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Game Changer: Regional Action Plan to end attacks on persons with albinism in Africa for period 2017-2021

On the occasion of the United Nations International Albinism Awareness Day (13 June 2017), the United Nations Independent Expert on the enjoyment of human rights by persons with albinism underlines the importance of regional multi-stakeholder initiatives to effectively combat violence and discrimination against persons with albinism.

Her Statement has been endorsed by the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights; Ms. Agnes Callamard, Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions; Mr. Dainius Pūras, Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health; Mr. Mutuma Ruteere, Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance; and Ms, Catalina Devandas Aguilar, Special Rapporteur on the rights of persons with disabilities.

Concerted efforts and joint actions involving multiple actors at the national, regional and international level are fundamental to combat violence, discrimination, stigmatization and social exclusion suffered by persons with albinism. There is a need to advance with a renewed hope inspired by the principle “leaving no one behind” which is at the core of the global commitment towards the effective implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

The Independent Expert on the enjoyment of human rights by persons with albinism, in collaboration with the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights and multiple stakeholders,* have contributed to the development of the Regional Action Plan on Albinism in Africa for the period 2017-2021.

The Regional Action Plan is the first ever regional initiative to eradicate discrimination and violence against persons with albinism in Africa. At its 60th Ordinary Session, in May this year, the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights endorsed the Regional Action Plan, recognizing the continued violence, widespread discrimination, stigma and social exclusion directed at persons with albinism, particularly women and children.

The Independent Expert urges States to embrace the Regional Action Plan and immediately take the necessary steps towards its implementation to protect the rights of persons with albinism and their families. The Regional Action Plan set out 15 specific, concrete and time-bound measures in key areas, such as public education and awareness-raising, systematic data collection, research on the root causes of violence, measures to fight impunity and to ensure support for victims and the use of legal and policy frameworks to deter witchcraft and trafficking in body parts.

Bold action is also required around the world as persons with albinism continue to suffer discrimination, violence, marginalization and social exclusion due to misunderstanding, deeply entrenched societal prejudices and stereotypes.

Unacceptably, in some parts of the world, the right to life and security of persons with albinism continues to be violated with impunity. Persons with albinism are victims of kidnappings, attacks and killings, often committed with organized gruesome acts of violence, to use their body parts for ritual purposes fuelled by witchcraft-related beliefs. In the last decade there have been more than 600 attacks against persons with albinism, mainly in Sub-Saharan Africa. Alarmingly, these are reported cases alone.

Persons with albinism also face significant barriers restricting their participation in society on an equal basis with others and preventing them from realising basic rights such as the right to physical and mental health, including access to adequate health care, and the right to education, social services, legal protection, and redress for rights abuses.

On this year’s International Albinism Awareness Day, we renew our pledge to combat violence and discrimination against people with albinism and we underline the significant positive impact that collective efforts and deeper partnerships can have to this end. We further highlight the importance of the prime responsibility of States around the world to take action and, in Africa, to implement the Regional Action Plan through a holistic approach and with the involvement of all relevant stakeholders, in particular civil society and persons with albinism.

*Stakeholders include over 200 participants from over 26 countries in the region representing the civil society, governments, national human rights institutions, regional and international governmental organisations and the academic sector. It also includes international organisations including the African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, the UN country team in Tanzania; the Embassies of Norway, Ireland and the USA in Tanzania, and the Canadian High Commission in Tanzania; as well as civil society organisations such as Standing Voice, Under the Same Sun and the Open Society Foundation.