Reparation, racial justice and equality: Report


Deadline: The Special Rapporteur’s 2019 report to the United Nations General Assembly is now online.

Issued by: Special Rapporteur on Contemporary Forms of Racism

View Report: A/74/321

This report to the 74th session of the General Assembly addresses the human rights obligations of Member States in relation to reparations for racial discrimination rooted in slavery and colonialism. 

Background

The International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination requires States to ensure affected individuals enjoy access to justice and effective remedies—including just and adequate reparation—for rights violations. 1 This obligation is not exceptional, but rather a core principle of the UN human rights system. Every major human rights treaty envisions access adequate redress for violations. 2

The UN human rights system has underscored this obligation through the work of its mandates and treaty bodies, as well as through the production of relevant guidelines. 3 Other UN actions, such as the 2001 World Conference Against Racism and its adoption of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action, have also emphasized this fundamental obligation. 4

Despite ratification of treaties and general recognition of their obligation to provide reparations, most States have failed to guarantee sufficiently comprehensive recognition, remedies, and reparations for violations of the right to be free from racial discrimination. 5 Some States have pursued reparations programs for gross violations of human rights, only for implementation gaps to mar the satisfaction of their obligations. 6 Many other States have declined to engage meaningfully with reparatory justice obligations, even declining to enact policies that examine the viability of reparations policies. 7

Purpose of the report

The report reflects on the continued disconnect between State acceptance of obligations to ensure racial justice and equality through reparations and subsequent State action. Drawing upon original research and submissions from stakeholders, the report also outlines opportunities to advance reparations for racial justice and equality and issue relevant recommendations. For that purpose, the report covers the following issues:

  • Aspects of the reparations debates within the United Nations human rights system that have received insufficient attention in prior reports
  • Challenges and opportunities for achieving racial justice through reparations mechanisms
  • Barriers to advancing reparations mechanisms
  • Lessons learned from past reparations schemes
  • Complex reparations schemes, including schemes requiring land transfers or envisioning migration or transfer of populations
  • How positive measures, development, and other structural policies aimed at achieving racial inequality interplay with effective reparations schemes
  • Perspectives on existing standards for reparations within international law
  • Ensuring that reparations mechanisms respect the inherent dignity of victims and facilitate robust participation throughout both planning and execution
  • The obligation of States to ensure private actors pay reparations for their violations or contributions to racial discrimination
  • Lessons learned from previous and current domestic and transnational advocacy for reparations

Call for submissions

The Special Rapporteur received submissions from relevant stakeholders, including national and local governments, national and international non-governmental organizations, national human rights institutions and equality bodies, inter-governmental organizations, United Nations agencies and entities, activists and academics.

1 International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination Art. 6.

2 International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination Art. 6; Universal Declaration of Human Rights Art. 8; International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights Art. 2; Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment Art. 14; Convention on the Rights of the Child Art. 39; Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women Art. 2.

3 See, e.g., G.A. Res. 60/147 (Dec. 16, 2005) (Basic Principles and Guidelines on the Right to a Remedy and Reparation for Victims of Gross Violations of International Human Rights Law and Serious Violations of International Humanitarian Law).

4 A/CONF.189/12, paras. 165-166 (calling on governments to ensure the rights of all persons to access justice and urging states to provide effective remedies and reparations to victims of acts of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance).

5 See A/RES/69/16, paras. 4, 17(i).

6 See A/69/518.

7 A/HRC/33/61/Add.2, para. 68, 91, 94; A/HRC/36/60/Add.2, para. 53.