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Statement by Ms. Anastasia Crickley, Chairperson of the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination at the 72nd session of the General Assembly

Third Committee, Items 71 (a & b): 
31 October 2017
New York

Mr. Chairperson,
Distinguished delegates,
Colleagues and friends from the United Nations family and
Non-governmental organizations, 

Thank you for the opportunity to address you as Chairperson of the Committee for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, to present CERD's report in accordance with General Assembly Resolution A/RES/71/180 of 19 December 2016, and engage with you in an interactive dialogue at this crucial and challenging time. In March this year, I already raised some of our major concerns when I addressed the General Assembly on the International Day against Racism and today I will return again to a number of those issues.

At the outset, friends, I want to say that I am alarmed that more than fifty years after you agreed unanimously to eliminate racial discrimination on purpose or in effect as article 1 of ICERD so clearly puts it, I need to stand here and speak again of the global toxic discourse which is fuelling and fanning the flames of racial discrimination throughout the world. I do so acknowledging the progress that has been made since ICERD was adopted in 1965 and came into force in 1969, in those dark days of apartheid in South Africa and US civil rights struggles.

Apartheid has ended, civil rights were achieved, European Union Directives to protect against discrimination in its member States have been adopted, and the 178 countries which have ratified the ICERD, have put in place laws to address racism. Yet, none of these are or could have been ends in themselves.

Special measures as outlined in CERD's General Recommendation No. 32 are required to create the conditions for the social and economic access necessary for full rights realisation. Their absence continues to diminish the outcome of hard won gains and leave widening differentials between marginalised minorities and other sections of the population, underlining yet again the well-established poverty racism links.

The European Union puts its priority focus on citizens but residents as well as citizens have the right to be free from racial discrimination whatever their status, however long or short their residency and whatever the means by which they arrived. The continued use of racism as a tool to pit our fears, and I speak as a European, against their rights may have short term political gains but is a recipe for further division and alienation and their consequences.

In CERD's work over the past year and in the events of the past few months it has been very clear yet again that the legacies of the early forms of racism and slavery remain intact and all too evident in discrimination against people of African Descent and Indigenous Peoples. The legacies of old and not so old colonialism continues to fuel discrimination against them and against other once colonised peoples.

Racial profiling and incitement to hatred including in the context of migration which was the well discerned focus of both this Assembly's and the Human Rights Council's International Day against Racism events have been a major and growing concern for CERD during the past year. Racial profiling is addressed in virtually all concluding observations, rejected as the intention by all States, but quite clearly in a number of instances the effect of procedures attempting to protect national security. These can be shown to be both expensive and ineffective and in addition can lead to dehumanising incitement particularly against migrants and those perceived to be from a particular background, nowadays often Muslim.

Over the past year we have also noted a continuing trend towards sidestepping racism and calling it anything else besides what it is - a form of discrimination outlawed by the first UN Convention and thus with an international norm through which it can be addressed. Other terms including xenophobia, which as the Durban Declaration points out is a cause of racism today, have no such international norm and leave victims without redress. Moving from naming to addressing racism requires knowing its reach and extent again often sidestepped. Data is essential for this as with addressing any other issue and OHCHR guidelines on its collection protect the rights of those involved.

While CERD acknowledges no hierarchies of oppression and treats each State we review without reference to any other it is clear that different forms of racism present very forceful and destructive faces at different times. Over the past year, we have noted that the toxic global discourse I spoke of at the outset has continued to blight the lives of many people perceived to be of Muslim background.

Let me now further elaborate a few of the issues, which have been continuously addressed in the Committee's work over the past year. Racial discrimination we know is complex and multi-faceted. One-size solutions do not fit all and in our experience unless the intersectionality with gender discrimination is addressed the particular and often sexualised forms of racism experienced by women and girls can be ignored.

In the context of periodic reviews, the Committee drew the attention of States parties to human rights abuses of women belonging to minority groups and called on States parties to study the root-causes and to adopt targeted measures while integrating gender and ethnic perspectives. We also looked into the specific situation of women migrant workers and recommended to take measures to stop labour exploitation and abuse of migrant workers and in particular women domestic workers, and to enhance protection of these women against exploitation and abuse, including sexual abuse. Furthermore, we have paid particular attention to the situation of women migrants, including refugees, and called on States parties to improve the assistance to persons notably women migrants who require specific attention and protection measures, including victims of sexual and gender-based violence and victims of trafficking. The Committee was glad to contribute to the multi-stakeholder initiative organised by UN Women on Strategies for addressing Women's rights in the Global Migration Compact.

Armed conflict, impacts of climate change, poverty, and political instability continue to be among the leading factors pushing migration. While I am aware and appreciative of the generosity demonstrated by many countries to receive and host migrants seeking safe haven, one cannot turn a blind eye to the human rights abuses of migrants, whether these are inflicted by State or non-State actors, in the country of origin, transit or destination. Practices reported to the Committee include arbitrary detention, hate speech, racial profiling, human trafficking for labour or sexual exploitation purposes, denial access to basic services such as shelter, as well as refoulement to countries where migrants may face persecution, threats to their physical integrity, or destitution, among others. Moreover, the lack of a firm denunciation of these practices by a margin of stakeholders, notably States, further contributes to increased vulnerability to rights violations by migrants. I call all States not to turn their back on people in most need of solidarity and urgent assistance.

In the context of reports consideration, our Committee has repeatedly addressed the plight of migrants, including the fatalities caused during the migration route and the dire situation migrants encounter in host countries. Notably, we have called on States parties to take effective measures to uphold the principle of non-refoulement without discrimination, to halt racist hate speech and violence against migrants and refugees including by border guards and other law enforcement officials, to hold accountable perpetrators and compensate victims, and to outlaw organizations including, political parties, that promote and incite racial discrimination. In this context, I wish to recall our Statement of September 2016 ahead of the New York Summit. The Committee has since been active in supporting the global compacts processes.

With regard to minorities, the Committee continues to address the situation of Roma and Travellers, mostly but not only, in many European countries in its concluding observations. While noting the EU Framework for National Roma Integration Strategies up to 2020, we remain concerned that in reality Roma in Europe continue to face prejudice, intolerance, discrimination and social exclusion in their daily lives and to live in very poor socio-economic conditions. The Committee is concerned that implementation of national Roma strategies in various countries lacked political will, were allocated inappropriate resources, and fell short of genuine consultation with the concerned Roma in the development, implementation and evaluation of such strategies.

Over the past year, the Committee noted that Indigenous Peoples continue to suffer from the consequences of historic injustice, including colonization, dispossession of their lands, oppression and discrimination, as well as limited margin to maintain their own ways of life. We have called on States parties to address the issues faced by Indigenous Peoples in a comprehensive manner while ensuring genuine participation with them in the development and implementation of plans that concern them and complying with the principle of free, prior and informed consent. The Committee frequently reflected in its jurisprudence the principles and rights echoed in the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (2007), and encouraged States parties who have not yet done so to endorse the Declaration.


            The concerns as I have outlined from the work of CERD remain unfortunately intact and the temptation to withdraw into a narrow identity, to reject the other continues to translate, among others, into the rise and the resurgence of the most extremist political parties. At a time when some political leaders either use hate rhetoric or fail to unequivocally condemn racist attacks and therefore send the message that these might, somehow, be tolerated if not legitimated, it is our collective and urgent responsibility to articulate and address these issues immediately and everywhere.

In the last year, we have continued to call on States under review to adopt and implement legislation which prohibits officials from engaging in racial profiling, take special measures to eliminate it and avoid policies and programmes which can give rise to it. Resolute action is required by all Governments, including the high-level politicians, not only to reject and condemn racist hate speech and racist crimes, to combat racial discrimination and xenophobia against refugees and migrants, among other groups, but also to actively contribute to the promotion of understanding, inclusiveness, and diversity between ethnic groups. This also requires efforts to foster social and economic environments where migrants and refugees are not just tolerated but treated as equals and fully integrated and included with the local population and their contributions to host societies fully acknowledged.

As I have already indicated, 178 States are parties to the ICERD, five have signed the Convention but not yet ratified it. I am very pleased to report that on 10 January 2017, Sao Tome and Principe became the 178th States parties to the Convention. Racial discrimination remains a very current concern in every country of the world. It essential to achieve universal ratification of the ICERD and I would like to seize this opportunity to call the 11 States, which have not yet done so, to accede to the Convention.

Those, which have not ratified include Myanmar from where reports of egregious manifestations of racial discrimination towards the Rohingya people in Rakine State have been described by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and others as ethnic cleansing. The human rights violations, which are being committed against the Rohingya people have to be condemned by all who support human rights and reject racism. I take this opportunity to publicly call on Myanmar to urgently ratify and implement the provisions of the Convention so that the framework it offers can be available to the State to immediately address such discrimination.

Since the presentation of its last annual report, our Committee held three sessions and examined 20 reports, in which it commended States parties for their achievements and provided recommendations for the challenges identified in their respective reports as well as during the constructive dialogue with their delegations . Under its follow up procedure, the Committee considered the reports of 12 States parties. We also examined situations of particular concern under the Early Warning and Urgent Action Procedure. This well-established procedure allows the Committee to address existing structural problems from escalating into conflicts, to respond to problems requiring immediate attention and to prevent or limit the scale or number of serious violations of the Convention. Since the 91st session, 11 letters were sent and three decisions adopted under this procedure in relation to nine States. These letters and decisions mainly addressed situations where land rights of indigenous peoples were threatened or infringed, and human rights violations of persons belonging to minority groups, including excessive use of police force and arbitrary detention, which appeared to have an ethnic character, as well as hate speech and violence against notably migrants, refugees and peoples of African Descent.

In line with GA resolution 68/268, the Committee continued to implement the simplified reporting procedure and adopted two lists of issues prior to reporting . States parties whose reports were more than ten years overdue were prioritised, then this procedure was offered to States parties whose reports are more than five years overdue. To date, only six States have agreed to be examined under the simplified reporting procedure. I encourage States parties to take full advantage of technical cooperation being offered by the OHCHR in building and enhancing their capacity to implement their treaty obligations. Furthermore, the Committee continued to strengthen its working methods, while looking at existing good practices of other treaty bodies, including by piloting the task force/co-rapporteurs working method. In the same collaborative spirit and bearing in mind that GA resolution No 68/268 called for increased harmonization of working methods by the treaty bodies, bilateral meetings were held with the Committee against Torture and the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, with a view to exchanging experiences and exploring ways and means to strengthen collaboration and streamlining working methods. CERD played a significant role in ensuring that both the Decade and Working Group on People of African Descent were realised and we continue to support the work of both. We collaborate actively with the Special Mechanisms, particularly of course the Special Representative on Racism.

Overall, as I said at the start, the Committee is concerned to deepen its engagement with all its stakeholders and particularly with States parties to the Convention. This year, during the 92nd session, we held the fifth informal meeting with States parties to the Convention, entitled “ICERD in Today’s World”, seeking the views of States parties on key challenges they face in combatting racial discrimination and on the experiences in engaging with the Committee. During its 93rd session, we held a meeting with States parties with overdue initial and periodic reports with the aim of thinking together on how to best support States parties in this regard. Both meetings were very well attended. During its 91st session, the Committee held a very successful and well-attended seminar with civil society organisations, entitled “Joining hands to end racial discrimination”, which sought to explore new and innovative ways to increase the implementation of the Convention. The seminar engaged successfully also through social media demonstrating its positive potential as well as its well noted negative consequences for addressing racism. We are grateful for the ongoing engagement of civil society, which informs and enhances our work, and for their commitment to ensuring that racism is addressed and eliminated. 

In addition, CERD is grateful for the support of National Human Rights Institutions and provides space during state reviews for short presentations for NHRIs with A status under the Paris Principles. It receives their submissions and has continued to engage with them during the past year including through participation in the OHCHR/ GANHRI March workshop. The Committee has also actively engaged with the Sustainable Development Goals, both during their development, and now in the ongoing implementation.


Our Committee has deployed extensive efforts to support States in combating all forms of racial discrimination: hate speech, racial profiling have been discussed with delegations and included in virtually all our concluding observations. Comprehensive guidance has been provided to States, especially through General Recommendation No. 31 on the prevention of racial discrimination in the administration and functioning of the criminal justice system, General Recommendation No. 35 on combating hate speech and General Recommendation No. 30 on discrimination against non-citizens. The increasing number of letters and decisions addressed to States under CERD’s Early Warning and Urgent Action Procedure go hand in hand with the renewed focus by the UN Secretary-General on prevention, as the Committee believes that its work under this procedure serves as alarm bells on potential triggers of conflict and calls for rapid respond to situations.

As part of our ongoing role and to continue to combat the persistent efforts of those who seek to stigmatise and racially discriminate against segments of humankind. On this note, I am happy to announce that on 29 November, the CERD will devote half a day of discussion on “Racial Discrimination in today's world: Racial profiling, ethnic cleansing and current global issues and challenges”. Our discussions will mainly focus on the two issues, which I just highlighted: Racial profiling and ethnic cleansing. The success of this event will depend on your active participation and I would like to seize this opportunity to invite all of you to join us.

Distinguished delegates,

You will not be surprised that I need also to address the question of resources. Our collective capacity to address the challenges which I just described, to respond to the needs of the rights holders and to the legitimate expectations of States and civil society partners depends on the allocation of the resources that the human rights treaty bodies system requires. A failure to take on board the formula in Res 68/268 for future resource allocation would undermine even further a situation already very fragile. This is why I strongly appeal on your sense of responsibility to address the current situation and to provide the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights with resources it requires to adequately support the Treaty Bodies.


At that start of my input I reminded us that more than 50 years after Sharpville and in spite of significant progress made, for which I commend you and all who have struggled to make it possible, a toxic global discourse is fanning the flames of racial discrimination in new and not so new ways towards new and old victims with those perceived to be Muslims, migrants and minority members particularly targeted. I outlined the Committee's concerns from our work during the year including with regard to racism towards migrants and those on the move, Indigenous Peoples, Roma and Travellers and concerning the resurgence of extremist political rhetoric and hate speech and the need for special measures and legislation and to address the intersectional complexities of racism for women and others. I also gave you some details of our activities.

I again urge you to ensure that what is described as the war on terror does not become one of terrorising communities and that "our" fears are not put before "their" rights. Finally, I take this opportunity to assure you of the Committee's continued determination to do its best to support the elimination of racial discrimination and call on you to take and give the global leadership needed now more than ever to ensure that racism is both named and addressed as a key barrier to a just sustainable and truly human world  

Lastly but and by no means leastly, I would like to address a special thanks to all the Geneva OHCHR staff who have supported the development of this intervention and who give so much to supporting CERD's work and to the Committee colleagues who give unstintingly of their time and expertise.

I thank you for your attention andI look forward to your questions.