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The Need for a Global Transformative Agenda for Racial Justice and Equality is Very Clear, Mona Rishmawi Tells Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination as it Opens its Session

Meeting Summaries

 

The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination this afternoon opened its one hundred and fourth session online, hearing a statement from Mona Rishmawi, Chief of the Rule of Law, Equality and Non-Discrimination Branch at the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Representative of the Secretary-General, who spoke about the report of the High Commissioner for Human Rights on racial justice and equality for Africans and people of African Descent.

In her statement, Ms. Rishmawi said that the main conclusion of the recent comprehensive report of the High Commissioner for Human Rights on racial justice and equality for Africans and people of African descent was that States must show stronger political will to accelerate action for racial justice and equality. Listening to the voices of people of African descent, the need for a global transformative agenda for racial justice and equality became very clear. She noted that the Human Rights Council had established an international independent expert mechanism to examine systemic racism faced by Africans and people of African descent in law enforcement and the criminal justice system, with a three-year mandate. In addition, the Council had asked the Office to enhance and broaden its monitoring activities.

In the ensuing discussion, members of the Committee noted that holding this session in a virtual format, given the current circumstances, was very difficult. This bold report must not just go on the shelf but must be implemented: to what extent would financial support be made available to those who would want to popularise the report and implement its recommendations?

In response, Ms. Rishmawi said that the Human Rights Council resolution provided some resources to make the report operational. As a result, in the next few months a small team would be working on making its agenda practical.

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

Documentation concerning the Committee’s session can be found here. The webcast of the public meetings of the Committee can be found here.

The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination is holding its one hundred and fourth session from 9 to 25 August. The Committee will next meet in public at 4 p.m. on Tuesday, 10 August to begin its review of the combined twenty-third and twenty-fourth periodic report of Lebanon (CERD/C/LBN/23-24).

Opening Statement

MONA RISHMAWI, Chief of the Rule of Law, Equality and Non-Discrimination Branch at the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Representative of the Secretary-General, in her opening statement presented some information on the recent comprehensive report of the High Commissioner for Human Rights on racial justice and equality for Africans and people of African descent. The Office had reached out to over 340 persons, mostly people of African descent, including family members of people of African descent killed by law enforcement officials from different countries. Specific consultations had been held on the main themes of the report with the participation of academics, practitioners, representatives of civil society, national human rights institutions and equality bodies, regional human rights experts and businesses. Additional consultations were also held with United Nations Special Procedure mandate holders and members of the human rights treaty bodies, including the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, and she was particularly grateful to members of the Committee for their participation and insights. The report referred extensively to general recommendations, to concluding observations as well as to statements in relation to people of African descent. The main conclusion was that States must show stronger political will to accelerate action for racial justice and equality.

Listening to the voices of people of African descent, the need for a global transformative agenda for racial justice and equality became very clear. The four-point agenda annexed to the High Commissioner’s report set out the key changes: stop denying and start dismantling systemic racism by reversing denial and altering structures, institutions and behaviours; ensure accountability of law enforcement officials for human rights violations and crimes against Africans and persons of African descent; ensure that people of African descent and those who stood up against racism were protected and heard; and confront past legacies, take special measures and deliver reparatory justice. The work on strengthening the United Nations anti-racism architecture continued. The Human Rights Council had incorporated two key recommendations made by the High Commissioner. First, it had established an international independent expert mechanism to examine systemic racism faced by Africans and people of African descent in law enforcement and the criminal justice system, with a three-year mandate. Second, it asked the Office to enhance and broaden its monitoring activities.

Question and Answer Segment

Members of the Committee noted that holding this session in a virtual format, given the current circumstances, was very difficult, highlighting that some countries were experiencing Internet outages, and expressing hope that the session would be successful. Those living with the consequences of colonialism knew that the root causes of racism were deep: this bold report must not just go on the shelf but must be implemented. To what extent would financial support be made available to those who would want to popularise the report and implement its recommendations?

MONA RISHMAWI, Chief of the Rule of Law, Equality and Non-Discrimination Branch at the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Representative of the Secretary-General , appreciated the fact that the Committee would be debating the report, noting that she would be happy to participate in that particular session; it meant a lot that the report was considered useful. Regarding funds, the Human Rights Council resolution provided some resources to make it operational. As a result, in the next few months a small team would be working on making this practical. People of African descent were now a spotlight group in the Office, and a lot more work would be conducted on this population in the near future.

LI YANDUAN, Chair of the Committee on the Elimination of the Racial Discrimination, thanked Ms. Rishmawi for her participation.

Adoption of the Agenda

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

LI YANDUAN, Chair of the Committee on the Elimination of the Racial Discrimination, then closed the meeting.

 

CERD21.004E