15 November 2021
The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination this morning opened its one-hundred and fifth session, during which it will review anti-discrimination efforts by Chile, Denmark, Singapore, Switzerland and Thailand. The Committee heard an address by Mahamane Cissé-Gouro, Director of the Human Rights Council and Treaty Mechanisms Division at the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, and adopted the session’s provisional agenda, as orally revised.
In his opening statement, Mr. Cissé-Gouro expressed gratitude for the Committee’s work done remotely over the last 20 months, which had demonstrated the Committee Experts’ sense of responsibility and commitment to uphold the fight against racial discrimination and to avoid a protection gap. The COVID-19 pandemic still negatively affected populations around the globe, posing challenges with regard to the unequal treatment of the most vulnerable people, such as indigenous peoples, people of African descent, people of Asian descent, migrants, asylum seekers and refugees. Beyond the pandemic, the world faced many challenges of direct concern to the Committee, with conflicts and poverty forcing people to leave their homes in search of a better and sustainable existence elsewhere. Racial, religious and other forms of discrimination exacerbated the hardships they faced, often leaving people in intolerable situations. The Committee’s Early-Warning and Urgent Action Procedure provided a tool to react to such situations and recall to States their obligations under international human rights law.
The digital and technological shift offered great potential to humanity but also human rights challenges, with those left out risking being trapped in exclusion, poverty and inequality. Where artificial intelligence adopted racial stereotypes within its parameters, the potential benefits of technology could quickly work against segments of the population, an issue treated in the Committee’s recent General Recommendation on racial profiling. As for the Committee’s work and mandate, he noted that the Human Rights Council in September had mandated the appointment of independent experts to an international mechanism that would review the systemic racism faced by Africans and people of African descent in the areas of law enforcement and the criminal justice system. The Committee’s collaboration would be vital for implementing the Agenda for Transformative Change. The Council had also adopted a resolution condemning the resurgence of violent manifestations of racism and stressed the imperative of universal adherence to the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, including the Committee’s individual communications procedure, and the withdrawal of reservations to article 4.
In closing, Mr. Cissé-Gouro paid tribute to the outgoing members of the Committee, Silvio Albuquerque, Marc Bossuyt, Rita Izsàk-Ndiaye and Kiko Ko, thanking them for their considerable contributions to the work of the Committee during their respective mandates. He wished the Committee a fruitful and successful session.
Li Yanduan, Committee Chairperson, opened the session, saying that after more than a year during which sessions took place online, this session was taking place in-person and she thanked the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights for its efforts to make this possible. The Committee then adopted its provisional agenda, as orally revised. Ms. Li said that due to the postponement of the reviews of Bahrain and Bolivia, the Committee at this session would consider the reports of Chile, Denmark, Singapore, Switzerland and Thailand.
Summaries of the public meetings of the Committee can be found here, while webcasts of the public meetings can be found here. The programme of work of the Committee’s one hundred and fifth session and other documents related to the session can be found here.
The Committee will next meet in public on Tuesday, 16 November, at 3 p.m. to consider the combined tenth to twelfth periodic report of Switzerland (CERD/C/CHE/10-12).