Committee on Elimination of Racial Discrimination Opens One Hundred and Eighth Session in Geneva


The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination this morning opened its one hundred and eighth session in Geneva, during which it will review anti-discrimination efforts by Bahrain, Botswana, Brazil, France, Georgia and Jamaica. The Committee heard from the Representative of the Secretary-General and adopted the session’s agenda.

Mahamane Cissé-Gouro, Director of the Human Rights Council and Treaty Mechanisms Division of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and Representative of the Secretary-General, conveyed the greetings of the new High Commissioner for Human Rights, Volker Türk, who was committed to providing strong support for and cooperating with the treaty bodies.

Mr. Cissé-Gouro thanked the Committee for its continued efforts to tackle racial discrimination, the dimensions of which had become increasingly complex. He also thanked it for its commitment to strengthen the treaty body system by joining the agreement of all treaty bodies to establish a predictable schedule of country reviews, with an eight-year cycle for full reviews and follow-up reviews in between. Member States would determine whether and how the treaty body strengthening process would proceed. The Office of the High Commissioner and the Chairs of the treaty bodies had at the General Assembly been emphasising to Member States that such a review schedule would need to be sustained by adequate, forward-looking financing of the treaty body system.

The COVID-19 pandemic had aggravated pre-existing socioeconomic gaps and inequalities among and within nations, Mr. Cissé-Gouro said. It had impacted the most vulnerable, including women belonging to national and ethnic minorities and indigenous women. Addressing the consequences of the pandemic and ensuring a sustainable recovery needed be done from the human rights lens, including the elimination of racial discrimination and the promotion of equality. In this regard, Mr. Cissé-Gouro welcomed the Committee’s elaboration of a general recommendation on racial discrimination and the right to health.

Fighting racial discrimination required a global effort and joint synergies. Mr. Cissé-Gouro encouraged the Committee’s collaboration with other human rights mechanisms that were also mandated to address racial discrimination.

Addressing systemic and structural racism and doctrines of racial superiority, the legacies of colonialism, was more urgent than ever. The Expert Mechanism on the Right to Development had at the fifty-first session of the Human Rights Council presented a study on racism, racial discrimination and the right to development. In the study, the Expert Mechanism analysed racism and racial discrimination as barriers to operationalise the right to development, and called on States to take proactive, targeted measures to protect vulnerable individuals and communities’ rights to health, housing, employment and education, but also to allow persons to be free from police violence and stereotypes by media.

Mr. Cissé-Gouro said that on 3 October, the High Commissioner’s second report on justice and equality for Africans and people of African descent was presented to the Human Rights Council at its fifty-first session. The report highlighted developments and initiatives that States and others had taken to address manifestations of systemic racism, and to advance accountability and redress to victims, including for the legacy of slavery, the transatlantic trade of Africans and colonialism. The report reiterated the High Commissioner’s call to implement the 20 actions contained in the transformative agenda for racial justice and equality, noting that greater political will was needed to accelerate the effective implementation of these actions.

At the same time, the Mechanism of Independent Experts on Justice and Equality in Law Enforcement had presented its first report to the Human Rights Council, followed by an interactive dialogue. It would now be on the annual agenda of the Human Rights Council. In addition, on 28 September, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights had organised an expert debate on the various manifestations of the negative impact and legacy of colonialism on human rights. In her opening statement to the debate, the Deputy High Commissioner stressed that the obligations undertaken in the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination were tools that could help address the negative impact of colonial legacies on human rights and restorative justice, and to contribute to accountability and redress for Africans and people of African descent. The Permanent Forum for People of African Descent was also meeting in early December, and Mr. Cissé-Gouro encouraged the Committee to work with this new mechanism to build synergies to combat racial discrimination more effectively.

In closing, Mr. Cissé-Gouro wished the Committee a fruitful and successful session.

Stamatia Stavrinaki, Committee Vice-Chairperson,

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