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Steps towards Full Equality for Those of African Descent

The world commemorates, on 21st of Mach every year, the International Day of Fighting Racial Discrimination in the midst of a reality where a lot of peoples are still facing different forms of discrimination based on race, color, descent, or national or ethnic background.

This occasion, which was launched by the UN General Assembly in 1966 to commemorate the memory of 69 persons who were killed on March 21st 1960 because they took part in a peaceful demonstration in Sharpeville, South Africa, against “traffic laws” imposed by  the apartheid regime. In the Arab region, this occasion looks different this year in the midst of demonstrations, witnessed in Arab countries, by peoples demanding more rights, liberties, and dignity, and to end all forms of racial discrimination.

The current anniversary is devoted to fighting discrimination against persons of African descent, a theme which goes in line with the UN General Assembly resolution to assign the year 2011 for caring for persons of African descent. In this context, human rights experts asserted the need to work on three basic steps to achieve full equality: acknowledgement, equality, and development; acknowledging that persons of African descent are still victims of racism and racial discrimination, who face discrimination as a result of historical imbalances and injustices, especially in education, employment, health, and housing;  equality, where there is no single country which is free from racial discrimination in the sphere of application of justice – there is still need for ensuring just and fair treatment of persons of African descent, and to address inequalities which can only be attributed to the persistence of structural and institutional racism; development, as participation, empowerment, equality, and  absence of discrimination are basic feature of a human-rights based approach to development.

While GIHR welcomes the ratification of the International Convention to Fight All Forms of Racial Discrimination by all Arab countries – with the sole exception of Djibouti – we hope that the countries which held reservations against Article (4) of the convention will withdraw their reservations soon, and that Arab countries issue the declaration stipulated in the first paragraph of Article (14) on acknowledging the mandate of the Committee for Ending All Forms of Racial Discrimination through receiving and investigating letters submitted by individuals or groups living within the jurisdiction of those states who claim that they are victims of violations on the part of these states of any of the rights stipulated in the convention; only two Arab countries, Algeria and Morocco, have issued such a declaration so far.

GIHR urges all stakeholders including states, civil society organizations, human rights institutions, and individuals to act towards full implementation of Durban Declaration & Program of Action, which were adopted by the International Conference on Fighting Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance on the 8th of September 2001, and related provisions of the final communiqué of Durban review conference dated 24th of April 2009.

GIHR condemns the persistence and reemergence of neo-Nazism, neo-fascism, and national ideologies which call for violence based on racial and national prejudice, declaring that such phenomena can never be justified in any case or under any circumstance.

GIHR expresses its appreciation of the work of the Special Rapporteur on Contemporary Manifestations of Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance and the work of the High Commissioner of Human Rights which is committed towards continued fight against racism as one of the priority activities of the commission.

GIHR emphasizes the need to implement the recommendation made by the Special Rapporteur in her latest report to the UN General Assembly on including a provision in local criminal laws which considers acts of committing crimes of racial motives or objectives or based on xenophobia as compelling acts which require compelling penalties; hoping that the states that will take this legislative measure will take the further step of implementing the other Rapporteur’s recommendation of teaching a specialized history course on introducing the tragic events and the human suffering which resulted from Nazist and fascist ideologies.

GIHR also emphasizes the importance of measures and initiatives aiming to bring communities together and allowing them the chance to enter into real dialogue such roundtable meetings, working groups, and study sessions. This should added to the positive role which can be played by the right to free expression beside the full respect for seeking, receiving, and reporting information through such means as the internet, in fighting against racism racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance. 

GIHR takes the opportunity of this occasion to send its utmost greetings and appreciation to all men and women of African descent and all victims of racial discrimination and violence based on race, ethnicity, color, or national and ethnic origin, especially migrant workers and members of their families, hoping that the coming year will be less violent and less discriminatory.

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