing migration and preventing desperate and traumatized people from reaching Europe’s shores.” Mr. Nowosad went on to recognize the tremendous efforts of those States, civil society partners and national human rights institutions which were gathering their forces to counter dangerous attempts to withdraw into a narrow identity, to target, stigmatize, stereotype or profile on the basis of race, colour, descent, national or ethnic origin. More than ever, they needed the support of international human rights treaty bodies and this Committee in particular, he stressed.
During the session, the Committee would hold a half day thematic discussion titled “Racial discrimination in today’s world”, focused on racial profiling, ethnic cleansing and current global issues and challenges in addressing racial discrimination. In order to ensure that this work was shared with – and influenced by – a global audience, the Committee would make full use of social media to connect with stakeholders outside Geneva during this event. On the issue of resources, Mr. Nowosad said that the General Assembly’s Fifth Committee was presently considering the first report by the Secretary-General on the implementation of resolution 68/268 on treaty bodies strengthening, and was expected to issue a decision in December. Should it decide to adopt the Secretary-General’s recommendations, this Committee would have 9.7 weeks of meeting time - instead of the current ten - and would be expected to undertake 19 country reviews in 2018.
In closing, Mr. Nowosad paid tribute to the five outgoing Committee Experts, including its current Chair, Ms. Crickley, saying that, without any doubt, they would continue to fight for equality and against racial and other forms of discrimination in their future endeavours.
Anastasia Crickley, Committee Chairperson, in her opening remarks, recalled the wisdom of those who wrote the Convention and the importance of its article 1 which denied racial discrimination in purpose and in effect, and which particularly resonated in the context of ethnic cleansing on the basis of race and in the context of racial profiling. Often, racial profiling in effect was racial discrimination but those institutions applying it seldom recognized that this was in fact what they were setting out to do, noted the Chair. Ms. Crickley then addressed the global toxic environment, and the ongoing discrimination against groups that had always experienced racial discrimination: people of African descent who continued to be discriminated against as a legacy of slavery; indigenous peoples who suffered racial discrimination as a legacy of colonialism; Roma and Travellers, particularly in the European context; as well as groups which continued to experience multiple and intersecting forms of racial discrimination, including Muslims, and in particular women. The context was thus not only challenging but destructive: there was an increasing urgency in addressing racial discrimination and xenophobia and naming them for what they were.
During a recent meeting in New York, the Chairperson said she had addressed the events in Myanmar and had asked this country to ratify the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination as a mechanism to address a number of issues that the country was facing. Furthermore, the Committee would need to redouble its efforts towards the universal ratification of the Convention, and work on this issue with a small number of countries not yet parties to the Convention. These were challenging times: challenging because of the insidiousness of racial discrimination and because of the toxic context in which the greedy were getting even greedier, said the Chairperson. She concluded by stressing the Committee’s experience and the commitment which was necessary for it to play its unique role in this context.
The Committee then proceeded to adopt the agenda and the programme of work of the ninety-fourth session.
More information on this session can be found here.
The Committee will next meet in public on Tuesday, 21 November at 10 a.m. for an informal meeting with non-governmental organizations from Serbia and Algeria, whose reports will be reviewed during the week.
For use of the information media; not an official record