16 November 2020
The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination opened its 102nd session online, hearing statements from Simon Walker, Chief of the Civil, Political, Economic, Social and Cultural Rights Section at the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, and several non-governmental organizations. Olga Abramenko for the ADC Memorial, expressed hope that the challenges of today the COVID-19 pandemic would not lead to a weakening of international human rights monitoring, state authorities must not be allowed to ignore expert opinion of civil society:
First of all, we would like to thank the Committee for its constant attention to reports and communications from our organization, for quick and effective responding to violations of the rights of ethnic minorities in the region where we work – Eastern Europe and Central Asia. We are also grateful for the invitation to speak at the virtual session today and share our concerns related to elimination of racial discrimination, hate speech and hate crimes.
In recent years, we have encountered many false concepts, double standards, and the use of terminology in the opposite sense. Those who fight for independence are claimed as “Fascists”. Indigenous communities protesting against industrial corporations are declared “obstacle for economic development”. Victims of pogroms – representatives of ethnic minorities – are accused of “nationalism”, while the actions of real nationalistic aggressors and haters are justified and even inspired by the state authorities. Freedom of speech and expression is restricted under the pretext of fighting for state security. The desire to find out historical truth and make public the facts is declared “falsification of history” and “discrediting the actions of the state” in a particular period of time. All this requires from either international experts and human rights defenders on the ground – on the one hand, more clarity in terms, theories and concepts, and on the other hand, an understanding of the complexity of the processes taking place in societies.
The discourse of opposing racial discrimination is not frozen; there is space for lively development both in theory and in practice. In this sense, it would be effective to apply some other modern concepts to the field of racial discrimination, as they have proven themselves well in other areas. For example, a gender-sensitive approach to discrimination in employment can be applied as racially sensitive, since often representatives of minorities are employed only in low-paid or less responsible positions. A gender-sensitive approach can be combined with a focus on the situation of ethnic groups, since many double and multiple forms of discrimination can still be seen in science, management, politics, etc. The concept of protecting women’s rights is widespread, it is often more understandable to stakeholders, so it can be used as an example to make hidden forms of racial discrimination visible and clear to change and overcome. Following the example of policies to combat gender inequality, it is possible to create codes of ethics that include anti-racist norms; such ethical documents can be promoted in employment with the help of trade unions or initiative groups; implementation of such policies can be monitored through various indicators, including numerable ones.
We hope that the challenges of today will not lead to a weakening of international control over the respect of human rights. First of all, this is the pandemic that has forced all of us to restructure our work, limiting in-person contacts. Second, it is a reform of the UN Treaty Bodies designed to optimize the consideration of state and alternative reports. Finally, this is the UN funding crisis, which also forces us to look for new ways to interact with the relevant Committees and Procedures. As representatives of civil society, we should not lose the opportunity to appeal to such high-level experts which we always find in the UN CERD. We must not allow the stated authorities to ignore this expert opinion. After all, often an appeal to the UN human rights bodies is the last opportunity to achieve justice for victims of racial discrimination.
We wish the Committee a successful session.