COMMITTEE ON THE ELIMINATION OF RACIAL DISCRIMINATION OPENS ONE HUNDRED AND FIRST SESSION ONLINE
The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination this afternoon opened its one hundred and first session online, hearing a statement 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 Taisuke Komatsu, Executive Director of the International Movement against All Forms of Racial Discrimination.
In his statement, Mr. Walker said COVID-19 had touched all countries and, unfortunately, exacerbated the inequalities already faced by many minority and vulnerable groups, such as people of African descent, indigenous peoples, migrants, refugees and asylum-seekers. This situation highlighted the importance of the Committee’s work, and of this session, part of which would focus on racial discrimination issues arising in the context of COVID-19 and the elaboration of appropriate responses. Recent months had focused massive global attention on the issue of racial discrimination, particularly as a result of the death of George Floyd. Such debate was salutary and provided a further opportunity to align behaviours and attitudes with the principles outlined in the International Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.
Mr. Walker said that in a resolution, the Human Rights Council had strongly condemned the continuing racially discriminatory and violent practices perpetrated by law enforcement agencies against Africans and people of African descent. In this context, 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 report should aim at contributing to accountability and redress for victiMs.
Mr. Walker further stated that during the thirty-second Meeting of Chairs of the treaty bodies that took place virtually last week, the Chairs had had fruitful exchanges with the Co-facilitators of the 2020 review of treaty body strengthening as well as with the Deputy High Commissioner on the challenges currently facing treaty bodies to discharge their mandate fully in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. In this regard, the Chairs had recalled that virtual work should be a temporary solution and could not replace in-person meetings, in spite of the important work that Committees have been doing on-line since March 2020. They had also decided that the COVID-19 working group of treaty body members should pursue its work to consider the impact of the pandemic on human rights and the work of treaty bodies.
Yanduan Li, Committee Chairperson, explained that the Committee had already held a virtual meeting on 17 June during which it had elected its Bureau and new members had the opportunity to make their solemn declaration. The Bureau is made up of Ms. Li as Chairperson, Verene Albertha Shepherd, Marc Bossuyt and Yeung Kam John Yeung Sik Yuen as Vice Chairs, and Rita Izsák-Ndiaye as Rapporteur.
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, also delivering a statement on behalf of Race and Equality and Minority Rights Group International, drew attention to the situation of migrant workers, travellers, and Roma, who, in the face of the pandemic, had limited access to health care, non-crowded accommodation and information about the COVID-19 in their own languages, amongst other important resources. Marginalized segments of the population were overrepresented in prison and detention facilities. The year 2020 had been marked by a global call to end racial discrimination, notably in law enforcement. Welcoming the Committee’s statement on the killing of George Flyod, Mr. Komatsu stressed the importance of early warning and detection and urged the Treaty Bodies to continue working remotely. A secure platform, interpretation and the webcasting of meeting were key requirements in that regard. It was key for the Committee to remain inclusive, and should it not be able to resume in-person meetings in coming months, it should find technical solutions to hold constructive dialogues and country reports reviews remotely.
The Committee Chairperson recalled that the Committee greatly valued its cooperation with these organizations and other non-governmental organizations, as their contributions helped it effectively discharge its mandate.
The Committee’s one hundred and first session will be held remotely from 5 to 7 August. Because of the situation of COVID-19, the consideration of reports by States parties has been postponed to future sessions.
All public meetings of the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination are webcast live at http ://webtv.un.org/ while the meeting summaries in English and French can be accessed at the United Nations Office at Geneva News page .
The next public meeting of the Committee will be held on Friday, 7 August at 4 :30 p.m. when it will close its one hundred and first session.