“Efforts to end discrimination are falling short,” state UN experts
GENEVA 9 December 2009 – “Globally, stronger commitments and more determined action are required if we are to defeat discrimination” stated the United Nations special procedures mandate holders in a joint statement to mark Human Rights Day, 10 December 2009. The struggle against discrimination must be intensified and given higher priority by all societies and at all levels as a key human rights objective.
However “efforts to defeat discrimination are falling short, and progress is even being reversed in some instances” warned the experts in their joint call for action. “Governments must be the first and strongest advocates for equality and non-discrimination. But as individuals, institutions and societies we all have a vital role to play. We must all be human rights defenders, all anti-discrimination activists. We must challenge discrimination wherever it exists and stand resolutely in support of whomever it affects. Those who are most vulnerable to discrimination in our societies should always be the most protected, never the least,” asserted the experts.
“Our ethnic, cultural or religious differences should be acknowledged, valued and respected, not seen as a threat to our unity as they too often are, but as a celebrated component of it” they stated. “Societies that reject discrimination and embrace diversity and rights, create the conditions for all to grow and prosper in equality and dignity. Discrimination distorts that vision and damages all of our societies in immeasurable ways.”
“There must be no form of discrimination that we do not confront, no injustice that we turn away from. Discrimination can be defeated, but we must meet the challenge with commitment and concerted action against discrimination and its causes based on a firm foundation of justice and the rule of law,” stressed the special procedures mandate holders.
The group of experts pointed out that discrimination may affect us all as we migrate, grow older or cope with illness or disability and other inevitable changes in our lives and circumstances. “No society is immune. We must acknowledge the discrimination around us in all its forms and recognize it for the scourge that it is, both in its most pronounced and in its most hidden or subtle expressions” they affirmed.
The United Nations experts highlighted in their joint statement the impact that discrimination has on the lives of millions affected every day and that it takes many forms. “For children deprived of an education because they are girls, their ethnicity, colour or their poverty, it is the denial of a future of opportunity and choice. For the woman or man humiliated or attacked simply because of their difference, because of who they are, it is a burden of fear that they daily endure. For those harassed, threatened or arrested because theirs is a different faith or belief, it is a constant reminder that they are not welcome. Discrimination silences those who most need a voice to speak out for their rights, and denies those who most need a place in the structures of society including in their decision making processes. Where discrimination prevails, there is yet another moment of violence or insecurity for the victims of conflict or oppression, yet another day of exploitation for those born or sold into servitude. Discrimination ruins lives”.
The special procedures reflected on their role in the global struggle: “Within our varied thematic responsibilities we work to uphold all human rights throughout the world, to speak out uncompromisingly against violations of those rights and to work to assist States and civil society, and to support their vital efforts to ensure equality. Each of us sees every day the terrible impact that discrimination has in our own specialist fields. Collectively we realize that discrimination is a root cause of so many of the violations that come before us. We take hope from the strong re-affirmation provided this year at the Review Conference of the Durban World Conference Against Racism – that discrimination must and can be eradicated from all of our societies.
“When we, as nations and governments, but also as communities, as families and as individuals, instill in every part of our lives and our societies a culture of equality, dignity and rejection of discrimination, we collectively take a great leap forward in the global struggle for justice and rights”.