Human Rights Council continues general debate on racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related forms of intolerance

OHCHR

The Human Rights Council this afternoon continued its general debate on racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related forms of intolerance, follow-up to and implementation of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action.

During the debate, speakers praised the global impact of the Black Lives Matter movement in the aftermath of the death of George Floyd, highlighting the need to reform police forces all over the world.  The challenges faced by Afro-descendants continued to be numerous, especially in developed countries where they continued to be victims of exclusion and discrimination.  Lack of access to vaccines would soon result in more discrimination against entire nationalities, many of which would be African.  Speakers also expressed concern about increased racial verbal abuse, hate speech, harassment and, specifically, deliberate physical assault and violence in public spaces against persons of Asian descent, as well as the stigmatisation faced by migrant workers during the pandemic.  Trans sex workers of colour were particularly vulnerable to abuse, speakers said, urging the Council to address the violence suffered by people of African descent of diverse sexual and gender identity. 

Speaking were Germany, France, Armenia, Venezuela, Brazil, Libya, Indonesia, Philippines, Russian Federation, Togo, India, Namibia, Pakistan, Bahrain, Cameroon, Nepal, China, Cuba, Bangladesh, Senegal, United Kingdom, Sudan, Malawi, Spain, Israel, Haiti, Iraq, State of Palestine, Jordan, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Ecuador, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Iran, South Africa, Egypt, Algeria, Azerbaijan, Montenegro, Syria, Botswana, Nigeria, Turkey, Djibouti, Chad, Organization of American States, Canada, Tunisia and Timor-Leste.

The following national human rights institutions and civil society organizations also took the floor: Office of the Human Rights Defender (Ombudsman) of Armenia, Geneva Centre for Human Rights Advancement and Global Dialogue; International Youth and Student Movement for the United Nations; Al Mezan Centre for Human Rights; Touro Law Centre, Institute on Human Rights and the Holocaust; International Federation for the Protection of the Rights of Ethnic, Religious, Linguistic and Other Minorities; Advocates for Human Rights; International Association of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists; Legal Centre for Arab Minority Rights in Israel; International Service for Human Rights; Al-Haq, Law in the Service of Man; Friends World Committee for Consultation; Minority Rights Group; China Foundation for Human Rights Development; Institute for NGO Research; International Association of Democratic Lawyers; B’nai B’rith; European Region of the International Lesbian and Gay Federation; Elizka Relief Foundation; World Jewish Congress; Coordinating Board of Jewish Organizations; Al Baraem Association for Charitable Work; Human Rights Watch; Centro de Estudios Legales y Sociales Asociación Civil; Ingenieurs du Monde; Institut International pour les Droits et le Développement; Conselho Indigenista Missionário; Global Institute for Water, Environment and Health; International Organization for the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination; Pasumai Thaayagam Foundation; Iraqi Development Organization; Geo Expertise Association; Solidarité Suisse-Guinée; Association d’Entraide Médicale Guinée; Rencontre Africaine pour la defense des droits de l’homme; Justiça Global; Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies; International-Lawyers.Org; Association Ma’onah for Human Rights and Immigration; International Federation for Human Rights Leagues; International Council Supporting Fair Trial and Human Rights; Khiam Rehabilitation Centre for Victims of Torture; African Green Foundation International; World Muslim Congress; International Buddhist Relief Organisation; Promotion du Développement Economique et Social; Sikh Human Rights Group; Universal Rights Group; Association des étudiants tamouls de France; and Association Thendral.

Ukraine took the floor in a point of order.

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 forty-sixth regular session can be found here

The Council will next meet at 9 a.m. on Monday, 22 March to conclude the general debate on racism and racial discrimination and hear the right of reply statements under the agenda item.  This will be followed by the opening of item 10 on technical assistance and capacity building, starting with the enhanced interactive dialogue on the oral updates by the High Commissioner and the team of international experts on the situation of human rights in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and thereafter the interactive dialogue with the Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in Mali and the interactive dialogue on the High Commissioner’s oral report on Ukraine.

General Debate on Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Forms of Intolerance, Follow-up to and Implementation of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action

The general debate on racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related forms of intolerance, follow-up to and implementation of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action started in a previous meeting and a summary can be found here.

Speakers praised the global impact of the Black Lives Matter movement in the aftermath of the death of George Floyd, highlighting the need to reform police forces all over the world.  The challenges faced by Afro-descendants continued to be numerous, especially in developed countries where they continued to be victims of exclusion and discrimination.  Speakers also expressed concern about increased racial verbal abuse, hate speech, harassment and, specifically, deliberate physical assault and violence in public spaces against persons of Asian descent, as well as the stigmatisation faced by migrant workers during the pandemic.  Greater international solidarity and cooperation was required to tackle the deep-seated scourge of racism.  Speakers drew attention to certain contemporary manifestations of racism such as hate speech on digital platforms and conspiracy-based insults related to the ongoing pandemic.  Islamophobia was another manifestation which was fanned by right-wing groups and amplified in some sections of mainstream media.  Speakers urged developed States to resolve structural and systemic issues with racism and violence against persons of African descent, welcoming their commitment but noting that actions and ongoing implementation were more important.

COVID-19 had had a disproportionate effect on migrants and asylum seekers.  Speakers called on all countries recovering from the pandemic to ensure that migrants and asylum seekers were included in the response and provided with vaccines.  If common challenges could not make everyone realise that human beings were equal, then they should forget about ending discrimination at any level – the development of the COVID-19 vaccines gave hope to the world, but when would developing countries be able to vaccinate their populations?  Lack of access to vaccines would soon result in more discrimination against entire nationalities, many of which would be African.  States had a moral duty to fight systemic racism and its legacies of colonialism and apartheid.  Historical challenges, as well as new ones, prevented the effective implementation of the Durban Programme of Action.  Speakers, regretting the toxic environment where the spread of hatred, bigotry, racial profiling and the fear of “the other” had become a daily reality, said the Durban Programme of Action had never been fully promoted by the Office of the High Commissioner and the United Nations secretariat.  It should be immediately published by the Office in the form of a brochure. 

Some speakers said the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action was one more attempt to turn the fight against racism into a fight against Jews.  Trans sex workers of colour were particularly vulnerable to abuse, speakers said, urging the Council to address the violence suffered by people of African descent of diverse sexual and gender identity.  Several speakers echoed concerns raised on the long-standing inequities that had been accentuated by the COVID-19 pandemic.  They noted with particular concern the stark racial disparities that existed in the enjoyment of the right to health.  Racism and anti-Semitism were fundamentally interconnected – as was the struggle against them, some speakers said.  Victim after victim, the response to racism and police brutality was empty rhetoric from those in positions of power, as speakers called on the international community to meaningfully enhance its efforts.  Racism enhanced the impacts of other man-made challenges such as poverty and climate change, in turn harming minorities’ health and their access to healthcare: to fight racism was to fight for social justice.  In 2021 people from certain demographics still felt the need to protest in order to be tolerated, as speakers proposed a Declaration on Diversity to take the Durban Declaration agenda forward.

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