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International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, 21 March 2018

“Unashamed bigotry”: Rise in racism and xenophobia is alarming, say UN rights experts 

GENEVA (20 March 2018) – UN and regional human rights experts* have urged States, civil society organisations and activists to step up their efforts to stem the alarming rise in racism and xenophobia worldwide, citing concerns about the impact of populist nationalism on mainstream politics.

“Vile discourses of explicit hate and ideologies of racial supremacy have moved from the fringe to the mainstream,” the experts said in a joint statement** ahead of the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination celebrated on 21 March.

“Racial, ethnic and religious bigotry fuels human rights violations, including extreme violence against minorities, and against refugees, migrants, stateless persons, and internally displaced, including people of African descent, with a particularly acute effect on women, and sexual and gender diverse populations. This bigotry is unashamed.”

The experts said “the assault on the human dignity of millions around the world had reached alarming proportions”. It cited examples such as crowds of youths marching to neo-Nazi chants in Charlottesville, Warsaw, and Berlin, to the racist and xenophobic attitudes of politicians in the highest levels of office worldwide; from the ethnic cleansing of Rohingya Muslims, to the excessive use of military force to police communities of African descent in different parts of the world.

They said urgent global attention must be paid to the structural economic, political and legal conditions that stoke racism and xenophobia among populations that perceive minorities and non-nationals as threats.

“It also means confronting the fact that the rise of populist nationalism is a product of widespread loss of faith in establishment politics that privilege elites, as well as the offensive, xenophobic rhetoric of extremist ideologues,” the experts said.

“This is especially evident in the context of backlash in different regions of the world to refugees and involuntary migrants, where gaps in existing international legal frameworks combine with short-sighted national policies to reinforce chaotic and dangerous movements. This chaos heightens anti-migrant anxieties.”

It is incumbent on states, including through the ongoing negotiations for the Global Compacts for Migration and on Refugees, respectively, to provide legal pathways for migration and to take the other concrete steps necessary to create an international framework that prioritises substantive equality for all, they said.

The experts said the language of discrimination and intolerance had now become common-place in the media and even in mainstream national political discourses, and they called on States and other actors to redouble their efforts to address the factors contributing to the increase in racial discrimination and inequality.

“Putting an end to racial profiling by law enforcement agents is just as urgent as putting an end to violent hate crimes perpetrated by private actors,” the experts said. “Denouncing xenophobic Muslim bans implemented through immigration policies that rely on offensive and flawed assumptions about entire religious groups, is just as urgent as denouncing explicit Islamophobic or anti-Semitic statements made by political leaders.

“Putting an end to the forced displacement and cultural extinction of racial, ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities and indigenous peoples that results from government and multinational corporation-driven extraction and construction projects, is just as urgent as addressing the resurgence of neo-Nazism.”

A video is available here.


(*) The UN experts: Ms. E. Tendayi Achiume, Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance; Mr. Michal Balcerzak, Chairperson of the Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent; Mr. Jose Francisco Cali Tzai, Acting Chairperson of the Committee for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination; Mr. Felipe González Morales, Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants; Mr. Fernand de Varennes, Special Rapporteur on minority issues; Mr. Victor Madrigal-Borloz, Independent Expert on protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity; Ms. Alda Facio, Chairperson of the Working Group on the issue of discrimination against women in law and in practice; Ms. Urmila Bhoola, Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery, including its causes and consequences; Ms. Agnes Callamard, Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions; Ms. Dubravka Šimonović, Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences. Inter-American Commission on Human Rights expert: Ms. Margarette May Macaulay, Rapporteur on the rights of Afro-descendants and against racial discrimination.

(**) View the full statement by the UN and regional experts marking International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (Tuesday 19 March 2018) – Confronting the Two Faces of Racism: Resurgent Hate and Structural Discrimination”.

The Working Groups and Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures’ experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.  

A principal, autonomous body of the Organization of American States (OAS), the IACHR derives its mandate from the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights. The Inter-American Commission has a mandate to promote respect for human rights in the region and acts as a consultative body to the OAS in this area. The Commission is composed of seven independent members who are elected in an individual capacity by the OAS General Assembly and who do not represent their countries of origin or residence. Learn more: www.iachr.org

For more information and media requests, please contact Claire Mathellié (+41 22 917 9151, cmathellie@ohchr.org) or racism@ohchr.org . 

For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts please contact
Jeremy Laurence, UN Human Rights – Media Unit (+41 22 917 9383 / jlaurence@ohchr.org) 

This year, 2018, is the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the UN on 10 December 1948. The Universal Declaration – translated into a world record 500 languages – is rooted in the principle that “all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.” It remains relevant to everyone, every day. In honour of the 70th anniversary of this extraordinarily influential document, and to prevent its vital principles from being eroded, we are urging people everywhere to Stand Up for Human Rightswww.standup4humanrights.org. 

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