Caste discrimination is a gross human rights violation which due to its nature, severity and magnitude should be fully recognised at the Durban Review Conference and in its follow-up mechanisms, as it has been recognised in other human rights mechanisms in the UN system.
It is therefore regretful that the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action (DDPA) and the Durban Review Conference have failed to explicitly address this type of discrimination, thereby effectively silencing the much needed debate on caste discrimination under the framework of the DDPA. While some relevant references to this form of discrimination were included in the first drafts of the two documents, IDSN regrets that these references were systematically excluded during both negotiation process, both in the case of the World Conference Aganst Racism in 2001 and the Durban Review Conference in 2009.
In a joint position paper, IDSN, Human Rights Watch, the National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights and other supporting organisations call upon all UN member states to address the issue of caste-based discrimination at the Review Conference. In the paper the organisations propose key recommendations on how to express global recognition of this massive human rights problem in the context of the conference and beyond.
Human Rights Watch has also highlighted the need for tackling the causes and consequences of this kind of discrimination by, among other things, encouraging delegations to welcome the work carried out by CERD on discrimination based on descent, to review CERD’s General Comment No. 29 on Descent, and to include reference to it as a guiding opinion in defining and combating descent-based discrimination. Read the position paper by Human Rights Watch from January 2009.
IDSN was accredited for the Durban Review Conference at the 2nd PrepCom session in October 2008, despite objections by the Government of India. The official position of the Indian Government was that organisations like IDSN working for the elimination of caste discrimination should not be allowed to participate in the DRC. The European Union and other UN member states argued against this objection, thereby ensuring the participation of IDSN in the DRC and sending a clear signal about the support for broad NGO participation at the Review Conference.
The Durban Review Conference was held in Geneva between 20-24 April 2009 with the purpose of reviewing the implementation of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action (DDPA).
Members and associates of IDSN have since the World Conference against Racism (WCAR) in Durban in 2001 worked to promote international support and recognition of this problem. Despite heavy civil society pressure at the WCAR there was however no reference to caste discrimination in the final outcome document (DDPA).
Nevertheless, the DDPA confirms that states have an obligation to promote and protect the human rights of victims suffering from discrimination on the grounds of descent (para. 2, 79, 123, 171) and multiple forms of discrimination (para. 2, 69).
The Durban Review Conference has five objectives:
- Review of progress and assessment of implementation of the DDPA by all stakeholders at the national, regional and international levels, including the assessment of contemporary manifestations of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance;
- Assessment of the effectiveness of the existing Durban follow-up mechanisms and other relevant United Nations mechanisms dealing with the issue of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance in order to enhance them;
- 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 Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination;
- Identification and sharing of good practices achieved at the national, regional and international levels in the fight against racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance;
- Identification of further concrete measures and initiatives at all levels for combating and eliminating all manifestations of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, in order to foster the implementation of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action and to address challenges and impediments thereto, including in the light of developments since its adoption in 2001.More information about the Durban Review Conference can be found on the official OHCHR website (external website)