The UN Human Rights Council and caste-affected governments are urged to support the new comprehensive legal framework developed by the UN to eliminate caste discrimination. These principles and guidelines will be presented at an event in Geneva, supported by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Dalits demonstrate in Geneva during the Durban Review Conference in April 2009. Photo: Gitte Dyrhagen

An unprecedented set of UN principles and guidelines to combat caste discrimination are to be introduced at a public meeting on 16 September during the 12th session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva.

A group of international NGOs, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Government of Nepal are joining forces with victims of caste discrimination at this event to inform governments about the content of the draft UN principles and guidelines for the effective elimination of discrimination based on work and descent (the UN terminology for caste discrimination).

This comprehensive framework is the first to establish principles and guidelines for how state and private actors can prevent and address this massive and systematic human rights problem. Caste discriminationseriously affects the lives of an estimated 260 million people, especially in South Asia where they are known as Dalits.

Human Rights Council must act

The draft UN principles and guidelines are contained in the final report on discrimination based on work and descent which was published by the Human Rights Council in May 2009. The public meeting is organised to kick-start the debate on further action that governments and the Human Rights Council must take to ensure follow-up to the UN study and, ultimately, the adoption of the UN principles and guidelines.

The International Dalit Solidarity Network recommends all relevant state and private actors to support and make use of the draft UN principles and guidelines, promote effective follow-up to the study in the Human Rights Council, and implement the recommendations contained in this comprehensive framework.

Support from UN High Commissioner for Human Rights

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Madam Navi Pillay, has agreed to support the event by issuing a statement, which will be read by Ms. Marcia V.J. Kran, Director of the Research and Right to Development Division on behalf of the High Commissioner. Madam Pillay has also set aside time to meet with a delegation of Dalit representatives in connection with this event.

The High Commissioner has previously shown her commitment to addressing the issue of caste discrimination as a human rights concern which requires action by affected governments and the international community. During her first official visits to India and Nepal she called upon the two governments to take leadership in the fight against caste discrimination. She also addressed this in the context of the Durban Review Conference.

Government of Nepal takes a lead

The Government of Nepal endorses the event with the representation of the State Minister for Ministry of General Administration, Mr. Jeet Bahadur Darjee Gautum, who will make an address about Nepal’s efforts to combat caste discrimination and the draft UN principles and guidelines.

At the meeting the content of the final report on discrimination based on work and descent will be presented by Professors Chung and Yokota, former members of the UN Sub-Commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights. Civil society representatives will give their perspectives on how the draft UN principles and guidelines can help eliminate key human rights concerns in their respective countries.

After the meeting there will be a press briefing with selected panelists for journalists.

The event is endorsed by the Government of Nepal, sponsored by The International Movement against all forms of Discrimination and Racism and co-sponsored by Anti-Slavery International, Human Rights Watch, Minority Rights Group International, Pax Romana/ICMICA, The Lutheran World Federation and the World Council of Churches in association with the International Dalit Solidarity Network.

Time and venue: 16 September 2009, 2-4 pm, Palais des Nations, Room XXIII, Geneva

See the programme for the public event in the Human Rights Council

Read the UN principles and guidelines for the elimination of castediscrimination