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Human Rights Council holds interactive dialogue with the Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent

Human Rights Council
MORNING

26 September 2017

Concludes General Debate on the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action  

The Human Rights Council this morning held a clustered interactive dialogue with the Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent.  It also concluded its general debate on the follow-up to and implementation of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action.

Presenting the Working Group’s report, Sabelo Gumedze, Chairperson of the Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent, stressed that the Working Group advocated prioritizing programmes specifically tailored to combat structural racism and racial discrimination against people of African descent.   It was necessary to intensify the efforts deployed in improving the protection of the rights of people of African descent.  Member States were urged to reach consensus so a forum on the sources of racism and reparatory justice could be held.  Mr. Gumedze then presented the main findings following the Working Group’s visits to Canada and Germany. 

Canada and Germany spoke as concerned countries.

The German Institute for Human Rights also took the floor.

In the interactive discussion, delegations shared the assessment that the Sustainable Development Goals and the Decade of People of African Descent presented unique opportunities for the adoption of concrete measures to promote the human rights of people of African descent, particularly of women and children.  Several speakers stressed that the special nature of discrimination faced by people of African descent called for specific actions and policies, including comprehensive mechanisms aimed at combatting colonial legacies.  People of African descent still faced low rates of participation and representation in political and institutional decision-making processes as well as obstacles to access quality education and the labour market.

Speaking in the interactive discussion were European Union, Tunisia on behalf of the African Group, Cuba, Venezuela, Libya, Italy, Bolivia, United States, Mexico, Kenya, Botswana, Nigeria, Benin, Azerbaijan, Brazil and Ecuador.

The following civil society organizations also took the floor: African Commission of Health and Human Rights Promoters, Espace Afrique International, Minority Rights Group Intenational, International Youth and Student Movement for the United Nations, International Committee for the Respect and the Application of the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights, International Organization for the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, International-Lawyers.Org, and Commission of the Churches on International Affairs of the World Council of Churches.

At the beginning of the meeting, the Council concluded its general debate on the follow-up to and implementation of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action.  The general debate started on Monday 25 September and a summary of the statements can be found here.

In the interactive discussion, speakers recalled that the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action confirmed that human rights were a matter of priority for the international community.  Many stressed the importance of ensuring gender equality and providing better education for women and girls since they were disproportionately affected by human rights violations.  Several speakers also recalled that the denial of the right to self-determination in several areas of the world constituted a violation of human rights.  It was observed with concern that the concept of the environment, which was enshrined in the Vienna Declaration, did not appear in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

The following civil society organizations took the floor: Verein Sudwind Entwicklungspolitik, United Schools International, Conseil international pour le soutien à des procès équitables et aux droits de l’homme, International Association for Democracy in Africa, Pan African Union for Science and Technology, Rencontre africaine pour la défense des droits de l’homme, World Muslim Congress, World Environment and Resources Council, Indigenous People of Africa Coordinating Committee, Centre for Environmental and Management Studies, Prahar, Liberation, European Union of Public Relations, Mbororo Social and Cultural Development Association MBOSCUDA, Organisation internationale pour le développement intégral de la femme, Association pour l’intégration et le développement durable au Burundi, United Nations Watch, Maarij Foundation for Peace and Development, Centre for Organisation Research and Education, Organisation pour la Communication en Afrique et de Promotion de la Coopération Économique Internationale OCAPROCE Internationale, VAAGDHARA, World Barua Organization, International Organization for the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, Victorious Youths Movement, International-Lawyers.Org, International Youth and Student Movement for the United Nations, iuventum e.V., ABC Tamil Oli, ANAJA (Lord replied), ASSOCIATION CULTURELLE DES TAMOULS EN FRANCE, Association Bharathi Centre Culturel Franco-Tamoul, Association Solidarité Internationale pour l’Afrique, Association for the Victimes of the World, Centre for Human Rights and Peace advocacy, LE PONT, Alliance Creative Community Project, Society for Development and Community Empowerment, Tamil Uzhagam, Association Thendral, Tourner la page, Press Emblem Campaign, Association of World Citizens, Centro Regional de Derechos Humanos y Justicia de Genero Corporacion Humanas, Conseil de jeunesse pluriculturelle, Meezaan Centre for Human Rights, International Human Rights Association of American Minorities, Human Security Initiative Organization, and Servas International.

At noon, the Council will hold a general debate on racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related forms of intolerance, follow-up to and implementation of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action.

General Debate on the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action

Verein Sudwind Entwicklungspolitik drew attention to human rights defenders in Iran who have been imprisoned due to their activism.  If there was collective will in the Human Rights Council, those human rights defenders could resume their activities.

United Schools International reminded that States were duty bound to ensure that education was aimed at strengthening human rights and fundamental freedoms.  That should be integrated into educational policies at the national and international levels.  In Pakistan terrorists and jihadists were the products of religious schools.

Conseil international pour le soutien à des procès équitables et aux droits de l’homme stressed that the Kurdish minority enjoyed their rights in Iraq under a semi-autonomous status.  However, the Kurdish President wanted to use the independence referendum to undermine Kurdistan in Iraq, which could lead to the creation of mini States based on racial or religious affiliation.      

International Association for Democracy in Africa said priority should be given to measures assisting in strengthening institutions for human rights.  Strengthening of civil society should include assistance in elections and strengthening of the rule of law and the promotion of freedom of expression.  In countries like Pakistan, there was no respect for human rights and human rights defenders were regularly victimised.  Iran had been implementing a law which was a step forward in granting fair trials.

Pan African Union for Science and Technology said that in the context of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action, it was the duty of all States to hold investigations whenever enforced disappearances took place.  Enforced disappearances consisted of multiple human rights violations.  In Pakistan, enforced disappearances were used to stifle dissent.  As many as 728 Pakistanis were added to the list of the missing in 2016.

Rencontre africaine pour la défense des droits de l’homme said during the 1993 World Conference on Human Rights, the then-Secretary-General had welcomed the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action.  But some rights had been held hostage by States due to the politicization of rights.  The Human Rights Council was urged to convene a high-level inter-institutional dialogue to examine the weakening of human rights in the United Nations system.

World Muslim Congress regretted that despite repeated calls from the international community, India had not repealed draconian legislation such as the Jammu and Kashmir Facility Act which facilitated the violation of human rights.  The Indian paramilitary forces committed grave human rights violations against people in Jammu and Kashmir where innocents were blinded and killed.  World Muslim Congress urged India to repeal the draconian legislation.

World Environment and Resources Council said that large gaps continued to exist between men and women in Pakistan in various sectors such as health, work and politics.  In Pakistan, women still had limited access to social services while patriarchy dominated.  Men dominated the world outside the home and enjoyed a better allocation of resources. 

Indigenous People of Africa Coordinating Committee deplored the human rights violations committed against Indian women, especially by the armed forces.  Indigenous women in Assam continued to suffer rapes.  They could not take part in the Indian Parliament or administration because they were uneducated.  The Council was urged to communicate with India to establish a special mission to investigate grave human rights violations against women.

Centre for Environmental and Management Studies stressed the importance of gender equality and providing better education for women.  This did not entail suppressing men but giving women the same opportunities as men.  In Pakistan, the majority of women lived in a system that was far from equal.  In rural areas men often made cruel decisions in the name of women. 

Prahar noted that in India the implementation of and respect for human rights was not a priority.  Gross abuses of human rights and violence against women and other vulnerable citizens was common.  Among those who suffered most were the Assamese, Sikhs, Manipuris, and Tripuris.  The Indian State resorted to persecution, torture, summary executions, massacres and pogroms. 

Liberation drew attention to witch hunting in India’s province of Assam, affecting women’s livelihood, property, dignity and the right to life.  That practice was widely spread and some 20 cases of witch hunting had been recorded recently.  The organization called on the Human Rights Council to devote more attention to that evil practice.

European Union of Public Relations said the rights of women were an indivisible part of human rights, but the literacy rate among Pakistani women was among the lowest in the world.  Domestic violence took place in about 80 per cent of Pakistani households.  Although women’s inferior status to men existed in all sectors of society, there were different expressions across social strata.  There were honour killings every year.

Mbororo Social and Cultural Development Association MBOSCUDA, said the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action emphasised the responsibility of all States.  The demand for a dowry was considered essential to marriage in India, especially in Assam.  Thousands of women died because of that evil practice.  It was prohibited by law, but the Indian Government had failed to check its growth.

Organisation internationale pour le développement intégral de la femme said the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action covered all rights without distinction.  Sahrawi refugees were being held by separatist groups in military camps and did not enjoy their rights.  There would be consequences for the region and for the world unless the situation was resolved.  Morocco had presented various approaches, but Morocco’s efforts were blocked by the Polisario.

Association pour l’intégration et le développement durable au Burundi drew the Council’s attention to the situation of certain women who were discriminated against in India because of their caste or race.  Some were forced into prostitution as there was a link between the caste situation and prostitution.  Gender based violence was incompatible with human dignity and should be addressed by the Council.

United Nations Watch asked why Saudi Arabia and Qatar were qualified as members of the Human Rights Council.  Saudi Arabia beheaded freethinkers and reduced women to the levels of animals.  Corrupt ruling families robbed the earth and the youth of their dreams.  To maintain their power, they kept the individuals in darkness.

Maarij Foundation for Peace and Development outlined the key role played by the right to development which was a fundamental right.  Each State party should adopt relevant policies with a view to realize this right.   It was necessary to undertake projects related to the right to development in order to give it more visibility. 

Centre for Organization Research and Education stated that in Manipur in India, indigenous people were living under military rule.  One of the most direct impacts of the militarisation was directed against women and children, who suffered from sexual violence committed by Indian special forces.  The United Nations Special Rapporteur on violence against women had urged the Government of India to stop all forms of violence against women and to provide them with redress.

Organisation pour la Communication en Afrique et de Promotion de la Coopération Économique Internationale OCAPROCE Internationale reminded that the Vienna Declaration spoke about the universality of human rights.  Despite progress and proposals by the international community, women’s rights continued to be violated, as exemplified by the exclusion and suffering of women in the Tindouf camps, where many women had been abused by Polisario officers for decades.  They could not obtain humanitarian assistance.  The organization called for an end to the humanitarian tragedy of those women.  

VAAGDHARA called attention to the crimes committed against women by the Indian army.  The denial of access to justice had led to a culture of impunity in Manipur.  It was a form of genocide against the indigenous women of Manipur.  The organization urged the Council to call on India to prosecute all army officers involved in sexual violence against women, and to recognize the right to self-determination of all indigenous peoples in India. 

World Barua Organization said women continued to be very vulnerable in Indian society, with the crime rate against women rising between 2011 and 2015, especially rape and abduction.  Given social pressure in Indian society, the majority of crimes against women were not reported.  The Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action had not been adequately realized in India.  The Human Rights Council was called on to hold its Member States responsible for their compliance with the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action.

International Organization for the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination said that there were effective strategies in south-south cooperation, especially in the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action.  However, there was a lack of political will for implementation.  States should cooperate with each other, and there should be increased cooperation between civil society, particularly with regard to the environment.  This was especially important in Mosul, Iraq. 

Victorious Youths Movement said that in the southern provinces of Morocco, there were efforts to ensure the economic rights of the inhabitants.  The State had invested to ensure the population could participate in sustainable development.  The population there was the first to benefit from Morocco’s policies.  The level of education was one of the highest, and cities had been developed with leading social infrastructure.  But the Tindouf camps were vulnerable and marginalized.

International-Lawyers.Org underlined that the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action emphasised human rights as a priority.  The activities of governments which prioritized their own interests before human rights were of great concern.  The human rights of Palestinian women were gravely targeted under Israeli occupation.  In Iraq, civilians were subjected to torture and inhuman treatment by certain militias.  Perpetrators of such crimes should be taken to justice.

International Youth and Student Movement for the United Nations recalled that the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action confirmed the right of people to self-determination.  Nonetheless this right was denied for people of Western Sahara by the occupation power that did not allow a referendum.  Proper international mechanisms should be established to monitor the human rights situation in Western Sahara.

Iuventum e.V. recalled that the concept of the environment was mentioned in the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action in relation to the right to development.  It was linked also to the precautionary principle and the polluter-pays principle.  However there was no mention to the concept of the environment in the Sustainable Development Goals. 

ABC Tamil Oli stated that the Singhalese State had perpetrated a genocide of the Tamils.  Sri Lanka had violated all international laws by launching attacks against the Tamils.  The climate of injustice had forced the Tamils to fight for their right to self-determination.  An independence referendum should be organised for the Tamils just like it had been organised for East Timor and South Sudan.

ANAJA (Lord replied) reminded of the anniversary of the death of the great Tamil martyr.  The racist Singhalese State had unleashed genocide against the Tamils.  The Tamils saluted their hero. 

ASSOCIATION CULTURELLE DES TAMOULS EN FRANCE reminded of States’ judicial measures to investigate enforced disappearances.  For many days families of the disappeared Tamils had protested in order to find out about the fate of their loved ones.  The families requested that members of the committee tasked to investigate disappearances should be composed of Tamils and members of the families of the disappeared.

Association Bharathi Centre Culturel Franco-Tamoul drew attention to the fact that the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action said all peoples had the right to self-determination.  Sri Lanka’s armed conflict had increased the vulnerability of women in the north-east.  Their households faced vulnerabilities linked to the Government’s control of their regions.  Economic and social disempowerment had also increased as a result of the militarization.  The Tamil people should be allowed to realize their inalienable right to self-determination.

Association Solidarité Internationale pour l’Afrique said the Tamil community was hit by displacement and land-grabbing in the north and east, and its members were denied the practice of their civil and political rights.  The Prevention of Terrorism Act was the main cause of violations of the economic, social and cultural rights of the Tamil people.  The Government of Sri Lanka should allow the Tamil people to realize their right to determine their political status.

Association for the Victimes of the World said September 22 was a day of remembrance for a special Tamil martyr.  All rehabilitation work should be suspended, and all detainees held under the Prevention of Terrorism Act should be released.  The Tamil people were still looking for their right to self-determination.

Centre for Human Rights and Peace Advocacy recalled that human rights were a matter of priority for the international community according to the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action.  The situation of human rights in Cameroon deserved special attention.   Systematic violations of human rights were being committed, particularly in the Anglophone region, including arbitrarily arrests, extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances.  The rights to life, freedom of expression and free peaceful assembly were being violated.   Many children were not going to school because of the violence.

LE PONT was concerned about the illegal occupation of the Tamil territory by Sri Lankan Security Forces which was against the principles of the Vienna Declaration.  In May 2009, Sri Lankan military forces had undertaken a genocide war against Tamils, killing more than 146,000 people in six months. 

Alliance Creative Community Project said that the international community had failed to protect 146,000 Tamils from genocide.  People of Eelam Tamil had repeatedly called on the international community to adhere to the international human rights fundamentals and not to heed the racial and discriminatory Sinahla State establishment.  A Special Rapporteur should visit the occupied Eelam Tamils territories.

Society for Development and Community Empowerment stated that the Tamils in Sri Lanka had the right to self-determination under international law and practice.  The organization called for the release of all Tamil detainees and the end to military rule in the north-east of the island.  The Tamils needed the help of the Council to implement their right to self-determination.  

Tamil Uzhagam reminded that the terrible massacre of the Tamils in Sri Lanka had amounted to a genocide.  The Tamils in Sri Lanka had the right to self-determination like so many other nations before them had had the right to declare sovereignty.

Association Thendral noted that the denial of the right to self-determination was a violation of human rights.  The victim communities in northeast Sri Lanka had suffered and continued to suffer from militarisation, illegal land acquisitions and displacement, and the lack of accountability for war crimes and crimes against humanity.       

Tourner la Page drew the attention of the Human Rights Council to the vote of Kurds for independence.  Kurds had lived through decades of sanctions.  Regions of Kurds had been left without protection from the Islamic State.  Today Kurds were seeking self-determination through peaceful means in accordance with the United Nations Charter.  Member States of the Human Rights Council were called on to support the right of Kurds to self-determination.

Press Emblem Campaign welcomed the report of the Secretary-General on women journalists and agreed with the conclusion that much more needed to be done.  Systematic monitoring and a gender-sensitive approach were needed.  More women were working in a dangerous environment, and three per cent of journalists killed last year were women. 

Association of World Citizens said those in the room who were in Vienna in 1993 would remember the lovely week they had spent there.  There had been a great number of ratifications of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action, but one in particular had never wanted to make the tiniest gesture in that direction.  The reason the United States had not completed its ratification was sought.  Iran did not wish to, Sudan or Somalia either.  It would be so interesting to understand why, and why the women in those countries were not present to explain why.

Centro Regional de Derechos Humanos y Justicia de Genero Corporacion Humanas, drew the attention of the Council to the harmful consequences of the war on drugs, including the issue of prison overcrowding.  Discrimination against women was high in this context.  Some were used as mules to transport drugs.  Women suffered disproportionally from the violence and human rights violations which derived from such trade.  The feminisation of drug trafficking was linked to the feminisation of poverty.

Conseil de jeunesse pluriculturelle recalled that the purpose of the Vienna Declaration was to support fundamental rights.  In Saudi Arabia, the situation of human rights had considerably deteriorated in the last weeks.  A campaign of arrests against human rights defenders, journalists and clerks had been launched.  The Council was called to investigate the restrictions on fundamental rights in Saudi Arabia and the restrictions on religious practices. 

Meezaan Centre for Human Rights stressed that the Palestinian minority within Israel was suffering from structural discrimination.  Free assemblies and political actions had been infringed.  The Israeli parliament had adopted several racist laws against Palestinian minorities.   A so-called law to combat terrorism had also been adopted enabling Israeli forces to make arbitrary arrests.  The Council was called to put an end to these racist practices.

International Human Rights Association of American Minorities said that the Vienna Declaration consolidated the principles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  In Yemen human rights defenders suffered from systematic persecution.  Noting that the rights of children were at the heart of the Vienna Declaration, the organization asked about measures that could be taken to protect children in conflicts.  

Human Security Initiative Organization stated that the Vienna Declaration was the rightful platform to protect human rights.  The violation of human dignity was the gravest violation of human rights and constituted a threat to human security.  Compensation to the victims was most suitable to alleviate their suffering.

Servas International noted that the global refugee crisis required comprehensive efforts, reinforcement of emergency mechanisms, and more effective implementation of the existing human rights instruments.  It was urgent that the United Nations address the lack of implementation of the Vienna Declaration.

Interactive Dialogue with the Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent

Documentation

The Council has before it the Report of the Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent (A/HRC/36/60).

The Council has before it an addendum to the Report of the Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent - mission to Canada (A/HRC/36/60/Add.1).

The Council has before it an addendum to the Report of the Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent - mission to Germany (A/HRC/36/60/Add.2).

The Council has before it an addendum to the Report of the Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent – comments by Germany (A/HRC/36/60/Add.4).

Presentation by the Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent

SABELO GUMEDZE, Chairperson of the Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent, said he would present the Group’s annual report and reports following official country visits to Canada and to Germany.  The annual report included information on the Group’s last session, which had had as its theme “Leaving no one behind: people of African descent and the Sustainable Development Goals”.  Together with the International Decade for People of African Descent, the Sustainable Development Goals presented opportunities for concrete action.  The Goals clearly focused on the needs of the poorest and most vulnerable.  The Working Group advocated prioritizing programmes specifically tailored to combat structural racism and racial discrimination against people of African descent in that context.   There was a need to intensify efforts in improving the protection of the rights of people of African descent, and Member States were urged to reach consensus so a forum could be held.  The forum would discuss sources of racism and reparatory justice, among other topics.

Turning to the visit of the Working Group to Canada, Mr. Gumedze noted that the Group had visited four Canadian cities, and welcomed the ongoing work by the Government of Canada to revitalize efforts to address racial discrimination faced by people of African descent and to promote human rights, diversity and inclusion.  The structural racism of many institutions remained concerning, and the overrepresentation of African Canadians in the justice system likewise.  There were disproportionately high unemployment rates among African Canadians, and many seasonal migrant workers were subjected to deplorable working conditions and denied access to basic health services.  The Government of Canada was urged to develop and implement an African Canadian justice strategy to address the anti-Black racism and discrimination within the criminal justice system.

On the Working Group’s visit to Germany, Mr. Gumedze said it had visited numerous cities, and met with government officials, national institutions and civil society.  Despite positive measures taken, the Working Group remained “extremely concerned” about the human rights situation of people of African descent in Germany.  Their daily lives were marked by racism and they feared for their safety.  The Working Group recommended that the Government focus on eliminating structural racial discrimination in spheres including education, politics, and Government institutions through, among other things, the enforcement of anti-discrimination legislation.  The Working Group called for an end to the criminalization of people of African descent and for cessation of racial profiling by federal and state law enforcement officials.  Children of African descent should not be assigned to lower tracks in a tiered educational system, and diplomas obtained abroad should be recognized.  In conclusion, Mr. Gumedze said action was needed to address the extreme violence, racial bias and hate faced by people of African descent. 

Statements by Concerned Countries

Canada, speaking as a concerned country, noted with appreciation the report of the Working Group and its continued commitment and efforts to improve the human rights situation of people of African descent in Canada.  Canada had introduced several new measures to address some issues described by the Working Group.  At the federal level, the Minister of Justice had prioritized achieving diversity in the composition of the Judicial Advisory Committees and there had been efforts to select new members from historically under-represented populations.  At the provincial level, Ontario had announced its Black Youth Action Plan in February 2017 to help reduce disparities for black children, youth and their families.  Elsewhere, Nova Scotia Legal Aid had been a champion in promoting the use of cultural impact assessment in criminal sentencing matters and bail hearings.

Germany, speaking as a concerned country, thanked the Working Group for an outside perspective which could provide valuable insight, helping the Government to identify problems and to further improve the situation of people of African descent in Germany.  Fighting discrimination was an ongoing challenge.  Germany was fully committed to making sure that everybody enjoyed equal rights and respect, independently of their ethnic background.  In 2006 the German Parliament had passed the General Equal Treatment Act.   One area in which further efforts were needed was recruitment in the public sector.  The Government should reflect the growing diversity of the German society.  In order to overcome prejudices and other discriminatory practices, special attention was being given to the educational sector.

German Institute for Human Rights welcomed the timely visit of the Working Group and appreciated the opportunity for the direct exchange with the Working Group.  The Institute expressed hope that the Government of Germany would make good use of the Working Group’s recommendations and guarantee the full enjoyment of human rights by all.  The Institute welcomed the adoption of the General Equal Treatment Act.  However, there was a lack of awareness of the crimes committed against people of African descent in Germany’s colonial past.  There should also be a study on the situation of people of African descent in Germany nowadays.  Racial profiling by police often experienced by boys and men of African descent led to the erosion of trust in public institutions.  Hence, the Institute deplored the reluctant position of the Government in that regard.   

Interactive Dialogue

European Union thanked the Special Rapporteur and the Working Group of Experts on people of African descent for their report.  The discussion held during the twentieth session from 3 to 7 April 2017 and the focus on the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda was timely.  It reminded of the need to address the intersectionality of discrimination.  Tunisia, speaking on behalf of the African Group, welcomed the emphasis placed on the Sustainable Development Goals as a core document embodying human rights.  They provided a comprehensive framework to effectively combat racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance.  Cuba supported the mandate of the Working Group whose role was increasingly important to face the increase in the human rights violations of people of African descent.  Cuba drew the attention of the Council to the need to take into account the background of invitees, especially when they were financed by States.  There was a need to improve the understanding of the heritage of people of African descent within the framework of the International Decade on People of African Descent. 

Venezuela underlined that the Sustainable Development Goals were an important cornerstone to eliminate all forms of discrimination.  The commitment to the right to development included the need to favour an enabling environment for people of African descent.  Poverty was both the cause and consequence of discrimination.  Libya thanked the Working Group on its efforts to uphold the rights of people of African descent.  Programmes should be adopted nationally and internationally to combat racism, discrimination, xenophobia and other related forms of intolerance.  International solidarity was increasingly important.  Italy was firmly engaged in the fight against racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance.  In this regard, the work of the Council and its subsidiary bodies remained essential.

Bolivia shared the assessment that the Sustainable Development Goals, and the Decade of People of African Descent presented opportunities for the adoption of concrete measures in order to promote the human rights of people of African descent, particularly of women and children of African descent.  United States noted that success should not be limited by one’s background, but rather defined by one’s character and resolve.  While the United States recognized that it had to overcome racial injustice within its own borders, it remained committed to helping its global partners in that respect.  Mexico noted the prioritization of programmes to combat structural racial discrimination against people of African descent in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.  What should be the appropriate measurement mechanism to determine the participation of people of African descent in the process of data collection?   

Kenya regretted that despite various declarations, people of African descent still faced discrimination every day.  There should be a comprehensive mechanism to combat that colonial legacy.  Kenya had undertaken decisive measures to combat racism in all its forms.  Botswana reminded that people of African descent still faced a low rate of participation and representation in political and institutional decision-making processes, restricted access to quality education and the labour market, high levels of poverty, and a disproportionate presence in prison populations.  Nigeria agreed with the Working Group that the Sustainable Development Goals provided a comprehensive framework to effectively fight racism.  Indeed, the Sustainable Development Goals would not be met without recognition of the structural discrimination against people of African descent. 

Benin recalled that in many regions of the world people of African descent suffered from acts of xenophobia, Afrophobia and racial discrimination.  These practices were major obstacles for the realization of the provisions of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.  Azerbaijan said that the principles of equality and non-discrimination were at the heart of the Sustainable Development Goals.  These could not be achieved unless States addressed all structural and systemic barriers to the full realization of the rights of people of African descent who often faced unequal access to education and resources.  Brazil reiterated its full commitment to the full and effective implementation of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action as well as to the Programme of Activities of the International Decade of People of African Descent.  The special nature of discrimination faced by people of African descent called for specific actions and policies.  Ecuador stressed that it had implemented a national planning strategy in order to help vulnerable groups, including people of African descent.  Ecuador outlined the importance of adopting a cross-cutting approach to promote diversity.  Efforts would continue to repair social and economic inequalities and combat poverty.

African Commission of Health and Human Rights Promoters asked why Afro-descent civil society had not been encouraged to attend the last session of the Working Group.  It regretted the manner in which the Working Group had been dominated by its outgoing members and ambitions to build on elements without roots in the Durban process.  Espace Afrique International regretted that the sessions of the Working Group had led to few results since 2014.  In 2015 the Working Group had announced that it would take field missions to African countries, whereas its mandate was exclusively devoted to diaspora.  Minority Rights Group International flagged two fundamental challenges which stood in the way of sustainable development for people of African descent.  The first was the denial of the mere fact that they were discriminated against and largely excluded from economic development.  The second challenge was that barriers to development could not be easily isolated from one another. 

International Youth and Student Movement for the United Nations continued to be concerned about the decline of participation of civil society in the Working Group.  It asked the Working Group about plans to encourage the participation of all sectors of society in the implementation of the Decade for People of African Descent.  International Committee for the Respect and the Application of the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights called attention to total impunity of police officers who perpetrated violence against black people in the United States and Europe.  The comments made by the President of the United States had shown the striking lack of political will to implement the Durban Declaration.  The organization called for the appointment of a Special Rapporteur on racist phenomena in the United States.  International Organization for the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination noted that the Sustainable Development Goals would remain a far-fetched dream for people of African descent without the elimination of structural discrimination against them.  Would those restrictions be thoroughly scrutinized by the Working Group?

International-Lawyers.Org regretted that racism not only existed in modern times but also in some regions of the world that were considered to be developed.  This type of behaviour could adversely affect mental well-being and further; when hate speech progressed to violent action, the physical well-being of the targeted was put in danger.  Commission of the Churches on International Affairs of the World Council of Churches said that apologies and reparations should be offered to people of African descent who had been victims of colonial pasts.  The Working Group was asked to add a specific mention to white privileges and to present recommendations for churches and religious organizations. 

Concluding Remarks

SABELO GUMEDZE, Chairperson of the Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent, thanked Member States for their constructive comments.  The Working Group was seized with the rising wave of racism.  Xenophobia and Afrophobia remained a challenge all over the world.  No State was isolated from it.  The Working Group continued to encourage Member States and non-governmental organizations to develop operational guidelines which would be presented to the Council.  Member States were called on to present guidelines on how they intended to implement the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals for people of African descent. 

The Working Group promoted programmes targeting women and girls, notably in the education and employment sectors.  Technology should be used to reach out to the representatives of civil society who were unable to attend the Working Group’s sessions in Geneva.  Mr. Gumedze supported any initiatives and programmes aimed at ensuring that girls and women participated in all spheres of society.  Members States should also mandatorily promote tolerance and combat incitement for hatred online and offline.  Additional time had been provided this year to encourage civil society to attend the sessions of the Working Group, notably through a live webcast.  Social media had also become an innovative way to accommodate the representatives of civil society to take part in the sessions.  The investment on youth was also welcomed.  The black youth action that had been developed in Ontario should be emulated by other States. 

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