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Sub-Commission recommends Special Rapporteurs on caste discrimination

11 August 2004

A resolution adopted by the UN Sub-Commission on Protection and Promotion of Human Rights, today paved the way for the creation of two Special Rapporteurs to take forward the UN’s studies into discrimination based on work and descent, commonly known as caste discrimination. A well-coordinated and persistent lobby of activists have encouraged this important further step towards convincing the UN of the need to pay closer attention to caste discrimination, and apply additional pressure on states worldwide to address these issues affecting many millions of people. The Commission on Human Rights is urged to recognize the legitimacy of this call by independent UN experts and NGOs alike, in its decision on whether to approve such measures.

The decision by the Sub-Commission followed recommendations made in a working paper submitted to it by Mr Asbjørn Eide and Mr Yozo Yokota. The designated Special Rapporteurs, who were named as Mr Yokota and Ms Chin-Sung Chung, would be tasked with preparing a comprehensive study on the issues with a focus on the finalization of a draft set of principles and guidelines for the effective elimination of this widespread form of discrimination. The Special Rapporteurs were also requested to take into account additional valuable work on this issues carried out by the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination in preparation of its own General Recommendation XXIX (2002).

Atsuko Tanaka, Geneva UN representative of the International Movement Against all Forms of Discrimination and Racism (IMADR), one of numerous organizations advocating for the development as part of the International Dalit Solidarity Network (IDSN), stated: ‘The involvement of affected communities in the preparation of a draft set of principles and guidelines is crucial for the effectiveness of such a document. Without which, whatever beautiful words that may be elaborated would be meaningless for the people affected by this discrimination and those who are struggling day by day. A resolution alone will bring no change to the situation on the ground. But the process initiated thereby could, when it involves the people concerned.’

NGOs and those suffering caste discrimination themselves argue that it remains widespread and largely unchallenged within society despite state legislative and constitutional measures including criminality of caste discrimination and affirmative action in employment and education, which have failed to achieve results. This is precisely the reason that the UN, as the major international human rights body, must be brought into the equation in order to begin to find effective solutions, through the employment of its expert bodies and legal instruments and the exercise of its authoritative comment and analysis. For real progress to be made, states should acknowledge UN sponsored initiatives as a demonstration of their commitment to combating such deeply entrenched discriminatory practice.

Minority Rights Group International (MRG) – an international associate of the IDSN itself – fully supports the resolution on discrimination based on work and descent and its recommendations and congratulates the members of the Sub-Commission who have supported this vital initiative. MRG also congratulates all those groups and individuals involved in the movement to eradicate all forms of discrimination on the basis of work and descent for their very valuable contribution to moving this issue forward effectively and constructively.

Notes for editors

Download the full text of the working paper on discrimination on the basis of work and descent presented to the Sub-Commission.

For more information, contact the MRG Press Office on [email protected].