2030 Agenda is Characterised by Shallow Commitment to Racial Justice and Fails to Address Systemic Racism and Xenophobia

OHCHR

E. Tendayi Achiume, Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, today told the Human Rights Council that the 2030 Agenda was characterised by a shallow commitment to racial justice and failed to address systemic racism and xenophobia.

Ms. Achiume said her report analysed the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development through the lenses of racial justice and racial equality, and how the international development agenda perpetuated racial discrimination between nations. In the report, she cited widespread criticism of the global development system, which had been identified as a vehicle for economic inequality. The report concluded that the 2030 Agenda was characterised by a shallow commitment to racial justice and failed to address systemic racism and xenophobia.

She said the 2030 Agenda was incapable of fundamentally disrupting the dynamic of racially discriminatory underdevelopment embedded in the international economic order. Racial justice commitments were largely absent from the operationalisation of the Sustainable Development Goals, as seen through the lack of racial disaggregation in the Goals’ data targets and indicators. The persistent lack of resources, failure to collect disaggregated data and dearth of political willpower still limited progress toward racial justice in virtually all national and international contexts. The report laid out the urgent need for decolonising global economic, legal, and political systems.

Ms. Achiume also presented her report on racism and combatting the glorification of Nazism, neo-Nazism and related ideologies. She expressed alarm that the territorial aggression in Ukraine had been justified on the purported basis of eliminating neo-Nazism.

In the ensuing discussion, speakers said that the report was an important contribution to the implementation of a human rights-based approach in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda. The use of distorted allegations of neo-Nazism as a pretext to justify territorial aggression was unacceptable and seriously undermined genuine attempts to combat neo-Nazism. Development actors should prioritise the meaningful participation, representation, and leadership of racially marginalised peoples, including indigenous peoples, in the creation of alternative approaches to development and human well-being. The launch of the Special Rapporteur’s eight-point action plan on combatting anti-Semitism was applauded. All nations should recognise and combat anti-Semitism.

Some speakers thanked the Special Rapporteur for her report on combatting the glorification of Nazism and concurred with her condemnation of Russia for using the fight against Neo-Nazism as a false pretext to justify the brutal and unjustified aggression against Ukraine. Some speakers noted the rise of Russia-phobia, cementing conflict in Europe, and developing with groups at State level preaching intolerance and neo-Nazi ideology.

Speaking in the interactive discussion were Norway (on behalf of a group of countries), Brazil (speaking on behalf of a group of countries), European Union, Pakistan, Côte d’Ivoire (on behalf of the Group of African States), Jordan (on behalf of the Arab Group), Azerbaijan (on behalf of a group of countries), Brazil (on behalf of the Community of Portuguese-speaking Countries), China (on behalf of a group of countries), Israel, Peru, Ecuador, Libya, Cuba, Senegal, Iraq, Djibouti, Canada, Bangladesh, Morocco, United Kingdom, United Nations Children’s Fund, France, Venezuela, Benin, Namibia, Ukraine, Russia, Belgium, Australia, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, China, India, Algeria, Greece, Portugal, Belarus, Georgia, Afghanistan, South Africa, Bolivia, Argentina, Costa Rica, Malawi, Ukraine, Luxembourg, Lesotho, United States, Indonesia, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Barbados, Mauritania, Iran, Armenia, Türkiye, European Union, Belarus and Palestine.

Also speaking were the following non-governmental organizations: European Union of Jewish Students, Youth Parliament for Sustainable Development Goals, Al-Haq, Law in the Service of Man, International Youth and Student Movement for the United Nations, Minority Rights Group International, International Humanist and Ethical Union, Justiça Global, Friends World Committee for Consultation, Action Canada for Population and Development, and the Institute for Non-Governmental Organization Research.

Speaking in exercise of the right of reply were Russia and Ukraine.

The webcast of the Human Rights Council meetings can be found here. All meeting summaries can be found here. Documents and reports related to the Human Rights Council’s fiftieth regular session can be found here.

The Human Rights Council will next meet at 3 p.m. this afternoon to hold an interactive dialogue with the High Commissioner for Human Rights on the findings of the periodic report of her Office on the situation of human rights in Ukraine, and on the interim report of the Secretary-General on the situation of human rights in the temporarily occupied Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol, Ukraine.

Interactive Dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on Contemporary Forms of Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance

Reports

The Council has before it the report of the Special Rapporteur on Contemporary Forms of Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the Sustainable Development Goals and the fight against racial discrimination (A/HRC/50/60)

It also has before it the report of the Special Rapporteur on Contemporary Forms of Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance on Combatting glorification of Nazism, neo-Nazism and other practices that contribute to fuelling contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance (A/HRC/5/61)

Presentation of Reports

E. TENDAYI ACHIUME, Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, said that in 2020, following the murders of George Floyd, Breona Taylor and many others, the world had witnessed an unprecedented, transnational racial justice uprising, which set in motion processes of transformation led by racial justice advocates. Almost two years later, the backlash against racial justice and racial justice advocates globally remained a matter of urgent concern, placing indigenous human rights defenders, and human rights defenders belonging to racially and ethnically marginalised groups in danger. In line with their international obligations under international human rights law, Ms. Achiume urged United Nations Member States to take immediate and targeted action to address the backlash against racial justice and racial justice advocates.

Ms. Achiume said her report analysed the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development through the lenses of racial justice and racial equality. The report analysed how the 2030 Agenda and the international development agenda perpetuated racial discrimination between nations. Absent from the modern international development framework had been a recognition that legacies of colonialism were a root cause of the inequality between so-called “developed” and “developing” nations. As a result, entrenched international inequality was a defining feature of the international economic development framework.

In the report, Ms. Achiume said she cited widespread criticism of the global development system, which had been identified as a vehicle for economic inequality. Wildly unequal access to COVID-19 treatment and prevention technologies between States was an example of this and had racialised the impact of the disease within States. Despite the 2030 Agenda’s promising rhetoric, it largely failed to fulfil its pledge to “leave no one behind” when it came to the principles of racial equality and non-discrimination.

The report concluded that the 2030 Agenda was characterised by a shallow commitment to racial justice and failed to address systemic racism and xenophobia. Although progress was made in the adoption of the 2030 Agenda, the report concluded that the 2030 Agenda was incapable of fundamentally disrupting the dynamic of racially discriminatory underdevelopment embedded in the international economic order. Racial justice commitments were largely absent from the operationalisation of the Sustainable Development Goals, as seen through the lack of racial disaggregation in the Goals’ data targets and indicators. Analyses of the Sustainable Development Goals’ voluntary national reviews had shown that race and ethnicity were frequently ignored in State reporting on the attainment of the Goals. The persistent lack of resources, failure to collect disaggregated data and dearth of political willpower still limited progress toward racial justice in virtually all national and international contexts.

The report laid out the urgent need for decolonising global economic, legal, and political systems.

The second report focused on combatting the glorification of Nazism, neo-Nazism and related ideologies. The report noted the continued prominence of racist, nationalist and far-right political parties and organizations operating throughout various national contexts. These organizations typically used digital technologies such as social media to spread racist ideologies and promote exclusionary political platforms. Ms. Achiume warned the Council that the international community was experiencing a startling racial justice backlash and urged all States and civil society stakeholders to recommit to the human rights framework. She expressed alarm that the territorial aggression in Ukraine had been justified on the purported basis of eliminating neo-Nazism.

Discussion

In the ensuing discussion, speakers said the report was an important contribution to the implementation of a human rights-based approach to the implementation of the 2030 Agenda. The use of distorted allegations of neo-Nazism as a pretext to justify territorial aggression was unacceptable and seriously undermined genuine attempts to combat neo-Nazism. Development actors should prioritise the meaningful participation, representation, and leadership of racially marginalised peoples, including indigenous peoples, in the creation of alternative approaches to development and human well-being. The Permanent Forum of People of African Descent could help to strive toward these common ideals. It was essential to eradicate all forms of discrimination, and to overcome inequalities and eradicate the historic invisibility of persons of African descent. The current crisis had exacerbated these structural issues.

Human rights, development, and peace and security went hand in hand. There should be reinforcement of a human rights-based approach to sustainable development, recognising that respect for human rights was a pre-condition for the achievement of inclusive and sustainable development. Discussing and addressing the issue of colonialism in all its forms was important. Combatting racism and racial discrimination also meant acknowledging and addressing the legacy of past transgressions.

The practice of insulting Islam, Christianity, Judaism and any other religion was condemned, and there was an ugly trend of this manifesting in the world, which was ugly hate speech and led to discrimination. States should act to stop these before they were normalised. The international community should take meaningful steps to combat the growing plague of racism.

The protection and promotion of cultural diversity could help to combat racism, as well as unite humanity. COVID-19 continued to exacerbate racism, racial discrimination and xenophobia. All countries should step up their efforts to combat this. The Durban Declaration and Programme of Action was an historic milestone in the fight against racism, and the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals should be aligned with the Declaration. The involvement of all States was vital in implementing the 2030 Agenda. Some speakers expressed concern about the violation of the rights of indigenous people, in particular children, in some countries, which had committed genocide or had removed indigenous children from their families and communities in order to eradicate their cultural specificities. The Human Rights Council and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights should continue to attend to the violation of indigenous rights by the countries in question.

Many speakers applauded the launch of the Special Rapporteur’s eight-point action plan on combatting anti-Semitism. All nations should recognise and combat anti-Semitism. Racism, racial discrimination, discrimination and xenophobia needed to be combatted through concrete action, and States should take all measures in that regard. Diversity was a source of cultural richness. Whilst some continued to ignore the commitments undertaken in the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action, there was systemic racism, racial injustice, and hate speech in many parts of the world, particularly in Western countries, where there were human rights violations based on colour of the skin and ethnic origin, mostly due to historic injustices, including slavery. Racism was the consequence of centuries of exploitation and colonialism. The global economic structures and international development frameworks continued to perpetuate racial inequalities and failed to elevate concerns related to racial justice and non-discrimination, which continued to have devastating impacts on the lives of racially marginalised persons, including children.

Interim Remarks

E. TENDAYI ACHIUME, Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, responding to the questions and comments, said naming gender was absolutely essential when implementing the 2030 Agenda. Her human rights analysis in one report did not dwell on the intersectional analysis in the context of gender and the approach of United Nations agencies and States, as there had been striking progress in the approach of Governments and multilateral organizations. This progress was not perfect, but there had been gains made. The report presented called for similar attention to racial injustice and to take seriously that racial injustice required attention. Racial justice and gender justice could not be pursued in silos – an intersectional approach was essential.

On the most urgent effective interventions to combat racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, the report tried to highlight avenues of urgent intervention including maximising the emancipatory potentials of what could be done now, such as the collection of disaggregated data and diagnosing inequality on racial and ethnic lines. It was important for States to confront what the Sustainable Development Goals and the 2030 Agenda could not do, and engage with the fundamental limitations therein due to injustices embedded in the global development framework. Ms. Achiume said that anti-Semitism required a strong human rights response and a principled approach, which helped to fight against institutional approaches. Disaggregated data was essential for diagnosing the extent of the marginalisation of groups. These approaches were embedded in the Sustainable Development Goals but not in all indicators.

Discussion

Speakers raised such points as the need for established procedures to support victims of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia, and related intolerance. It was important to continue to work against all forms of extremism and populism. States needed to use the Sustainable Development Goals’ framework to promote racial equality and racial justice. All States needed to fully implement the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination and the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action. Racism was a scourge that societies must eliminate as it was one of the vilest forms of discrimination.

Some speakers thanked the Special Rapporteur for her report on combatting the glorification of Nazism and concurred with her condemnation of Russia for using the fight against Neo-Nazism as a false pretext to justify the brutal and unjustified aggression against Ukraine. Some speakers underscored the rise of Russia-phobia, cementing conflict in Europe, and developing groups at State level preaching intolerance and neo-Nazi ideology. The international community also needed to work to help ensure a peaceful Afghanistan, free from ethnic conflict, unlike what was happening now under the aegis of the Taliban, which was encouraging and perpetrating ethnic discrimination.

The disproportionate impact of COVID-19 within and among countries was also noted, with speakers saying that it mirrored colonial hierarchies, born out of failures to redress the effects of racism rooted in slavery, colonialism and apartheid. The term “vaccine apartheid” aptly described the phenomenon that had been in place for much of the pandemic. Resistance from high-income countries suggested that health inequities were not merely a result of weak international cooperation and solidarity, but a deliberate strategy to advance national and corporate interests at the expense of justice and equality, as was also very evident during the negotiation for the draft resolution on equal access to medicine before this Council for consideration.

The vision of the Special Rapporteur on the need for a paradigm shift and the implications that this would have for development and the inter-connectedness of racial inequality was applauded. Racism was a scourge that required attention due to its impact on the lives of those of ethnic and minority communities. For transformation to occur, there was a need for disaggregated data. Racial equality guaranteed by an international framework based on human rights required direct and indirect efforts by States to tackle the systemic causes of exclusion. Despite its many positives, the 2030 Agenda was incapable of ending the systemic discrimination embedded in the international agenda, and perpetuated the historic discrimination. Thus, the international order needed reform, as it was a major enabler and sustainer of racism.

Concluding Remarks

E. TENDAYI ACHIUME, Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, addressed the question of a data framework to assess racial inequality at international and national levels, which while possible, would require vast expenditure. However, guidance had been provided to what this would look like. The Durban Declaration and Programme of Action highlighted the importance of compiling disaggregated data and had been active in working towards a global framework. The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights had also provided guidelines on collecting disaggregated data and a human rights-based approach to data.

Ms. Achiume said while researching her reports, she was impressed by research and innovations being led by non-governmental organizations, some of which could be implemented by United Nations Member States. Expertise on this topic would come from groups that were racially and ethnically marginalised. An important starting point to combatting systemic racism was finding the common foundations, such as historical legacies. Reparations were an important piece in the fight against systemic racism. It was also crucial to find the points where systemic racism was embedded. Ms. Achiume regretted not to be able to respond to all questions due to time constraints and thanked all involved for their interaction.

Link: https://www.ungeneva.org/en/news-media/meeting-summary/2022/07/conseil-des-droits-de-lhomme-mme-achiume-insiste-sur-lurgente

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