Washington, DC | December 14, 2016 “A strong Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination is needed now more than ever, given that the reality in the Americas today is that it is seemingly acceptable to be racist in public,” stated Carlos Quesada, Executive Director of the International Institute on Race, Equality and Human Rights, during his presentation as a panelist at the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination’s (CERD) Consultation with Civil Society. This consultation, entitled “Joining Hands to End Racial Discrimination,” was held during the Committee’s 91st session in Geneva, Switzerland, on November 23, 2016. The Institute and representatives of its partner organizations present in Geneva participated, along with CERD Committee Members and other civil society stakeholders.
While Mr. Quesada emphasized the situation of racial discrimination in the Americas, where the Institute works, he was in fact echoing the CERD Committee’s own global concerns and the driving force behind its organizing the event. In convening the consultation, the CERD Committee noted that “racial discrimination in all its forms – including hate speech, hate crimes and racist attitudes towards migrants and minorities – is on the rise worldwide. It is critical that the implementation of the International Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD) and the work of the Committee addresses these global issues. The Committee also seeks to ensure that its work addresses the concerns that are most pressing in various country contexts and at national, regional and global levels.” As such, the Committee requested that civil society actors interested in participating in the consultation think about and respond to three key questions: 1) What are the key challenges and issues of racial discrimination in your country/region today and how do you work to address them?; 2) What has been your experience, as civil society, of engaging with CERD to date?; and 3) How can the CERD improve and enhance its engagement with civil society, and its work on racial discrimination for greater impact on the ground?
Many of the Institute’s partners submitted written responses, and four had the chance to voice their concerns to CERD Committee Members during the consultation itself. María Martínez, of the Dominican Republic, and speaking on behalf of the Social-Cultural Movement for Haitian Workers (MOSCTHA), stated that Dominican leaders routinely deny the existence of racial discrimination in the country. Furthermore, people of Haitian origin continue to be treated as second-class citizen and denied their right to Dominican nationality, despite the Committee’s previous recommendations in that regard. Cecilia Ramírez, of Peru, and speaking on behalf of the Center for Development of Black Peruvian Women (CEDEMUNEP), lamented that the Decade for People of African Descent did not make specific reference to the particular needs of Afro-descendant women, given that these women suffer intersectional discrimination based on their race, sex, and likely other elements of their identities as well. Vicenta Camusso, of Uruguay, speaking on behalf of the Network of Afro-Latina, Afro-Caribbean and Diaspora Women, echoed Ms. Ramírez’s comments, and stated that the Sustainable Development Goals should also include special consideration for the situation of Afro-descendant women. Finally, Juan Antonio Madrazo, of Cuba, speaking on behalf of the Citizens’ Committee for Racial Integration (CIR), informed those present that there has been very little progress with regard to the CERD Committee’s recommendations in Cuba because of lack of political will on the part of the Cuban government, and that speaking publicly about racial discrimination in the country is considered counter-revolutionary.
All remarks were well received by Committee Members, including Chairperson Anastacia Crickley, who thanked all present for their contributions and encouraged civil society organizations to continue to engage with the CERD Committee through the preparation of alternative reports and participation in events like the consultation. In his closing, Mr. Quesada noted that the large presence of civil society actors from Latin America and the Caribbean demonstrated the region’s commitment to the work of the Committee. The Institute will continue to support the participation of partners from the region working to combat all forms and manifestations of racial discrimination.
You can watch the full webcast of the session here:
Consultations with Civil Society – 2492nd Meeting 91st Session Committee on Elimination of Racial Discrimination