Joint NGO statement at the Durban Review Conference (Item 9), 23 April 2009

Supported by NCDHR, IDSN, Swadikar, HDO, IMADR, JUP Nepal, NNDWSO, LWF, and Pax Romana

Mr. President,

This statement is delivered on behalf of a large group of Asian and international NGOs accredited for the Durban Review Conference to express our serious concern that the outcome document of the Review Conference fails to address the rights of persons affected by discrimination based on work and descent, including caste-based discrimination and the degrading practice of “untouchability”.

Discrimination based on work and descent is one of the largest and most serious human rights violations affecting 260 million people worldwide, especially in South Asia. It subjects millions of Dalits to a life without de facto equal rights and opportunities. While constitutional measures and affirmative action programmes have been enacted in some affected countries, we regret the weak implementation, situation of impunity, and lack of political will to effectively eliminate this form of discrimination.

We strongly reject the argument that caste-based discrimination is an “internal affair” which should not be addressed by relevant UN mechanisms, including this Review Conference. Caste discrimination is a global human rights concern, which cannot be kept outside the scope of the UN. While we agree that caste discrimination cannot be equated with racism, caste-based discrimination results in similar manifestations as reaffirmed by the CERD Committee in its General Recommendation 29. We therefore welcome the references to multiple forms of discrimination in the outcome document and the recognition of the contribution by the CERD Committee in this regard, and we welcome the references to caste-based discrimination made by Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, and Mauritius at this Review Conference.

These positive steps reflect the increasing international recognition of this issue by a growing number of affected countries and other member states in the UN, and by UN treaty bodies, Special Procedures, the UPR, and in the thematic study on discrimination based on work and descent by the former Sub-Commission. Building on this momentum, we urge member states to support the promotion of a comprehensive framework, the draft principles and guidelines for the effective elimination of discrimination based on work and descent, prepared by two Special Rapporteurs of the former Sub-Commission, when the completed reports of the Sub-Commission are to be considered by the Council. We are also encouraged by the commitment made by the High Commissioner to address this issue more effectively in South Asia, and we therefore look forward to the steps to be taken beyond this Review Conference at national, regional and international level.

Thank you, Mr. President.


Joint NGO statements at the second substantive session of the PrepCom, 6-17 October 2008

Submitted by the Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA), the International Dalit Solidarity Network (IDSN), International Movement against all forms of Discrimination and Racism (IMADR), the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) and the National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights (NCDHR)

Objective 1, section B: Victims of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance

Dear Madam Chair, and distinguished delegations,

It  is a great pleasure for the International Dalit Solidarity Network (IDSN) and the National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights (NCDHR) to be able to take the floor for the first time in the preparatory process leading up to the Durban Review Conference in this joint statement with other associated partners. The organisations are delighted  to have the opportunity to participate in this process, and we aim to do so in a constructive manner. We are deeply committed to promoting the objectives of the Durban Review Conference, and to give our inputs on the assessment of contemporary manifestations of racism since the first Durban Conference.

With this statement, the endorsing organisations would like to voice a concern falling under objective 1, section B (“Victims of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance”) about work and descent-based discrimination which affects approximately 260 million people in many parts of the world. This form of discrimination subjects people to a life without de facto equal rights and opportunities.

Due to the nature, severity and magnitude of this form of discrimination, it is something which should be reflected in the outcome of the Durban Review Conference and deserves the attention and recognition of all PrepCom members. The PrepCom members are therefore called upon to acknowledge this issue and we welcome current paragraph 105 referring to this particular form of discrimination [based on work and descent affecting millions of victims worldwide under this objective].

Thank you, Madam Chairperson.

Objective 3: Promotion of the universal ratification and implementation of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination and proper consideration of the recommendations of the CERD

Dear Madam Chair, and distinguished delegations,

The endorsing organisations would like to raise a particular issue under objective 3 concerning the proper consideration of the recommendations of the CERD. Under this objective, CERD has proposed that the Durban Review Conference takes into consideration the work done by CERD to address other forms of double discrimination. Since 2001, CERD has adopted several recommendations which recognize discrimination against the most disadvantages group, inter alia, Roma, indigenous peoples, descent-based communities, and migrant workers.

By including a reference to these general recommendations, the PrepCom recognizes the important role played by CERD in addressing contemporary manifestations of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance as they emerge through a dynamic interpretation of the Convention. For example, CERD General Recommendation 29 reaffirms a development in the interpretation of the term “descent” in article 1(1) of the ICERD. Several treaty bodies have addressed this issue in their concluding observations, and the issue has been taken up by charter-based bodies, both by several Special Rapporteurs and in the comprehensive study on discrimination based on work and descent mandated by the Commission on Human Rights in 2005.

We would therefore like to recommend that the reference to the CERD general recommendation 29 is specifically included  in the outcome document. In this way, the PrepCom would properly consider the recommendations of the CERD and recognize these important contributions by CERD since the first Durban Conference and the DDPA.

Thank you, Madam Chairperson.


IDSN input to joint NGO statement for the opening session at the 2nd PrepCom, 6-17 October 2008

In the working paper with “certain indicative elements” (A/CONF.211/PC/WG.1/CRP.2) of 3 September, a reference is made to regarding the meaning and scope of the definition of racial discrimination through CERD’s General Recommendation 29 on descent on page 4, paragraph 8. The reference to descent-based discrimination affirms a development in the understanding of article 1(1) of the ICERD, as confirmed in General Recommendation 29 which “strongly reaffirms that discrimination based on “descent” includes discrimination against members of communities based on forms of social stratification such as caste and analogous systems of inherited status which nullify or impair their equal enjoyment of human rights”.

In the contributions submitted by the Special Rapporteurs for the PrepCom (A/CONF.211/PC/WG.1/5) of 31 July 2008, the Special Rapporteur on racism reiterates this position in paragraphs 44-47. The SR: “highlights his serious concern about discrimination on grounds of caste and other systems of inherited status. He notes that an estimated 250 million people around the world are at risk of violations of civil, political, social, economic and cultural rights, including violence, marginalization and discrimination, on the grounds of caste and other systems based on inherited status.” And he argues that: “In the absence of such recognition it will not be possible to effectively address the serious human rights violations and discrimination suffered by individuals and groups on grounds of caste and other systems of inherited status.”

Furthermore, the Special Rapporteur on violence against women expresses in paragraph 48 her “concerns about the numerous complaints she receives about violence perpetuated against women on the grounds of caste, as highlighted in her communications with Governments, jointly with other Special Rapporteurs” (A/HRC/7/6/Add.1).

Altogether this clearly indicates that descent-based discrimination and CERD general recommendation no. 29 on this topic should be included in the agenda for the Durban Review Conference, as a valid ground for their inclusion under follow- up mechanisms as well as for other UN human rights mechanisms.