Prominent UN officials took part in the commemorations of the 125th birth anniversary of Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, linking the issue of caste discrimination to the Sustainable Development Goals.

On 13th April 2016, the Permanent Mission of India to the United Nations in New York hosted a Special Event at the UN Headquarters to commemorate the 125th birth anniversary of Dr. B. R. Ambedkar, father of the Indian Constitution and human rights champion for the millions of people affected by caste-based discrimination.

United Nations Development Programme Administrator and Chair of the United Nations Development Group, Ms. Helen Clarke, who is among the candidates for the post as the next UN Secretary General, delivered the key note speech commemorating the legacy of Dr. Ambedkar. She noted that the visons and ideals of Dr. Ambedkar are as relevant today as when the Indian constitution was signed into law. “Reducing discrimination and exclusion in all its forms is at the very heart of the new Global Development Goals” Ms. Clarke said.

The event continued with a short film followed by discussion under the theme “Combating inequalities for the achievement of SDGs”. Panelists included Professor Stan Kachnowsky, Colombia University; Ms. Anupama Rao, Associate Professor, Colombia University and; Mr. Christopher Queen, lecturer, Harvard University. The debate had a strong emphasis on caste, recounting Ambedkar’s global impact, the inspiration he drew from the African-American Civil Rights Movement and his contribution to social justice and minority rights which, according to some of the speakers, has paved the way for the Sustainable Development Agenda adopted by the United Nation’s General Assembly last September.

The event can be streamed in its entirety via the following link to UNTV.

On April 14, the UN Special Rapporteur on Minority Issues Ms. Rita Iszák-Ndiaye, who presented the first ever comprehensive UN report on “minorities and caste based discrimination” to the Human Rights Council in Geneva last month, made a video statement wherein she venerated Dr. Ambedkar’s famous speech “The annihilation of caste” which harshly criticized the dichotomy between “inferior” and “superior” status of individuals on the grounds of caste. “I share Dr. Ambedkar’s view that this differentiation between categories of individuals, infringes upon the basic principles of universal human dignity and equality and leads to extreme exclusion and dehumanization of caste-affected communities, who to this day, are often among the most disadvantaged populations” said the Rapporteur.

See the full video statement made by the Special Rapporteur and related OHCHR article “Shadow of caste continue to violate all aspects of human rights”.

In addition to the event at the UN Headquarters the special day was commemorated by India’s representations around the world including in Geneva, Beijing, the United Kingdom, Guatemala, Indonesia and Denmark. See the official links to the embassies’ own event-posts from Kenya, Guatemala and Turkmenistan.