After almost two years of delay, the final report on discrimination based on work and descent containing a set of draft principles and guidelines has finally been published as an official UN document. This is an important milestone in gaining international recognition for caste-based discrimination, one of the biggest, yet most overlooked human rights problems globally.
The decision to publish the final report on discrimination based on work and descent (A/HRC/11/CRP.3) was adopted by the Human Rights Council at its 10th session in March 2009. The final report was published during the 11th Council session, although only in English as a Conference Room Paper, in accordance with Human Rights Council decision 10/117 together with two other completed reports from the former Sub-Commission.
The final report contains a set of draft principles and guidelines for the effective elimination of discrimination based on work and descent. It took almost two years to issue the report, which was completed and submitted in 2007, due to the uncertainty of the transitional arrangements between different UN human rights bodies in the UN reform process.
Now that the report has been published as UN document, concrete steps are needed by the Human Rights Council to follow up on the findings and recommendations of the completed Sub-Commission study on discrimination based on work and descent. In the final report, the two Special Rapporteurs Prof. Chung and Yokota recommend that the Human Rights Council include the topic of discrimination based on work and descent among the studies to be undertaken by the Council. They also recommend the Council to adopt the necessary changes in the draft Principles and Guidelines and submit them to the General Assembly for adoption.
The International Dalit Solidarity Network urges the Human Rights Council to take action on these recommendations and ensure effective follow-up to the study in the Council. Moreover, all relevant state and non-state actors are recommended to support and make use of the draft UN Principles and Guidelines in its current format by taking immediate, concrete steps to implement the measures contained therein, as this constitutes the first comprehensive framework to effectively prevent and address this systemic human rights problem.
A comprehensive framework to eliminate caste discrimination
The draft UN principles and guidelines for the effective elimination of discrimination based on work and descent is a comprehensive framework developed to eliminate discrimination based on work and descent, the UN terminology for caste discrimination.
This soft law instrument is the first to establish principles and guidelines for how state and non-state actors can prevent and address this massive and systematic human rights problem affecting the lives of an estimated 260 million people globally. The drafting process of this framework is the result of a comprehensive UN study on discrimination based on work and descentundertaken by the former UN Sub-Commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights in 2004-2007.
Based on existing international human rights principles and obligations, the framework proposes general and special measures to be taken by multiple stakeholders. The draft UN principles and guidelines constitutes a strong tool to encourage specific anti-discrimination legislation and relevant policy measures for governments and their agencies, UN and other international agencies, educational institutions, academia, non-governmental organizations and the private sector.