Wednesday, May 06, 2009

United against racism: Dignity and justice for all.

Doris Abdullah, the Church of the Brethren’s representative to the United Nations and a member of the NGO Sub-Committee for the Elimination of Racism, attended the UN Durban Review Conference in Switzerland on April 20-24. She has provided the following report:

I am using "successful" to describe the outcome of the conference because it accomplished its goal of having a world follow-up meeting to assess the 2001 Durban Declaration, which provided an important new framework for guiding governments, NGOs, and other individuals and institutions in their efforts to combat racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia, and similar forms of intolerance.

The final outcome document was not what I would have wanted, but the fact remains that the document was reached by consensus of the world body, including the nine nations that either walked out or otherwise protested the conference on the opening day. The final document did not offend any nation and that in itself gives an opening to civil society organizations, such as ourselves, to continue our fight for human rights for the people racially discriminated against such as the following long list:

One of the largest racially discriminated groups are the Dalits, victims of racial discrimination based in the caste system. Dalit is a caste group born with the identity of "untouchable" and "lower caste." Dalits number between 250 million to 300 million persons found mostly in India, 5.4 million persons in Nepal, and millions in other parts of Southeast Asia and Africa.

Racial discrimination against indigenous peoples, who number 370 million in 70 countries. Indigenous peoples have in common a historical continuity with a given region prior to colonization, and a strong link to their lands. They maintain distinct social, economic, and political systems with distinct languages, cultures, beliefs, and knowledge systems. Two of the many racially discriminated issues raised by indigenous people are climate change and access to safe drinking water.

Persons belonging to national, ethnic, religious, and linguistic minorities. The Roma people, found throughout Europe, are the persons most identified as racially discriminated against. Article 27 of the "International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights" states that "persons belonging to such minorities shall not be denied the right in community with the other members of their group to enjoy their own culture, to profess and practice their own religion, or to use their own language."

Women face multiple forms of discrimination. The majority of the world's poorest people are women, who are further affected by discrimination if they belong to minority groups. Women who are discriminated against on the basis of both gender and race are frequently subject to violence. The UN "Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women" (CEDAW) has been ratified by 185 states.

Migrants experience racial discrimination. It is estimated that more than 200 million people live outside their countries of origin. Irrespective of immigration status, migrants are entitled to human rights including economic, social, and cultural rights. There are state-criminalized migration offences throughout the globe. International treaties explicitly recognize that factors such as race, color, and national origin contribute to discrimination, exclusion, and disadvantages for migrants.

People of African descent. The UN Commission on Human Rights has created the Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent, a Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, an Independent Expert on minority issues, and the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, which have consistently taken up Afro-descendant issues. For 400 years, people of African descent were marginalized as part of the legacy of slavery and colonialism. Racism and racial discrimination have caused people of African descent to suffer exclusion and poverty. African descendants are disadvantaged in access to education, health care, markets, loans, and technology.

Others mentioned at the conference as victims of racism include the Buraku people of Japan, and the Palestinian people.

In 2001 the Durban Conference was attended by 18,000 people with 2,500 delegates from 170 countries including 16 heads of state. Only one head of state attended this year’s Review Conference--the President of Iran--but all 192 heads of member states were invited.

Not one of the nations that walked out because of Iran's remarks called what was said incorrect, but instead poured out their rage on the President of Iran personally and the conference as a whole. I believe that they merely did not want to confront the racism in their own countries.

Canada does not want to engage its indigenous population in dialogue about disputed lands, Israel does not want to talk about the segregation wall on Palestinian lands, the US does not want conversation about reparations for slavery, and Europe does not want to speak about the millions of people of color who have come to European countries since globalization and are denied equal access and basic human rights.

-- Doris Abdullah is the Church of the Brethren’s representative to the United Nations and a member of the NGO Sub-Committee for the Elimination of Racism.

Source: 5/06/2009 Newsline

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