Eliminating racial discrimination: the challenges of prevention and enforcement of prohibition.

Author:Otieno, Alex
Position:Racial Discrimination

"States Parties undertake to prohibit and to eliminate racial discrimination in all its forms and to guarantee the right of everyone, without distinction as to race, colour or national or ethnic origin, to equality before the law", according to the 1965 International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, notably in the enjoyment of political, civil, economic, social and cultural rights. State Parties shall also assure effective protection and remedies against any acts of racial discrimination.

Both the preamble of the Charter of the United Nations and the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights proclaim the right of everyone to enjoy all human rights and fundamental freedoms, without distinction to race, colour or national origin. The UN system and its specialized agencies, through various conventions and declarations, prohibited discrimination and disseminated information specifically addressing the issue and proposing solutions to the problem. However, despite these efforts, many individuals and groups belonging to the minority continue to experience various forms of discrimination, especially in countries with a dominant majority or a history of colonialism and occupation. As we prepare to celebrate the anniversaries of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the General Assembly's adoption of the International Convention, prevention and enforcement of United Nations guidelines pertaining to racial discrimination are still a major challenge. As such, human rights for all are still violated in polities where racial discrimination persists.

Manifestation of racial discrimination varies in different contexts. For example, in countries like the United States, which have enacted prevention laws, changes in social norms have led some commentators to use phrases like "colour-blind racism" (1) and "laissez-faire racism" (2) to capture the challenges of preventing racial discrimination and enforcing laws. Racial discrimination is manifested also in practices generally thought to be relics of the past, such as race-based slavery, as in the case of the continuing enslavement of dark skinned people in contemporary Mauritania, (3) as well as crimes against humanity or, as argued by some, the genocide committed in the Darfur region of the Sudan.

UN agencies, such as the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), have played a key role in organizing and mobilizing education and information relevant to the protection of all human rights. The OHCHR role in the 2001 World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance...

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