At the 64th session of the UN General Assembly the UN Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, Mr. Githu Muigai, expressed his serious concern about caste discrimination and recommended States to “engage in substantive discussions on this topic”. He specifically called on States to take action on the draft UN principles and guidelines to eliminate caste discrimination.
In his statement to the General Assembly on 2 November, the Special Rapporteur said that he was pleased with the recent positive developments within the UN on the issue of discrimination based on work and descent (UN terminology for caste-based discrimination).
Mr. Muigai, who took over this mandate in mid-2008, has previously expressed his serious concerns about this form of discrimination, both in apresentation at the Durban Review Conference and in his latest interim report to the UN General Assembly. In his statement, he reiterated his support for the “clear position taken by the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.”
As examples of positive developments, the Special Rapporteur mentioned the presentation of the draft UN principles and guidelines to eliminate caste discrimination at a parallel event organised at the 12th session of the Human Rights Council. He also referred to the recent appeal to the international community by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, in her statement “Tearing down the wall of caste”.
Finally Mr. Muigai urged states to take action on the draft UN principles and guidelines by engaging in “substantive discussions” on this topic and “rally around” this comprehensive framework to eliminate caste-based discrimination.
During the ensuing debate, India’s delegate said that his Government rejected the comment on descent from the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD), since it both “lacked intellectual rigour” and ignored the drafting history of the Convention. The way it addressed the caste system issue was “deeply offensive, given India’s past history.”
In response to this comment, Mr. Muigai said he did not believe this issue was peculiar to one individual country. If human rights meant anything, it meant that “all human beings must be equal in freedom and the opportunities that were availed to them,” he stated.
IDSN recommends that the UN Human Rights Council gives due consideration to the issue of discrimination based on work and descent and decides to adopt the draft UN principles and guidelines at its next session in March 2010.
Presentation of the UN Special Rapporteur at the 64th session of the UN General Assembly:
“Racial discrimination unfortunately affects individuals in all societies and regions of the world. While the manifestations of racism may vary in degree and nature depending on the historical, graphical and cultural context, all individuals, regardless of their race, colour, descent or national or ethnic origin, should be offered robust and effective protection against racial discrimination. In this regard, I was particularly pleased at the recent positive developments within the United Nations on the question of discrimination based on work and descent. Allow me here to refer to the “Draft UN principles and guidelines to eliminate caste discrimination” which were presented in Geneva in last September, with the support of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and which were endorsed by the Government of Nepal. I have already expressed my serious concerns about this form of discrimination and have in this respect associated myself with the clear position taken by the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. As said two weeks ago by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, “the time has come to eradicate the shameful concept of caste”. It is therefore my hope that in the coming months, States will engage in substantive discussions on this topic and will eventually rally around these draft principles and guidelines to eliminate caste-based discrimination.”