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30 November 2016
GENEVA (30 November 2016) - The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination today concluded its consideration of the combined fifteenth to seventeenth periodic report of Portugal on its implementation of the provisions of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination.
Introducing the report, Pedro Nuno Bártolo, Permanent Representative of Portugal to the United Nations Office at Geneva, said that the law against racial discrimination, adopted 20 years ago, had increased awareness of the need to fight the scourge in public and private spheres; the ongoing review of this law would stimulate an improved political strategy for the fight against racism and racial discrimination. Portugal favoured an intercultural model of integration of migrants, refugees and asylum-seekers, which was centred on the assumption that only when their human dignity was respected, was a more harmonious integration in new life and new society possible. The Portuguese refugee and asylum system was perhaps one of the most progressive in Europe. The prevention and combatting of hate crimes was a priority for police and judicial authorities, while the Criminal Code repressed activities that incited discrimination, hatred or racial violence.
Pedro Calado, High Commissioner for Migration, explained that his Office assured the application of a whole-of-government approach to integration and added that the Strategic Plan for Migration 2015-2020 contained more than 100 practical measures, which had been publicly discussed with civil society organizations and immigrant associations. The economic and financial crisis had created additional challenges for the integration, and it was important to acknowledge that the society continued to positively view and welcome migrants, which facilitated the public debate and legislative activity. There were no serious cases of xenophobia, racism or hostility towards migrants, and political parties were not using immigration as a political topic. The Commission for Equality and Against Racial Discrimination had been created in 1999; it was chaired by the High Commissioner for Migration, and its main mission was to accompany the application of legislation against discrimination, including to collect information on discriminatory acts, recommend adopting of legislative measures, and publish reports.
In the dialogue that followed, Committee Experts noted with satisfaction that there were no political parties in Portugal with open racist platforms, and commended Portugal for its migrant integration policies which were widely regarded as being among the most progressive and human rights friendly in Europe. The concern existed however about reports of violence against minorities and about institutional racism deriving from the colonial past which determined the treatment of people of African descent; along with migrants and Roma, they were marginalized and considered outcasts by Portuguese society. What was being done to address police racism and brutality against immigrants and to ensure remedy for victims? Another issue of concern was the targeting of Muslims by skinheads and the treatment of Muslims as terrorists by security forces. Experts stressed that ethnicity and race were important determinants of poverty and social exclusion and inquired about the collection of disaggregated data to better identify groups at risk. The delegation was asked about the impact of the changes to improve recording of hate crimes, measures to address the reluctance of the judiciary to apply a wide set of sanctioning options against hate crimes, and the statistics on complaints and prosecution for racial discrimination.
In her concluding remarks, Verene Shepherd, Committee Expert and Rapporteur for Portugal, urged Portugal to pay more attention to the status of the Convention and the application by courts, address the concern about institutional racism which derived from the colonial past, and take measures to eliminate hate speech and anti-social behaviour against Roma.
Ambassador Bártolo remarked that economic challenges, however serious they were, should not lead to “identitarian closure” and the deepening of discrimination and exclusion, and stressed that fighting the scourge of racial discrimination was a never-ending task to which Portugal was fully committed.
Anastasia Crickley, Committee Chairperson, in her concluding remarks thanked the delegation for their honest responses and expressed hope that the next United Nations Secretary-General would take a firm stand against racial discrimination and use the Convention to do so.
The delegation of Portugal included representatives of the Office of the High Commissioner for Migration, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Secretary of State of Citizenship and Equality, Ministry of Science, Technology and Higher Education, Ministry of Internal Administration, Ministry of Health, Ministry of Education, Ministry of Justice, Commission of Citizenship and Gender Equality, Secretary of State Assistant for Sport, Ministry of Environment, and the Permanent Mission of Portugal to the United Nations Office at Geneva.
The Committee will reconvene in public at 3 p.m. today, 30 November to consider the combined eighth to eleventh report of Turkmenistan (CERD/C/TKM/8-11).
The combined fifteenth to seventeenth periodic report of Portugal can be read here: CERD/C/PRT/15-17.
Presentation of the Report
PEDRO NUNO BÁRTOLO, Permanent Representative of Portugal to the United Nations Office at Geneva, started by saying that today, people from 170 nationalities lived in Portugal, and comprised four per cent of its population. The law against racial discrimination, adopted 20 years ago, had increased awareness of the need to fight the scourge in public and private spheres; the ongoing review of this legal framework would stimulate an improved political strategy of the fight against racism and racial discrimination. Portugal favoured an intercultural model of integration of migrants, refugees and asylum-seekers, which was centred on the assumption that only when their human dignity was respected, a more harmonious integration in new life and new society was possible. The refugee and asylum system was clearly influenced by those imperatives and was perhaps one of the most progressive in Europe, in which refugees, immigrants and asylum seekers were not discriminated against in accessing health, education, social security or housing. Portugal also carried out an active solidarity policy, at a time when many in Europe and beyond were hesitant to give concrete proof of humanity: it had offered admission to 8,942 refugees through the European Union Emergency Relocation Mechanism, and 5,800 through bilateral arrangements.
People of African descent were an integral part of the society, said Mr. Bártolo, adding that as Portuguese citizens, they enjoyed the fundamental rights guaranteed by the Constitution, as well policy and legislative measures aimed at combatting racial discrimination. The Government continued to invest in the education sector with initiatives aimed at the social inclusion of vulnerable children, particularly children of immigrants and ethnic minorities. Although problems persisted, there was a clear paradigm shift aimed at enhanced inclusion, extended school social support, citizenship education and promotion of school success for all. The introduction of more inclusive curricula and evaluation frameworks were areas of ongoing work with the objective of advancing the goal of eradicating all forms of discrimination. Right wing extremism was a marginal phenomenon in the political scene, first and foremost due to the constitutional and legal order that did not allow organizations of racist or fascist ideology. The prevention and combatting of hate crimes was a priority for police and judicial authorities, while the Criminal Code repressed activities that incited discrimination, hatred or racial violence.
PEDRO CALADO, High Commissioner for Migration, said that the creation of the High Commission for Migration 20 years ago as an inter-ministerial institution responsible for the coordination of all stakeholders had assured the application of a whole-of-government approach to integration. The Strategic Plan for Migration 2015-2020 contained more than 100 practical measures, which had been publicly discussed with civil society organizations and immigrant associations. The economic and financial crisis had created additional challenges for the integration, and it was important to acknowledge that the society continued to positively view and welcome migrants, which facilitated the public debate and legislative activity. There were no serious cases of xenophobia, racism or hostility towards migrants, and political parties were not using immigration as a political topic. The Commission for Equality and Against Racial Discrimination had been created in 1999; it was chaired by the High Commissioner for Migration, and its main mission was to accompany the application of legislation against discrimination, including to collect information on discriminatory acts, recommend adoption of legislative measures, and publish reports.
Portugal was currently revising its Anti-Discrimination Law, which was expected to be adopted in the next few months, and which would reinforce the concept of discriminatory practices. The initial evaluation of the National Strategy for the Integration of Roma Communities 2013-2015 pointed to a high rate of implementation, and it had pointed to the need to set more ambitious targets in 2017 in education, housing and employment. The migratory profile in Portugal was changing and showing a decrease in the immigration and an increase in emigration, which highlighted new challenges and priorities for the migration policy, including combatting the democracy deficit and balancing migration trends, consolidating migrant communities in the country, and inclusion of new nationals. The promotion of equality between women and men and of non-discrimination was seen as an ethical, legal and constitutional imperative, which echoed in the normative framework that aimed to eliminate discrimination on the grounds of sex, as well as multiple and intersectional discrimination.
Questions by the Rapporteurs
VERENE SHEPHERD, Committee Expert and Rapporteur for Portugal, said that this review was taking place at a very troubling time in world affairs marked by a troubling escalation of incidents of racial discrimination, especially affecting migrants, refugees and asylum seekers, indigenous people, Muslims, Roma and people of African descent.
Although the Constitution contained an extensive catalogue of rights, freedoms and guarantees, several sources had reported violations of those rights and violence against minorities. Unfortunately, the information about cases brought under the anti-discrimination legal provisions was limited. Additionally, several non-governmental organizations had indicated that institutional racism derived from the colonial past determined the treatment of people of African descent, who along with migrants and Roma were marginalized and considered outcasts by Portuguese society.
Considering that consultations with non-governmental organizations had taken place just two weeks before the submission of the report, how much of their input was reflected in the report? What could explain the fact that non-governmental organizations did not submit their alternate reports to the Committee, nor had they come to Geneva to participate in the review: was it lack of funding, lack of awareness or something else?
The Rapporteur acknowledged the existence of authorities with competence in the area of human rights, such as the Ombudsman, the National Committee for Human Rights, the mechanism for gender equality, as well as remedy mechanisms. The question was about their effectiveness and desired impact in the society, which could be ascertained by the instances in which victims sought or got compensation for the violation of their rights.
How was the Convention incorporated in the domestic legal system and how was it applied in reality? Could the delegation provide cases in which the Convention’s provisions were invoked before or applied by domestic courts?
It was hard to penetrate the statistical data and understand which ethnic groups were more likely at risk of poverty. What mechanisms were in place to collect aggregated data in order to better understand the issue of poverty? How was the 2014 survey of Roma communities conducted and which measures had been taken to follow up on its findings?
Turning to the implementation of the Convention in its programmes and policies towards the Cigano/Roma, Ms. Shepherd congratulated Portugal on its Roma Integration Strategy 2013-2020, but noted that despite those and other measures, as well as laws prohibiting discrimination, part of the Roma population continued to face discrimination, schools were not sufficiently culturally sensitive to Roma children, the media continued to diffuse stereotypes about Roma, and consultation mechanisms had unclear competencies and powers. The delegation was asked about the impact of the integration strategy, plans to improve the consultation mechanism, and to explain the situation of the Roma mediators.
The immigration integration policies had received international recognition since 2010, and were widely regarded as being among most progressive and human rights friendly in Europe - many considered them a good practice to follow. The Rapporteur welcomed the legislation introduced as a result of the Strategic Plan for Migrants which had reinforced the Commission for Equality and Against Racial Discrimination. How was the Commission reinforced, how many complaints had it received and what punishments were received? There were still concerns about the independence of the High Commissioner for Migration, who also chaired the Equality Body – would this affect the confidence of those who complained about migration services?
Turning to reports of police racism and brutality against immigrants, the Rapporteur asked about measures taken to prevent excesses by the police, and to reform the criminal justice system, and about remedies to victims.
While Portugal had expressed willingness to accept refugees, there were complaints that so far very few had actually been received. Ms. Shepherd asked for an update on the situation; comment on the overcrowded refugee reception centres in Lisbon as reported by the Portuguese Refugee Council; and exploitation of irregular migrants.
Portugal had introduced changes that could lead to improved recording of hate crimes; had they already led to improved prosecution and sentencing? The Rapporteur expressed concern about the reluctance of the judiciary in applying a wide set of sanctioning options against hate crimes, and about the low rates of conviction of persons accused of committing acts of racial discrimination.
Expressing concern about targeting and savage beating of Muslims by skinheads, as well as treatment of Muslims as terrorists by security forces, the Rapporteur asked about programmes in place to improve the perception of Muslims among the public and security forces, and their effectiveness.
It was regretful that despite all the training provided to the police officers, prison guards, and guardians of justice, complaints were still being filed for race-based police brutality by people of African descent. What was being done to address the deep, systemic problem within the police and ensure that such incidents did not happen?
GUN KUT, Committee Expert and Rapporteur for Follow-up, commended Portugal for providing the follow-up report according to the Committee’s previous concluding observations, and urged Portugal to submit its next follow-up report in a more timely fashion.
Questions by Experts
A Committee Expert noted with satisfaction that there were no political parties in Portugal with open racist platforms, and commended Portugal for its migrant integration policies.
What statistics were available with regard to complaints of racial discrimination? What was being done to encourage more people to file complaints, considering that 90 per cent of victims did not actually complain? The statistical data provided on complaints did not make it easy to understand who filed a complaint – a victim, a non-governmental organization, or the authorities?
What system was in place to facilitate prosecution for racial discrimination? What sanctions for racial discrimination in sports were handed down, as prescribed by the newly adopted law on racism in sports?
Another Expert took note of illiteracy data and asked about children who were still illiterate in Portugal - did they belong to ethnic minorities, Cigans, Roma or Gypsies?
What was the ethnic make-up of the prison population?
An Expert noted that Portugal had been recognized as a very tolerant society in 2011, but the situation in Europe had changed since, with the high number of refugees and migrants from Asia and the Middle East, and many from war torn countries. In those new circumstances, did Portugal remain a welcoming country and did people still see migrants and refugees positively? What measures were being taken to ensure that the actions by the police reflected the inclusive and tolerant image of Portugal?
How did Portugal address the issues of the past that many would like to forget in the school curricula and textbooks? How did it implement the International Decade of People of African Descent?
Could the delegation explain the statistics on poverty in relation to ethnic groups and also explain what “at risk of poverty” meant?
Had Portugal considered adopting the principle of reversal of burden of proof in discrimination cases?
A Committee Expert noted the provisions of the Criminal Code which qualified the offences of murder and assault as aggravated based on racial, religious or political hatred, based on colour, ethnic or national origin, and based on sex, sexual orientation or gender identity of victims. Data on those crimes was pretty scarce and usually lumped the crime of racial or religious discrimination together. Portugal had reported six cases in 2012, 12 in 2013, and 19 in 2014.
The framework of appeals to the Supreme Court had been improved to ensure that it considered only the most serious cases, however, this left open the question of where the appeals to less serious cases went.
Did the monist system of law apply to the two autonomous regions, could those regions refuse to incorporate international treaties, and how did Portugal ensure the application of the Convention throughout the country?
What was the remit of the Commission for Equality and Against Racial Discrimination?
Would Portugal consider hosting the Regional Conference on the International Decade of People of African Descent?
Portugal was one of the few countries which did not cut support for refugees and minorities, and had its arms wide open to the world. Those were the policies that must be valued, particularly in a world in which the far-right was gaining ground.
ANASTASIA CRICKLEY, Committee Chairperson, inquired about the reversal of the burden of proof in line with the European Union regulations, and about the institutional place of the Commission for Equality and whether it was in a position to adequately transpose anti-discrimination legislation and provide complaint mechanism. How was the colonial history taught in schools?
What indicators were being used to access the implementation of the National Plan for Integration? What were the limits of freedom of expression in Portugal? Could sanctions be impressed upon the media?
VERENE SHEPHERD, Committee Expert and Rapporteur for Portugal, took note of the silence around the historical experiences of people of African descent, and asked how Portugal would be addressing crimes against humanity and human rights violations committed in the context of slavery, and how it approached the issue of reparations.
Responses by the Delegation
Portugal wanted to build ties between the past and the future and yet again set an example of good practice in combatting racial discrimination, said Pedro Nuno Bártolo, Permanent Representative of Portugal to the United Nations Office at Geneva and head of the delegation, and informed the Committee that Portugal would seriously consider hosting a Regional Conference on the International Decade of People of African Descent next year.
The 2015 Eurobarometer had indicated that migration was not a major source of concern in Portugal, in contrast to the European trend: 30 per cent of European citizens interviewed for the surveys indicated migration as their chief concern versus only 16 per cent of Portuguese respondents.
Five million Portuguese were scattered around the world – there were ten times more Portuguese emigrants than immigrants in Portugal. Portuguese had benefitted from international protection and it was difficult not to extend to the people in Portugal the same protection that Portugal wished to see offered to the Portuguese abroad.
Social exclusion and poverty did not have a nationality, ethnic group or colour, which meant that this was a global problem that affected the country as a whole. Policies to combat discrimination against people of different descendants applied to everyone in the country. Portugal had started experiencing a crisis in 2008 and in 2010: for the first time since the 1960s, more people were leaving than arriving to the country. The mandate of the High Commission for Migration had been therefore expanded to also include supporting Portuguese abroad, and to integrate resettled migrants. There were 76 municipalities in Portugal which had received refugees, who were supported through institutional networks and mechanisms.
There were several complaints mechanisms for discrimination, in addition to the Commission for Equality. Portugal agreed that a new legal framework to combat discrimination was needed, and a draft anti-discrimination law had been prepared in collaboration with the public administration and Parliament, and had been submitted for consultations. The fight against racial discrimination was not merely achieved through laws and repression; proactive strategies were being used to establish a permanent dialogue platform between various groups and authorities, for example in Cova da Moura neighbourhood, where an early warning body had also been created to ensure early action to address all instances of racial discrimination, including by the police.
In order to respond to the current migratory crisis in Europe, Portugal did not feel constrained by the European Union-Turkey agreement for example, but was going above and beyond to offer shelter to people in need of safety. Portugal received a low number of asylum applications every year: 160 in 2010, and 896 in 2015. Portugal continued to support the Portuguese Refugee Council to enable it to support asylum seekers.
Currently, foreigners made up four per cent of the Portuguese population, and there were increasing numbers of people coming from non-Portuguese speaking countries, including Ukraine, Syria, China, Morocco, and others. Most of the immigrants were irregular migrants but it was important to say that the law provided numerous avenues for the regularization of their status: 7,500 irregular migrants had used those legal avenues between 2007 and 2012 to regularize their status.
With regard to the implementation of the Convention in the domestic legal system, the delegation explained that the Constitution defined that all international treaties were an essential part of the domestic legal regime and were applicable throughout the country, including in autonomous regions. The approval of the international treaties was a competence of Parliament.
Discrimination and violence on the basis of race, religion and ethnic origin were criminalized; race, religion, and ethnic origin were also defined as aggravating circumstances. In 2015, 19 crimes of racial discrimination had been reported.
In order to strengthen the support for victims of racial discrimination and hate crimes, a partnership had been developed with the Portuguese Association to Support Victims, while the Hate No More project created a handbook on dealing with victims of racial discrimination, and on the basis of which training programmes for the police and the judiciary were held.
The Law Enforcement Ethical Code prohibited police violence and racial discrimination and those provisions were the foundation of all training provided to the police. All violations of proportionality and use of force were duly investigated. Police officers who worked with vulnerable populations such as ethnic groups, women, the elderly or persons with disabilities received special training to enable them to adequately respond to their safety and security needs. Proximity and integrated policing were being used in ethnic and vulnerable communities in order to create a relationship of trust and to better protect these communities, including against cyber-bullying, human trafficking, domestic violence, and other threats. All violations of fundamental principles by the police were investigated by both internal and external bodies.
The Commission on Equality and Against Racial Discrimination had developed a number of awareness raising programmes in order to mobilize everyone to combat racial discrimination. Some of the campaigns developed included Colours of the Grey City which promoted racial diversity of cities among school children and had reached 250,000 pupils; four practical guides on combatting discrimination of Roma communities that targeted the police, non-governmental organizations and lawyers; a literature competition for the public on issues of racism and racial discrimination; and the 2015 Facebook campaign Discover Your Own Colour. During the 2012-2015 period, the Commission had received 232 complaints of racial discrimination.
Portugal was making an investment into monitoring situations of interest. It had established the Observatory for Migration in 2002 to monitor the situation of migrants and the implementation of public policies, and to recommend corrective actions. Investments were being made in statistical monitoring as well, and Portugal was examining data from 27 different sources on 11 different dimensions pertaining to issues of relevance to migrants, including employment, education, housing, and others.
The education system was based on the principle of inclusion, and education in diversity was taught in all schools. Certain groups experienced obstacles in accessing education and that was why affirmative action for Roma and migrant children had been put in place, and despite the crisis, Portugal had boosted the support in this area. There were social support programmes for schools, which covered school transport and meals for children from disadvantaged backgrounds. Schools in under-privileged neighbourhoods - areas with high concentration of Roma or migrant population - were provided with additional resources to fight school drop-out to a tune of € 20 million per year. The programme was successful as the drop-out rate was only three per cent above the national average.
The 2015 prevalence study on female genital mutilation had identified the number of women and girls victims of the practice or at risk, and their geographical distribution. The study also provided data on the quality and efficiency of public policies which strove to eradicate the practice, as well as social determinants of the practice, which were essential for awareness raising and developing campaign materials. The study estimated that there were more than 6,000 women and girls above the age of 15 at risk of the practice; 49 per cent of those were women and girls born in countries in which female genital mutilation was a common practice, particularly Guinea Bissau. In 2015, 99 cases of female genital mutilation had been detected by health services; the average age of victims was 5.9 years.
Responding to questions related to cooperation with civil society on issues of racial discrimination, the delegation explained that members of the Council for Migration included representatives of the 10 largest migrant communities, and said that it was likely that the new law on migration would have to be debated at this forum. Several strong consultation mechanisms with non-governmental organizations and representative organizations were in place as well, such as with Roma communities.
Follow-up Questions by Experts
VERENE SHEPHERD, Committee Expert and Rapporteur for Portugal, took note of the new trend in population movement in Portugal and wondered why there were more people leaving the country than migrating in. There were some ethnic groups which were particularly vulnerable to social exclusion and poverty and statistical data was crucial in exactly identifying those groups.
What were the expectations from the new anti-discrimination law and how would it improve on the existing law?
Who wrote the history textbooks in Portugal? The concept of discovery – of countries, people and their cultures - in history was disputed: how was it approached in the history syllabus? How did Portugal recognize the contribution of many peoples to its history and how far was the project of politics of memory taken?
ANASTASIA CRICKLEY, Committee Chairperson, shared the concern that the one and same agency was responsible for outgoing and incoming migration.
Responses by the Delegation
Responding, the delegate explained that many people left Portugal because of the economic and financial crisis, and added that globalization and European mobility played a role. The departure was stabilizing and not so many persons were moving away because of the crisis. The Strategical Plan for Migration had brought together under one umbrella, the Council on Migration, and several ministries, including the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in an attempt to create a one-stop shop.
Poverty did explain exclusion, said a delegate, adding that it was clear that there were other additional risk factors of exclusion including race and ethnicity. Policies to address poverty and social exclusion did not only target the population at risk, such as Roma and migrants, but all the Portuguese who experienced the same problems.
The expectations from the new anti-discrimination law were to specify and clarify applicable procedures, to increase the capacity to overcome under-reporting of racial discrimination and raise awareness about this complaint mechanism among the population, and to strengthen the capacity of the Commission to implement the law
Publishing houses selected authors of history books, which were then submitted to a Commission made up of teachers and professors to validate them. Each school and each teacher could select textbooks they wanted to use in their teaching. Portugal used the term “expansion” rather than “discovery” in history books.
On politics of memory and politics of landscape, the delegation said that a lot of efforts were being invested in the education but also in cultural activities, for example a municipality had recently opened a slavery museum, while the city of Lisbon had introduced walking tours of the city to discover the contribution that slaves and people of African descent had made to the history and culture of the city. Those tours were an opportunity to discover new layers of the city and its history.
Follow-up Questions by Experts
Committee Experts expressed concern about the very low reporting rate of racial discrimination – only 10 per cent - and noted that it was due to a range of reasons: they did not know the language, were not aware of complaint mechanisms, or were afraid of expulsion. What was being done to better understand the situation and take steps to address it? Could State agencies directly take action on all instances of racial discrimination, without the victim filing a complaint?
The Expert was also concerned about the position of Portugal that colour and ethnicity did not play an important role in social exclusion and poverty.
The delegation was asked to provide more information on languages in education, and was reminded that no society should allow itself to forget the scourge of slavery.
Many Portuguese worked in Angola and their remittances back to Portugal were many times more than remittances of Angolans working in Portugal; could the delegation inform on business and human rights?
Responses by the Delegation
Responding, the delegation explained the programme in communities which established a network of Ambassadors of the Commission for Equality and Against Racial Discrimination, which aimed to work with the people at the local level in the detection and reporting on incidents of racial discrimination.
Although data collection had improved in the past several years, the statistical data was still not sufficiently disaggregated. There was also a restriction in the Constitution which prohibited from distinguishing ethnic groups in the collection of the population data. Portugal used various indicators in order to better understand the situation of specific groups, for example school enrolment and completion rates.
The first report issued by the Commission contained data analysis for the decade 2002-2012, and the latest report covered the period from 2012 onwards. The report was compiled on 11 dimensions of integration, including education, employment, housing, remittances, knowledge of Portuguese, and others, and it included 147 indicators coming from 25 statistical and administrative sources, which were very useful in better understanding the situation in a particular sector.
The intercultural approach in Portugal meant that the management of diversity was more than just accommodation and living together; it was based on linking and mixing people together and identifying points in common, creating a permanent dialogue without losing anything.
VERENE SHEPHERD, Committee Expert and Rapporteur for Portugal, recognized the strategy of multiculturalism and multicultural dialogue in Portugal; noting that not all Portuguese shared the views of tolerance and integration, it stressed the need to educate the populous about Afrophobia which was real and existed in the society. As Portugal was finding ways to better implement its anti-discrimination policies, it should pay more attention to the status of the Convention and its application by courts, address the concern about institutional racism which derived from the colonial past, and take measures to eliminate hate speech and anti-social behaviour against Roma.
PEDRO NUNO BÁRTOLO, Permanent Representative of Portugal to the United Nations Office at Geneva, said that Portugal had benefitted greatly from this dialogue in which positive aspects were identified, alongside with some challenges. Portugal was committed to the serious follow-up on the Committee’s concluding observations, and would not indulge in complacency. Economic challenges, however serious they were, should not lead to “identitarian closure” and the deepening of discrimination and exclusion. Fighting the scourge of racial discrimination was a never-ending task to which Portugal was fully committed. Mr. Bártolo expressed concern that not too many States had heeded the concern that the Committee had expressed in its General Recommendation N°33 in which it urged States to ensure that measures to address economic and financial crisis should not lead to deepening of poverty and exclusion which could in turn lead to racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related forms of intolerance in societies.
ANASTASIA CRICKLEY, Committee Chairperson, thanked the delegation for their honest responses and supported the idea of going beyond accommodating diversity in the society. The Chairperson expressed hope that the next United Nations Secretary-General would take a firm stand against racial discrimination and use the Convention to do so.
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