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Impact of NGO lobbying at 61st Session of the CERD for adoption of a General Recommendation on Descent-Based Discrimination

This evaluation observed the impacts of NGO lobbying during the 61st session of the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) for the adoption of a general recommendation on descent-based discrimination. The evaluator determined that “without the NGO lobbying on the issue of caste and descent-based discrimination, both in the lead-up to the World Conference on Racial Discrimination in 2001, and specifically directed at CERD, a General Recommendation would not yet have been adopted by CERD on either descent-based discrimination in general or any of its specific forms, such as “castism” or caste-based discrimination.” The evaluation is intended to assist non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in drawing lessons from a specific advocacy experience. The advocacy itself was a considered a huge success, in that a General Recommendation on descent-based discrimination was adopted by the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) in 2002, shortly after a day of public hearings and discussion on the theme of descent-based discrimination. A critical initiative taken by NGOs to ensure this success was the presentation of the issue of descent-based discrimination to CERD (and others) as a global human rights issue occurring on every continent, and not predominantly a South Asian issue linked to the caste system.

When reviewing the program as a whole, the best attributes came from substance of the programme, particularly the emotionally motivating videos and oral statements from victims of descent-based discrimination; and the process, especially the coordination of NGOs attending this summit. In terms of downfalls, the notable flaws included semantics issues, including confusion on terminology used, the overwhelming volume of printed information circulated, a disproportionate number of NGOs from South Asia, and a general lack of media coverage. For future summits, the evaluator recommended that NGOs should cultivate individual committee members more systematically, well in advance of a key initiative that the NGOs might ask an individual to support. As well, when submitting their own briefings, NGOs should be urged to agree to an independent editor making a summary of all the NGO contributions, so that a text of no more than 20 or 30 pages in available in order to streamline the process.

Download the evaluation