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International bodies are prone to treating racism as a largely “western” phenomenon, sometimes ignoring the continuation of racially based discrimination and even slavery in Africa and Asia. IHEU main representative at Geneva, Roy Brown, set out to argue for a broader, more nuanced approach in a statement prepared for the 24th session of the Human Rights Council this week. We were unable to deliver this speech for technical reasons, although it has been posted on the Human Rights Council extranet. Roy’s speech follows below.

Human Rights Council 24th Session,  9 to 27 September 2013
Speaker: IHEU Main Representative Roy Brown, Tuesday 24 September 2013
Agenda Item 9: Racism, racial intolerance and related forms of discrimination

Racism: The need to refocus

Mr President

We have heard this morning of the persistence of racism affecting people of African descent.  But what of the persistence of racism in Africa itself?

Yesterday, we welcomed the statement by His Excellency the Minister for Human Rights of Mauritania regarding the progress made in improving conditions for the poor and disadvantaged in his country, but he went on to suggest that there is no racism in Mauritania. Yet as we heard at a parallel event in this very building last week, racism is still endemic in his country despite all of the measures that the Minister listed. Far more needs to be done to eliminate racism and bring the black Mauritanians into the mainstream of Mauritanian society.

In Sudan, men and women from the Dinka and other tribes continue to be enslaved. Some 20,000 slaves have been freed over recent years but thousands remain enslaved in that country.

And the persistence of caste discrimination in Nigeria reflects the persistence of racially-based discrimination in the most populous country in Africa.

Turning to the caste system generally, the Special Rapporteur on Contemporary Forms of Racism, Mr Ruteere, both of his predecessors and the Human Rights Committee itself, have identified caste discrimination as a form of racism, yet the persistence of this religiously sustained, deeply rooted form of discrimination, which victimises some 200 million of its people continues to bring shame on India, the world’s most populous country.

Mr President, the international community, and not least this Council, must become seized with the world-wide and deeply rooted phenomenon of caste discrimination and recognise it for what it is, the ugly, continuing face of racism.

Thank you sir.

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