49th Session of the Human Rights Council
28 February - 1st April 2022
ITEM 9- Presentation of report of the IGWG on the Effective Implementation of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action on its nineteenth session
28th of March 2022
By Amal Bushara / GICJ
On the 28th of March, during the 48th Meeting of the 49th Regular Session of the Human Rights Council, Rwanda's Permanent Representative to the United Nations Office in Geneva, Marie-Chantal Rwakazina, presented the latest report of the Intergovernmental Working Group on the Effective Implementation of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action. During her presentation, Marie-Chantal Rwakazina, who is also the Chair Rapporteur of the Intergovernmental Working Group (IGWG) on the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action, reaffirmed the importance of the document as a tool against racism and intolerance globally. The IGWG reiterated that the Declaration’s comprehensive agenda, is a solution to addressing racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia, and related intolerance and noted that despite 75 years of UN anti-racism engagement, racial prejudice still existed. As such, the Chair Rapporteur also encouraged states to step up their efforts to promote bilateral, regional, and international collaboration in putting national action plans into effect and for the international community to reinvigorate their commitment and political will for the cause of ending prejudice. The importance of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, as the primary tool for combating all forms of intolerance was noted, as it was said to have also been the foundation for the comprehensive Durban Declaration and Programme of Action, the UN's blueprint for achieving inclusion, equality, and justice for all people regardless of race, gender, or religion
In the Report, the Working Group expressed concern about the coronavirus disease (COVID-19 pandemic) having a disproportionate impact on existing inequalities within societies and between countries, and regretted that people from racial and ethnic minorities, Asians and people of Asian descent, and others, particularly women and girls, had been victims of racist violence, threats of violence, discrimination, and stigmatisation in this context. The Working Group also reaffirmed its commitment to ensure that no one is left out and that all countries are asked to take part in the global discussion on racism and intolerance, as inclusion was noted to be a vital part of combating racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia, and related intolerance.
Adopted by the World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Discrimination, in 8 September 2001, the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action is the UN’s framework to combat racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance globally. The DDPA is a political promise, and although it is not legally binding, it symbolises the international community's unwavering commitment and has a great moral worth, providing a foundation for advocacy activities around the world. It has bolstered global efforts to combat and prevent racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia, and related intolerance, aided in the proliferation of legislative measures and development of national action plans, and supported monitoring mechanisms. Likewise, it has helped to elevate racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia, and related intolerance to a top priority on the international agenda. Since the DDPA was adopted by the international community in 2001, 42 states have passed or altered anti-discrimination legislation, 35 states have established equality bodies to combat racial prejudice and promote equality and 23 states and regional institutions have enacted anti-racism measures at national and regional levels.
In many ways the DDPA is a victims centred document, as it emphasises the plight of victims of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance. It reaffirms that States have the duty to protect and promote the human rights of all victims and should apply a gendered perspective, recognising the multiple forms of discrimination.The DDPA is also extraordinary in that it recognises that no country can claim to be free of racism, that racism is a global concern, and that tackling it requires a universal effort. Furthermore, the DDPA recognises that it is impossible to design effective corrective measures and dismantle discriminatory structures and institutions without an honest assessment of the past, and without acknowledging the consequences of the Transatlantic Slave Trade and of enslavement and colonialism in present times.
The Intergovernmental Working Group on the Effective Implementation of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action is one of the three mechanisms established to follow the Declaration and Programme of Action. It was established by the Commission on Human Rights resolution 2002/68 and approved by the Economic and Social Council in its decision 2002/270 of 25 July 2002. Its mandate, as spelled out in operative paragraph 7 of the Commission resolution 2002/68 is to “Make recommendations with a view to the effective implementation of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action”. The Intergovernmental Working Group is an open-ended working group, meaning that all United Nations Member and Observer States, inter-governmental organisations, non-governmental organisations with ECOSOC consultative status and non-governmental organisations that were accredited for the World Conference against Racism may attend public meetings of the Working Group.
Once a year, the IGWG holds a session, in which participants discuss and share views on racial discrimination worldwide, taking into account the implementation of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action. The Working Group's nineteenth session was held in Geneva from October 11 to 22 October 2021. Participants shared their perspectives on the global status of racial discrimination. During this session, the Working Group reviewed progress on the International Decade for People of African Descent's programme of activities and discussed steps to improve the effectiveness of the mechanisms established to follow up on the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action, as well as to ensure better synergy and complementarity in their work. The latest report of the Intergovernmental Working Group on the Effective Implementation of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action provides information on the work done at this session.
The Report of the Intergovernmental Working Group on the Effective Implementation of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action on its 19th session, as it is titled, highlights the key issues discussed in the meeting. Representatives of United Nations Member States, non-Member State observers, United Nations bodies, and intergovernmental and non-governmental organisations attended the session.
According to the Report, Peggy Hicks, Director of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights' (OHCHR) Thematic Engagement, Special Procedures, and Right to Development Division, inaugurated the Working Group's twentieth session. The Director remembered several significant events and developments relating to the fight against racism since the Working Group's eighteenth session in her opening speech. She referred to the High Commissioner's landmark report on the promotion and protection of Africans' and people of African descent's human rights and fundamental freedoms against excessive use of force and other human rights violations by law enforcement officers, in which the High Commissioner outlined a four-point agenda for racial justice and equality.
Following Peggy Hicks’s statement, the Chair-Rapporteur invited general statements from participants. Representatives noted that the world was still seeing a troubling trend of hate speech that was affecting people's enjoyment of their human rights and fundamental freedoms. The racist incidents that occurred, particularly those that targeted peaceful protestors, were alarming. People all throughout the world, particularly young persons, were raising their voices to demand an end to racial discrimination, particularly against people of African origin. To combat racism and xenophobia, international solidarity and collaboration were required, and the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action follow-up procedures were critical in this regard. They asked for more international action, particularly to address the issues faced by women of African heritage and encouraged the Intergovernmental Working Group on the Effective Implementation of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action's mandate to be renewed. The relevance and value of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action have been demonstrated by recent events. Representatives noted that mutual tolerance and understanding between communities were needed now more than ever.
The multidimensional global crisis generated by the coronavirus disease (COVID19) pandemic was highlighted numerous times.
Speakers and state representatives then deliberated on various thematic issues and topics, and suggested ways to advance the implementation of the DDPA globally and to strengthen the effectiveness of its follow up mechanisms. They also debated on the efficiency of public information campaigns and raising awareness against racism. Talking on the power of dialogue in combating racism, a spokesman from the Department of Global Communications, stated that sharing personal stories and experiences was the most effective approach to engage people and motivate them to act. She pointed out that the Department of Global Communications' social media campaign is centered on digital assets that could be used locally as well as globally. She went on to illustrate how systemic racism impacted access to justice, education, pay equality, media diversity, and medical treatment, revealing how deeply it was embedded in our cultures.
Similarly, speakers reflected on the development and implementation of national action plans against racial discrimination. A national action plan against racism, according to the Chair of the Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent, should be empowering and enable all people to participate in decision-making and achieve their human rights. She also mentioned that the first stage in creating a national action plan was to utilise existing resources, such as the OHCHR guidelines for developing action plans and recommendations based on talks with impacted communities. She went on to state that the Working Group has also generated a huge number of thematic papers and analyses, as well as operational guidelines for individuals of African origin to be included in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
Finally, the IGWG on the DDPA ended its 19th session with conclusions and recommendations. The IGWG on the DDPA recognised the rise in discrimination, hate speech, stigmatisation, racism, systemic racism, stereotypes, racial profiling, violence, xenophobia, and intolerance, both in person and online, directed against, among others, Africans and people of African descent, Asians and people of Asian descent, indigenous peoples, Roma, and other racial, ethnic, linguistic, and religious minorities. As such it makes recommendations, including calling upon states to show stronger political will in the implementation of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action and urging states to ensure that their political and legal systems reflect the multicultural diversity within their societies and, where necessary, to improve democratic institutions so that they are more fully participatory, and to avoid marginalisation, exclusion and discrimination against specific sectors of society. It encourages states to utilise and build on existing frameworks with potential to effect change, such as endorsing the International Decade for People of African Descent and its programme of activities’ and implementing through concrete measures, an agenda for transformative change towards racial justice and equality, as articulated by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.
Geneva International Centre for Justice (GICJ) warmly welcomes the efforts and contribution of all states for eliminating and reducing social inequalities that are caused by discriminatory and intolerant practices, including police impunity. Unfortunately, racism, discrimination and intolerance are still present in all levels of society. Therefore, GICJ calls on states to renew and reaffirm their commitment to ending all forms of racism and discrimination. Finally, recognising that laws and policies are not always transparent and reflective of the needs of those effected on the count of their color, faith, sex or anything else. GICJ urges states to be more inclusive and incorporate the voices of those most vulnerable into the relevant decision-making processes.
HRC49, Human Rights Council, Durban Declaration and Programme of Action, Durban, DDPA, Elimination of Discrimination, Inequalities, Tolerance, Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia, Geneva International Centre For Justice, GICJ, Geneva4Justice, Justice