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Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination opens one hundred and second session online

Meeting Summaries

 

The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination this afternoon opened its one hundred and second session online, hearing statements from Simon Walker, Chief of the Civil, Political, Economic, Social and Cultural Rights Section at the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, and several non-governmental organizations.

In his statement, Mr. Walker said that, unfortunately, many months after its appearance, the COVID-19 pandemic was far from being defeated. It continued to pose a number of human rights concerns, including relating to racial discrimination. COVID-19 had brought many challenges to communities across the globe, which at times affected certain people disproportionately, including people of African descent, indigenous peoples, migrants, refugees and asylum-seekers. As the possibility to produce a vaccine seemed to become a reality, the recommendation the Committee had made in its statement on COVID-19 and its implications under the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, adopted at the last session, was more relevant than ever.

The Committee then adopted the agenda and programme of work for the session.

Taisuke Komatsu, Executive Director of the International Movement against All Forms of Racial Discrimination, said he was increasingly concerned by the growing backlog of State reports and protection gap due to the absence of State reviews. Resources and conditions for the Committee to hold online or hybrid reviews should be made available next year, including a safe, feasible and accessible videoconference platform.

Tania Agosti, for Race and Equality, noted that during this pandemic, the world had witnessed the largest transnational mobilization against systemic racism in law enforcement. It could not be ignored that, around the world, during this International Decade for the People of African Descent, Afro-descendant people were assassinated and their deaths were ignored because of the colour of their skin.

Glenn Payot, for the Minorities International Rights Group, said it was concerning that the postponement of the review of periodic reports from States created a protection gap. Minorities International Rights Group echoed the calls for the Committee to resume country reviews, either in-person or through virtual means, at its next session in 2021.

Olga Abramenko, for the Anti-Discrimination Centre (ADC Memorial), expressed hope that the challenges of today would not lead to a weakening of international human rights monitoring. Representatives of civil society should not lose the opportunity to appeal to high-level experts. State authorities must not be allowed to ignore their expert opinion. After all, an appeal to the United Nations human rights bodies was often the last opportunity for victims of racial discrimination to obtain justice.

Najmah Ali, for the Quakers United Nations Office in Geneva, said the continued securitization and racialization of borders at the cost of human life highlighted that migrants’ lives were seen as disposable. Quakers United Nations Office in Geneva reiterated calls to resume State party reporting and monitoring to continue to strengthen the human rights standards related to racial discrimination.

Yanduan Li, Committee Chairperson, recalled how much the Committee valued the cooperation with the organizations that took the floor and other non-governmental organizations, as their contributions helped the Committee to effectively discharge its mandate.

Documentation concerning the Committee’s session can be found here. The webcast of the public meetings of the Committee can be found here. The consideration of reports by States parties has been postponed to future sessions because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination is holding its one hundred and second session from 16 to 24 November. The Committee will next meet in public at 4 p.m. on Tuesday, 24 November to close the session.

Opening Statement

SIMON WALKER, Chief of the Civil, Political, Economic, Social and Cultural Rights Section of the Human Rights Treaties Branch at the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights , recognized the commitment of Committee Experts to their mandate. In addition to formal sessions, they had been working assiduously in the Bureau and the working group on early warning and urgent action, among other areas. Unfortunately, many months after its appearance, the COVID-19 pandemic was far from being defeated. It continued to pose a number of human rights concerns, including relating to racial discrimination. COVID-19 had brought many challenges to communities across the globe, which at times affected certain people disproportionately, including people of African descent, indigenous peoples, migrants, refugees and asylum-seekers. Such challenges included accessing health care and on-line education, food insecurity and homelessness.

As the possibility to produce a vaccine seemed to become a reality, the recommendation the Committee had made in its statement on COVID-19 and its implications under the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, adopted at the last session, was more relevant than ever. The Human Rights Council had adopted a resolution in June on the death of George Floyd and the excessive use of force by law enforcement agencies against Africans and people of African descent. The Council had mandated the High Commissioner to prepare a report to examine systemic racism, violations of international human rights law against Africans and people of African descent by law enforcement agencies, as well as the use of excessive force against protesters, bystanders and journalists protesting peacefully against racism. The Office of the High Commissioner had already started preparatory work on the implementation of this resolution. In light of the Council’s resolution and due to the centrality of the Committee’s work on racial discrimination issues, he encouraged Committee Experts to share their views and recommendations with the Office of the High Commissioner, including by written submissions.

The report of the Co-facilitators of the 2020 review of treaty body strengthening had been released on 14 September. The Co-facilitators’ recommendations followed closely the Vision of the Chairs of 2019 and addressed important areas of the Committee’s work and functioning. In particular, the recommendations encouraged the use of technology tools, such as the petitions database, to support the Committee’s work, while recognizing that on-line work should not replace in-person interaction. While the way forward on the Co-Facilitators’ report was under discussion, Iceland had submitted a draft procedural resolution on the human rights treaty body system last Thursday. The draft noted the Co-Facilitators’ report, and there would be some form of inter-governmental discussion of the report in 2021.

Adoption of the Agenda

The Committee adopted the agenda and programme of work for the session.

Statements by Non-governmental Organizations

TAISUKE KOMATSU, Executive Director of the International Movement against All Forms of Racial Discrimination , said he was increasingly concerned by the growing backlog of State reports and protection gap due to the absence of State reviews. Recent decisions of the Human Rights Committee and the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights to review at least two States each in their first sessions in 2021, either in person or online, were encouraging. There was also a good precedent of a successful online dialogue between the Committee on Enforced Disappearances and Iraq that had been held last month. Resources and conditions for the Committee to hold online or hybrid reviews should be made available next year, including a safe, feasible and accessible videoconference platform.

TANIA AGOSTI, Race and Equality, noted that during this pandemic, the world had witnessed the largest transnational mobilization against systemic racism in law enforcement. It could not be ignored that, around the world, during this International Decade for the People of African Descent, Afro-descendant people were assassinated and their deaths were ignored because of the colour of their skin. State actors such as the police were among the perpetrators of violence and murder; and in cases in which State actors were not among the perpetrators, such crimes were often not properly investigated, prosecuted and punished.

GLENN PAYOT, Minorities International Rights Group, said it was concerning that the postponement of the review of periodic reports from States created a protection gap. Minorities International Rights Group echoed the calls for the Committee to resume country reviews, either in-person or through virtual means, at its next session in 2021. He urged efforts, through early warning and preventative mechanisms, to ensure that minorities and indigenous peoples, especially those over-exposed as frontline workers, be given full access to vaccination, when it would become available. In the medium term, the Committee had a key role to place in emphasizing the importance of the Leave No One Behind Principle in relation to health and other development policies.

OLGA ABRAMENKO, Anti-Discrimination Centre (ADC Memorial), expressed hope that the challenges of today would not lead to a weakening of international human rights monitoring. The pandemic had forced all to restructure their work, limiting in-person contacts. The United Nations funding crisis also forced non-governmental organizations to look for new ways to interact with the relevant Committees and Procedures. Representatives of civil society should not lose the opportunity to appeal to such high-level experts. State authorities must not be allowed to ignore their expert opinion. After all, an appeal to the United Nations human rights bodies was often the last opportunity for victims of racial discrimination to obtain justice.

NAJMAH ALI, Quakers United Nations Office in Geneva, said the racist and xenophobic framing of migrants in many parts of the world had provided legitimacy to actions that dehumanized migrants and caused appalling fatalities. Immigration law and controls through their very nature existed to exclude and create distinctions between people and had constructed migrants as individuals undeserving of basic human rights. The continued securitization and racialization of borders at the cost of human life highlighted that migrants’ lives were seen as disposable. Quakers United Nations Office in Geneva reiterated calls to resume State party reporting and monitoring to continue to strengthen the human rights standards related to racial discrimination

Remarks by the Committee Chairperson

YANDUAN LI, Committee Chairperson, recalled how much the Committee valued the cooperation with the organizations that took the floor and other non-governmental organizations, as their contributions helped the Committee to effectively discharge its mandate. She expressed hope that they would pursue and strengthen their cooperation.

 

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