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Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination Opens its One Hundred and Twelfth Session in Geneva

Meeting Summaries

The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination this morning opened its one hundred and twelfth session, during which it will review anti-discrimination efforts by Albania, Mexico, Qatar, Republic of Moldova and San Marino. 

The Committee heard four newly elected members make a solemn declaration, elected its new bureau, with Michal Balcerzak of Poland as Chair, and adopted the session’s agenda.

Wan-Hea Lee, Chief, Civil, Political, Economic, Social and Cultural Rights Section, Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, and Representative of the Secretary-General, said today’s world faced many challenges of direct concern to the Committee. According to the Committee, there had been a dangerous regression in the fight against racism in many spaces. Minorities, people of African descent, people of Asian descent, indigenous peoples, and migrants, including asylum seekers and refugees, were particularly vulnerable.  It was crucial that States implemented their international human rights obligations and commitments under the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination and the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action. 

Both the Secretary-General and the High Commissioner for Human Rights had recently underscored the entrenched legacy of colonialism and enslavement which impacted countries around the world, particularly the unique challenges faced by people of African descent.  They emphasised that diverse societies paved the path towards a future without hate. Nearly 60 years since its adoption, the Convention remained as relevant as ever and the Committee’s legal guidance and action against racial discrimination was vital. 

Several important developments related to the mandate of the Committee had taken place since the last session, including the seventy-fifth anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  At the domestic level, many States had adopted legislation to prohibit racial discrimination and some 300 pledges were received from governments, organizations and other actors that were concrete, time bound and with the potential to be transformative.  Eleven States had pledged to combat racial discrimination, including Australia, Denmark and the United States, among others.  The Committee was encouraged to follow up on the pledges received during its State party reviews. 

This year was the final year for the International Decade for People of African Descent.  A report of the Secretary-General was being prepared to provide a final assessment of the progress made in implementing the corresponding programme of activities.  Other events included the Commemorative Plenary Meeting of the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination; the panel discussion on the commemoration of the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination at the fifty-fifth session of the Human Rights Council; and the Regional Meeting for Asia Pacific on the International Decade for People of African Descent held in Geneva, among others. 

Ms. Lee said the Office was working to ensure continued support to the treaty body system despite the liquidity crisis, and hoped to receive the necessary funds to support all the planned sessions.  Effective from 22 January 2024, the United Nations Office at Geneva had ceased servicing all non-mandated hybrid or virtual meetings on any platform, system, or tool.  At this session, three dialogues would take place in hybrid mode, as mandated under a resolution of the General Assembly.  All other hybrid meetings had ceased to be serviced.  Ms. Lee recognised how disruptive the sudden announcement had been for the Committee’s work and thanked them for their understanding. She concluded by wishing the Committee a successful and productive session.

Four newly elected Committee members, Pela Boker-Wilson (Liberia), Jian Guan (China), Chrispine Gwalawala Sibande (Malawi) and Abderrahman Tlemcani (Morocco) made their solemn declaration before the Committee.

The Committee then elected the new Bureau.  Michal Balcerzak (Poland) was elected by acclamation as Chairperson of the Committee for the next two years.  Régine Esseneme (Cameroon), Gay McDougall (United States), and Verene Albertha Shepherd (Jamaica) were elected as Vice Chairpersons, and Chinsung Chung (Republic of Korea) was elected as the Committee Rapporteur.

Mr. Balcerzak thanked the Committee members for their support and trust. Being elected Chairperson was a great honour, but also a great responsibility.  The Committee was strong in its diversity.  Mr. Balcerzak acknowledged and thanked the Chairs from previous years who had helped the Committee develop and flourish.  The work of the Committee was immense and important. 

In February 2024, Régis de Gouttes who had previously served on the Committee until 2014, had passed away.  Committee Member Noureddin Amir spoke some words in his memory and the Committee held a minute of silence.

The Committee then adopted the provisional agenda.

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 twelfth session and other documents related to the session can be found here.

The Committee will next meet in public on Tuesday, 9 April, at 10 a.m. to consider the combined twenty-second to twenty-fourth periodic report of Mexico (CERD/C/MEX/22-24).





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