As I commence my mandate as the second UN Independent Expert on the enjoyment of rights by persons with albinism, I take the opportunity to reflect on the great work and progress of my predecessor, Ms. Ikponswa Ero. In the past six years there have been a number of gains made in the area of protection and promotion of the rights of persons with albinism. Not only have the concerns regarding attacks and killings of persons with albinism been brought to the fore, but there is now greater understanding of the challenges persons with albinism often face in the area of discrimination, health and education, among others. The obligation of states to ensure full protection of the right to life of persons with albinism, as well as to address the challenges faced by them have been more clearly set out in the numerous reports by my predecessor, and albinism is increasingly seen as a human rights concern. Steps are also being taken to address the root causes of the attacks and other challenges. Most significantly, I note the recent adoption of the resolution on the elimination of harmful practices related to accusations of witchcraft and ritual attacks.
While there has been some progress, the situation of persons with albinism remains of great concern. Reports of the killings of persons with albinism, based on the belief that their body parts provide some form of fortune, continue. In most cases, impunity for these attacks appear to be the norm. Persons with albinism continue to experience discrimination, including intersectional discrimination, which prevents them from obtaining the same opportunities as others in education, health, employment and various sectors of life. Furthermore, there is continued lack of knowledge, and sometimes willingness, to ensure states address the barriers which hinder their full and effective participation in society on an equal basis with others, particularly when taking into their susceptibility to the sun, low vision and other concerns.
I am therefore acutely aware of the huge responsibility ahead of me in my task as the Independent Expert on albinism. It is not lost on me that in many cases persons with albinism have not had the opportunity to be included or have an active voice in the development of policies and processes which affect them. Therefore, just like my predecessor, I undertake to ensuring the inclusion, genuine consultation and active participation of the voices of persons with albinism. My role is not to replace these voices, but to amplify them and ensure that nothing is done for persons with albinism, without persons with albinism. In addition, I am honoured by the opportunity to work with other key players, such as states, civil society organisations, professional bodies and academic institutions, in ensuring a multisectoral, human-rights-based approach to albinism and the development of relevant standards geared towards ensuring the enjoyment of all rights by persons with albinism.
I look forward to the collaboration and support of various actors in this mammoth task ahead of me.