Ninth session of the UN Forum on Minority Issues: “Minorities in Humanitarian Crisis” 24-25 November 2016
The 9th session of the Forum on Minority Issues took place from November 24-25 2016, under the theme “Minorities in situations of humanitarian crisis”.
The Forum was divided into 5 main themes related to the protection of the rights of minorities in crisis response and prevention, based on a set of draft recommendations prepared by the Special Rapporteur, inspired by her latest report to the UN General Assembly.
Dalits and other groups affected by caste-based discrimination are generally more exposed to disaster and less likely to receive humanitarian aid.
Deepak Nikarthil from National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights (NCDHR) and Bhakta Bishwakarma from Nepal National Dalit Social Welfare Organization (NNDSWO) participated in the Forum on behalf of IDSN to advocate the necessity of addressing caste discrimination in humanitarian response and deliver statements commenting on the draft recommendations.
Nikarthil spoke under item 3 of the Forum discussion on: “Respecting minority rights as a means of preventing or mitigating the impact of humanitarian crisis”. Nikarthil recommended the Forum and national mechanisms to explicitly recognize caste based discrimination as an exclusionary variable in disaster management, as well as in disaster risk reduction and to focus on disaggregated reporting on caste by the governments and humanitarian stakeholders across the spectrum of interventions from disaster prevention, preparedness, response and recovery.
Commenting on item 5. which was focused on ensuring durable solutions for minorities in crisis recovery, Bishwakarma recommended states to ensure the establishment of proper security measure following disaster to prevent trafficking of Dalit and minority children and provide special attention to the needs of landless Dalit and minorities for a sustainable recovery process.
Pirbhu Lal Satyani from Pakistan Dalit Solidarity Network was in Geneva as part of the OHCHR minorities fellowship programme and delivered a statement for Item 4. On “protection of minorities under humanitarian crisis”. Satyani recommended the Government of Pakistan to consider inclusion of Dalits and minorities as vulnerable groups in the National Policy Guideline on vulnerable groups in disasters.
IDSN has been working with caste discrimination in humanitarian disaster for a number of years as groups considered to be of lower castes are often prevented from receiving aid as a result of exclusionary social practice combined with lack of disaggregated data and public records of the people belonging to these groups. In 2013, IDSN published the booklet: “Equality in Aid” containing examples of good practices, guidelines and recommendations for organizations and governments to consider caste discrimination in distribution of humanitarian aid.
IDSN news article: (In)Equality in Aid discussed at the 9th session of the Forum on Minority Issues
9th session of the Forum on Minority Issues including draft recommendations, agenda and background documentation
Equality in Aid: addressing caste discrimination in humanitarian response
The Special Rapporteur’s report
Bakhta Bishwakarma statement
Deepak Nikarthil statement
Eighth session of the UN Forum on Minority Issues: “Minorities in the Criminal Justice System” 24-25 November 2015
In 2015, the eighth thematic session of the Forum on Minorities Issues was held in Geneva from November 24-25. This year’s session was dedicated to the issue of minorities in the criminal justice system. During its thematic discussions the forum considered the legal framework and key concepts, minorities and the exercise of police powers, challenges of criminal justice systems in addressing the needs and demands of minorities and the root causes of discrimination in the administration of justice.
3 Prominent Dalit Human Rights Defenders presented statements relating to the draft recommendations, which constituted the basis for the Forum discussion. President of the Feminist Dalit Organization (FEDO) Durga Sob participated as a panelist for the event. In her statement she underlined the importance of proper implementation of existing laws to eliminate caste discrimination and untouchability practices, and encouraged decision makers to support civil society and awareness raising campaigns to improve access to justice for people affected by caste based discrimination.
General Secretary of the National Dalit Movement for Justice (NDMJ) Ramesh Nathan delivered a statement under the session on “Minorities and the exercise of police powers”, while Navsarjan Trust director Manjula Pradeep gave a statement “Addressing the root causes of discrimination in the administration of justice”.
To promote the inclusion of “caste” on a par with other minority groups IDSN submitted a suggestion for inputs for the final recommendations.
The Recommendation of the Forum included one reference to caste. Recommendation 48 under section 3 on ” Investigations into crimes committed against minorities -minorities as victims” included a recommendation for caste-based discrimination to be considered in relation to remedies for minority women victims of gender based violence: “who may face multiple stigma and intersecting forms of discrimination with regard to their minority origin (including caste)”.
- Draft recommendations and other documents from the Forum can be found at the Forums own webpage
- See also the IDSN article “UN Minority Forum: Dalit rights defenders deliver statements on shocking lack of justice for Dalits”.
- All statements delivered at the forum
Seventh session of the UN Forum on Minority Issues: “Preventing and addressing violence and atrocity crimes targeted against minorities” 25-26 November 2014
The focus of the seventh thematic session of the UN Forum on Minority Issues, held in Geneva on 25-26 November 2014, was on “Preventing and addressing violence and atrocity crimes targeted against minorities.” The Forum considered legal frameworks and key concepts, the root causes of violence and atrocity crimes against minorities, improving prevention of violence and atrocity crimes against minorities, essential measures for resolution, protection and security after violence breaks out and avoiding renewed violence through building the peace and managing diversity.
Caste was subsequently included in the Recommendations of the Forum. It was recommended for States to address the situation of those who face stigmatization and dehumanisation on the basis of their caste as it results in exploitation, abuse and exposure to violence. And, for States to collect data disaggregated by caste. The Special Rapporteur on Minority Issues, Ms. Rita Izsák reports back to the Human Rights Council with these final recommendations at its 28th session in March 2015
IDSN input to the draft recommendations – Violence and Atrocity crimes against Dalits
A set of draft recommendations was prepared in advance of the Seventh session of the Forum. IDSN submitted suggestions for recommendations and language on preventing and addressing violence and atrocity crimes against Dalits that IDSN would like to see reflected in the paper. These recommendations draw on relevant sections of previous submissions and UN observations and recommendations, including from the Special Rapporteurs on Minority Issues, Violence against Women, Racism, Water and Sanitation, Religion, Human Rights Defenders, Extrajudicial executions, Assembly and Association; CEDAW, CERD, CRC, CESCR, CCPR; the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the UN Draft Principles and Guidelines for the Effective Elimination of Discrimination based on Work and Descent
Ms. Thilagam Ramalingam from India was invited by the OHCHR to speak on violence and atrocity crimes against Dalits under agenda item 6 “Avoiding renewed violence – building the peace and managing diversity.” Ms. Ramalingam is Program Director of EVIDENCE; an organization advocating for the rights of marginalised in Tamil Nadu. She specifically coordinated the Research titled “Atrocities against Dalit women and Access to justice” in 2011.
> Statement on Caste based gender violence – Dalit women’s security and access to justice by Ms Thilagam Ramalingam, EVIDENCE / IDSN
Several other activists from caste-affected countries participated in the UN Forum on Minority Issues to highlight violence and atrocity crimes committed against Dalits and other caste-affected communities and especially Dalit women. The following statements were delivered at the Forum:
- Statement on Violence against Dalits and religious minorities in Pakistan by Mr. Pirbhu Lal Satyani of the Pakistan Dalit Solidarity Network (PDSN) / IDSN
- Statement on Violence against Dalits in Nepal by Mr. Dan Bahadur Biswokarma of the Dalit Welfare Organization and participant in the OHCHR 2014 Minorities Fellowship Programme
- Statement on Violence against Dalit women by Mr. Taisuke Komatsu, UN Advocacy Coordinator at the International Movement Against All Forms of Discrimination and Racism (IMADR)
- Statement on Violence against the Al-Akhdam in Yemen by Mr. Sami Al-Naggar, representative of the All Youth Network for Community Development
Second thematic session of the UN Forum on Minority Issues: Effective political participation
The focus of the second thematic session of the UN Forum on Minority Issues, held in Geneva on 12-13 November 2009, was on ”minorities and effective political participation”. The Forum considered current practices and ways to increase the effective participation of minorities including, among other issues, the impact of discrimination on the political participation of minorities; meaningful representation/representation and empowerment; obstacles to the political participation of minorities; and quotas, reserved seats or other mechanisms to ensure representation of minorities.
The Independent Expert on Minority Issues, Ms. Gay MacDougall, will report back to the Human Rights Council with recommendations from this event at its 13th session in March 2010.
A panel discussion on “Minority Women and Effective Political Participation” was held by Minority Rights Group International (MRG) in collaboration with Gay MacDougall, UN Independent Expert on Minority Issues, on 12 November. A panel of speakers outlined some of the main obstacles to minority women’s political participation. Manjula Pradeep from Navsarjan Trust, Gujarat, India, highlighted the situation of Dalit women in India, and gave her perspectives on how to these obstacles to effective political participation of minority women can be overcome and their rights can be realized.
Several other Dalit activists from India and Nepal participated in this event to highlight the problems facing Dalits, especially Dalit women, when trying to access equal political participation. The following statements were delivered at the Forum:
- Statement on Dalits’ access to political participation by Mr. Thirumaavalavan, Member of Parliament (Lok Sabha), India
- Statement on Obstacles to Political Participation for Dalit women by Jayshree Mangubhai, researcher on Dalit Women’s Right to Political Participation in Rural Panchayati Raj – A study of Gujarat and Tamil Nadu by Jayshree Mangubhai, Aloysius Irudayam sj, and Emma Sydenham. Published by IDEAS, Justitia et Pax, Equalinrights (2009)
Enhancing Dalits’ access to political participation
IDSN has prepared briefing notes and specific recommendations on enhancing Dalits’ access to equal political participation and on the human rights situation of Dalit women:
First thematic session of the UN Forum on Minority Issues: Education
The first thematic session, held in December 2008, had a focus on minorities access to education. Ms. Meghna Guhathakurta from Bangladesh was invited by OHCHR to speak about Dalit rights and access to education. Ms. Guhathakurta is the Executive Director of Research Initiatives and she contributes actively to the work of the newly formed Bangladesh Dalit and Excluded Rights’ Movement (BDERM).