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Bolivia: “Significant progress, but important challenges remain in the fight against racism”, says UN expert

LA PAZ (10 September 2012) – The United Nations Special Rapporteur on racism, Mutuma Ruteere, urged today the Government of Bolivia to consolidate the important progress in addressing the problem of racism and racial discrimination so that effective outcome is achieved for the benefit of communities and vulnerable groups.

“Although significant progress has been made, challenges remain, particularly in relation to the implementation of the policy and legal measures,” said Mr. Ruteere* at the end of his first official visit to the country since his appointment by the Human Rights Council as Special Rapporteur on Contemporary Forms of Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and related Intolerance.

The independent expert commended the achievements in enacting different pieces of legislation and in establishing the necessary institutions for combatting racism and racial discrimination. However, he pointed that “their pace, as well as effective implementation are hindered by the lack of resources and capacity.”

“Discrimination against indigenous peoples, Afro-Bolivians and other vulnerable communities and groups still persists, and this is exacerbated by underlying structural inequalities that reinforce their exclusion and vulnerability to racism and discrimination,” the Special Rapporteur said. “In this regard, it is important to tackle the structural inequalities and exclusion especially in areas such as education, health and employment.”

Mr. Ruteere also stressed access to justice still poses significant challenges to victims of racism and racial discrimination, in particular indigenous peoples, Afro-Bolivians and other vulnerable communities and groups. “The administration of justice is slow and expensive in general, and in many cases inaccessible for victims of racism and racial discrimination,” he said.

“In addition to the efforts and judicial and administrative actions to address the cases of racial violence, it is important to enhance measures aimed at providing various forms of assistance to victims, in particular medical and psychological assistance and support for livelihood opportunities,” stated the expert.

The Special Rapporteur emphasised the situation of highly vulnerable communities including various indigenous and peasant communities and those subjected to servitude or forced labour, as well as Afro-Bolivians, who are victims of racist attacks and insults in many spheres of life, and in institutions of education at all levels.

“It is of vital importance to suppress all forms of racism against these highly vulnerable groups by strengthening the implementation of legal and other measures such as awareness raising, education and training,” Mr. Ruteere said.

“Discrimination also persists in terms of access to education,” he noted. “Manifestations of racism in the education sector should be eradicated through strict application of legal and administrative measures as well as the adoption and implementation of internal anti-racism policies and codes of conducts within institutions of education.”

Despite efforts to address the stigmatization and stereotyping of refugees and migrants, the UN independent expert said that “there are still serious concerns of discriminatory treatment by law enforcement agencies against certain groups of migrants which should be dealt with through training of relevant officials, public education and awareness raising campaigns.”

The Special Rapporteur called on the media to assume greater responsibility in combatting racism and racial discrimination. “It is of concern that some media outlets in Bolivia have at times disseminated ideas and messages of racial superiority that incite racial hatred, and are not doing enough to provide a balanced coverage that includes the voice of discriminated communities and groups,” he said.

Mr. Ruteere visited La Paz, Sucre and Santa Cruz, where he met with representatives of the Government, both at the national, regional and local levels, members of the legislative and judicial branches, and non-governmental organizations. He also held meetings with members of various communities and other groups and individuals that work in the area of combatting racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance.

The Special Rapporteur’s findings and recommendations will be reflected in his report to the Human Rights Council in 2013.

Mr. Mutuma Ruteere (Kenya) was appointed by the Human Rights Council as Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance in November 2011. As Special Rapporteur, he is independent from any Government or organization and serves in his individual capacity. Learn more, visit: http://www2.ohchr.org/english/issues/racism/rapporteur/index.htm

(*) Read the full statement of the Special Rapporteur: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=12494&LangID=E

OHCHR Country page – Bolivia: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/countries/LACRegion/Pages/BOIndex.aspx

For further information and media inquiries, please contact Vilma Romero (+591 2243 4360 / vromero@ohchr.org) or write to racism@ohchr.org.

For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts:
Xabier Celaya, UN Human Rights – Media Unit (+ 41 22 917 9383 / xcelaya@ohchr.org)

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