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OAS Adopts Two Landmark Anti-Discrimination Conventions

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Minority Rights Group International (MRG) welcomes the adoption by the Organisation of American States (OAS) of two landmark anti-discrimination Conventions, marking a significant step towards the recognition and protection of the human rights of minorities and indigenous groups in the Americas.

On 5 June 2013, the OAS – a key political and social intergovernmental organisation made up of 35 States in the Americas – adopted the Inter-American Convention against Racism, Racial Discrimination and Related Forms of Intolerance and the Inter-American Convention against All Forms of Discrimination and Intolerance.

“The two new OAS Conventions are a very welcome contribution to the global fight against racism and discrimination,” says Carl Soderbergh, MRG’s Director of Policy and Communications. “Civil society organisations across the Americas will be able to draw on these texts for inspiration and support.”

The Anti-Racism Convention prohibits discrimination based on “race, color, lineage, or national or ethnic origin”. The Anti-Discrimination Convention prohibits discrimination based on a range of other grounds, including sex, language, religion, cultural identity, social origin, or migrant, refugee, repatriate, stateless or internally displaced status.

Minorities and indigenous groups in the Americas continue to suffer discrimination based on ethnic, linguistic, religious, and cultural grounds. Their discriminatory treatment is often worsened by the lack of adequate anti-discrimination laws and/or their inadequate implementation.

Although the adoption of these Conventions is a significant step in the right direction, they have some notable deficiencies, which MRG raised during the drafting process. Explicit recognition and protection of indigenous peoples and Afro-descendants – groups which suffer particular discrimination in the Americas – were removed. The Canadian, Mexican and Peruvian delegations were vocal in their campaign to remove these fundamental safeguards. The Conventions were also initially drafted as one single document but were split into two due to a deadlock in negotiations regarding its scope.

“Despite their limitations, the Conventions reflect a commitment by the OAS to combat discrimination against minorities and indigenous groups, and underscore State obligations in respect of this pressing issue,” added Soderbergh. “MRG urges the OAS Member States to ratify the Conventions and implement their provisions without delay.”

MRG is currently working with civil society organisations in Belize against systematic violations of the rights of the Maya communities by both State authorities and private corporations. The Conventions are a significant tool for bringing such flagrant human rights violations to the forefront of the debate.

Notes for editors

  • Minority Rights Group International is the leading international human rights organization working to secure the rights of ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities and indigenous peoples. We work with more than 150 partners in over 50 countries.
  • For more information, contact the MRG Press Office on press@minorityrights.org.

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