Statements by the International Movement Against all forms of Discrimination and Racism (IMADR) and IDSN brought caste discrimination to the fore as the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination celebrated the ICERD convention’s 50th anniversary on the 26th November.

The main aim of the event was to bring together States parties to the Convention to reflect on solutions in eradicating racism and contemporary forms of discrimination. Discrimination related to caste was given solid attention during the day as the importance of the issue was highlighted by speakers from the panel and raised by states and civil society from the floor during the interactive discussions.

IDSN was one of two civil society organizations, which made an intervention during the first session of the event, speaking from the floor. IDSN seized the opportunity to compliment the Committee for its work and affirmation that caste and analogous systems of inherited status fall under the   scope of the Convention as spelled out in   General Recommendation 29.  Conversely, IDSN reminded the Committee of the persistence of caste discrimination globally and the alarming rise in violence and atrocities committed against Dalits.

CERD members and other speakers, who have worked closely for the implementation of the Convention noted the challenges of caste discrimination in their speeches. Several UN member states, including South Africa and India, referenced caste discrimination.

Representing civil society actors, Nimalka Fernando from the International Movement Against All Forms of Racism (IMADR) put caste at the center of her speech, linking the work of the Committee and collaboration with civil society actors to day-to-day experiences of people affected by caste.

Recalling the spirit in which the Convention was drafted, Fernando finished her statement by referring to an opinion piece by the former High Commissioner for Human Rights Navy Pillay from 2009 calling to “tear down the wall of caste” in the same way Apartheid and slavery were eventually teared down.

In a similar spirit IDSN concluded its statement saying,

“We call on states, UN institutions and people, and those who stood behind the anti-apartheid movement, to align themselves for an equally important human rights cause. We thank the Committee and all the institutions and people across the world who have taken action and spoken out against caste discrimination and hope that this commitment to eliminating caste discrimination will find increased global support in years to come.”

Two written contributions are available on the OHCHR web page for the event, both related to caste-based discrimination.

The IDSN team in Geneva for the Forum on  Minority Issues  and  the ICERD 50th Anniversary also met with representatives of diplomatic missions and the OHCHR- as part of continuous efforts to engage the international community in the struggle to end caste discrimination.

More information

IDSN Statement – 50 years of ICERD – from paper tigers to global action

Webcasts from the ICERD Anniversary

Audio file of the speech by Nimalka Fernando, IMADR