Category Archives: UN

Neo-Con Think Tanks that Drive Policy and Send us to WAR


The military-industrial-propaganda complex: The neo-con think tanks that drive policy and send us to war

Well-funded think tanks push corporate agendas through media “experts” and sustain the neo-conservative apparatus


America’s first think tanks developed in the early 1900s and grew out of a desire to improve government and to help government think, according to McGann. The first kind of think tank was the academic model, such as the Brookings Institution, founded in 1916 by reformers devoted to fact-based studies of national public-policy issues. Experts at Brookings played a role in shaping plans for the United Nations and the Marshall Plan to rebuild Europe after World War II. The next model, McGann says, was the RAND Corporation, established in 1920 as a consulting agency for the government.

The advocacy think tanks emerged in the 1960s. These new-style organizations, which campaigned actively for their policy preferences, tended to reflect that decade’s swing to the political left. But the next two decades saw what McGann calls “a sort of conservative counter-revolution,” leading to a “war of ideas,” with openly ideological or partisan think tanks proliferating on both sides.

In 1963, during the period of the Vietnam War and the Great Society, the first advocacy institution was the left-leaning Institute for Policy Studies. The neoconservative Heritage Foundation was founded in 1973.

Conservative think tanks have more power and influence today in U.S. politics, McGann says, adding that there is “increasing criticism and worry over the domination of the right on policy.” David Callahan wrote in the Washington Monthly in November 1999, “The big development of the 1990s is that conservative institutes have had spectacular new success in tapping business money to fund ideologically charged policy research.” According to Callahan, “Corporate giving to right-wing groups has steadily increased as private sector leaders have seen the effectiveness with which conservative think tanks, and their armies of credentialed ‘experts,’ advance business interests in the political arena. Money, it turns out, can buy scholars as well as politicians.”

Callahan wrote that the “current gusher of corporate funding for right-wing policy work has its roots in the 1970s, when leading conservative thinkers appealed to corporations to fund intellectuals who supported their economic interests.” He pointed out that corporate leaders make up the overwhelming majority of board members at most conservative think tanks. “Even the American Enterprise Institute, among the most scholarly of conservative think tanks, has some two dozen corporate leaders on its board and only one academic, James Q. Wilson.” Wilson, who taught at Harvard, died in 2012.

One of the most powerful underwriters of far-right-wing conservative causes is Koch Industries, the oil and chemicals conglomerate based in Wichita, Kansas, with annual revenues estimated to be $100 billion. The conglomerate operates oil refineries in Alaska, Texas, and Minnesota and controls some four thousand miles of pipeline.

Writer Jane Mayer described the political activities of Koch’s owners, David and Charles Koch, in an August 30, 2010, issue of The New Yorker magazine. Since the 1980s, the Koch brothers have provided more than $30 million to George Mason University, in Arlington, Virginia, much of it for a think tank called the Mercatus Center, which describes itself as “the world’s premier university source for market-oriented ideas and real world problems.”

Mayer quotes an environmental lawyer who has clashed with the Mercatus Center and who explained to her how corporate interests use think tanks to promote their private agendas. “You take corporate money and give it to a neutral-sounding think tank” that “hires people with pedigrees and academic degrees who put out credible-seeming studies. But they all coincide perfectly with the economic interests of their funders.” Among the largest and most influential of the conservative think tanks, in addition to the American Enterprise Institute, are the Heritage Foundation, based in Washington, D.C., and the Hoover Institution at Stanford University in California.

More than twenty AEI people wound up with top jobs in the George W. Bush administration. Paul Wolfowitz, the former deputy defense secretary and backer of the Iraq War, is now a visiting scholar at the AEI, which has an annual budget of about $20 million. It has about fifty so-called scholars and about 150 on the payroll. Its objective is to influence public policy. Christopher DeMuth, president of the AEI from 1986 through 2008, who worked in both the Nixon and Reagan administrations, put it this way: “We try to get in the newspaper op-ed pages and hawk our books and magazines much more aggressively than a university would feel comfortable with.”

If you watch the op-ed pages in the newspapers carefully, you will find the AEI and other think tanks well represented, week after week, month after month. You will also see them on television presenting their point of view. When network-television talk shows and the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) want “experts” on foreign policy, they often turn to the AEI or other prominent think tanks. But they don’t always tell the public who is paying the salaries of the “experts.” You can bet it is corporate America.

DeMuth, for example, has said that his board of trustees is composed of twenty-four business and financial executives. “They read our work. They tell me what they like, and they tell me what they don’t like.” In his 2005 interview, DeMuth said the AEI raised $20 million to $25 million a year with a third of the money coming from corporations, a third from individuals, and a third from foundations. “We have over three hundred corporate donors,” he said.

Rob Stein, by profession a venture capitalist, but a former strategic adviser to the Democratic National Committee, has spent years studying conservative groups. From 2003 to 2005, by his estimate, conservative organizations spent about $295 million seeking to influence policy while those of the left spent about $75 million.

More recently, bestselling author Thomas Frank wrote in a New York Times column, “During the last three decades a cottage industry of conservative institutions and foundations has grown into a powerful quasi-academy with seven-figure budgets and phalanxes of ‘senior fellows’ and ‘distinguished chairs.’ While real academics dither and fret over bugbears like certainty and balance, the scholars of the American Enterprise Institute, the Heritage Foundation and the Cato Institute act boldly in the knowledge, to quote a seminal conservative text, that ideas have consequences.” The AEI “has long been the reliable source of corporate money. Its principals effectively ran the Goldwater campaign in 1964 and it was deep thinkers from the institute who, after moving into the Bush administration, dreamed up the war in Iraq.”

A prominent opponent of the war was the libertarian Cato Institute, which is conservative on domestic issues but traditionally opposed to foreign intervention. In California’s Orange County Register, Cato vice president Ted Galen Carpenter wrote—just days before the war began—that the pro-war camp’s justifications for invading Iraq were faulty: “The United States is supposed to be a constitutional republic. As such, the job of the U.S. military is to defend the vital security interests of the American people. U.S. troops are not armed crusaders with a mission to right all wrongs and liberate oppressed populations. American dollars are too scarce and American lives too precious for such feckless ventures.”

As for the idea that Saddam’s overthrow would trigger a democratic transformation in the Middle East, Carpenter said, “This is a fantasy. The harsh reality is that the Middle East has no history of democratic rule, democratic institutions or serious democratic movements. To expect stable democracies to emerge from such an environment is naïve.” He went on, “If free elections were held today in such countries as Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia, they would produce virulently anti-American governments.”

The libertarians were right. The hawks were wrong.

HAWKS IN AFGHANISTAN

Two of Washington’s most successful think-tank hawks are Frederick and Kimberly Kagan, the husband-and-wife team who spent a year in Afghanistan working as unpaid volunteers for the U.S. general in charge of the war. Frederick Kagan is a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, which has a history of supporting American military intervention around the world.

Having written papers that advocate an aggressive U.S. military policy, the Kagans moved to Afghanistan in 2010 and embedded themselves as “de facto senior advisors” to General David Petraeus. The Kagans were given top-level security clearance in Kabul, where they reviewed classified intelligence reports and participated in strategy sessions. The Kagans used their positions to advocate substantive changes in the U.S. war plan, “including a harder-edged approach,” according to a Washington Post report about them, published December 18, 2012.

Think-tank hawks have always sought to impact defense policy. The Kagans found a way to go beyond traditional influence peddling and gain the ear of the military man in charge of a real war. The Kagans were not paid by the U.S. government for their work, but their proximity to Petraeus provided valuable benefits. The Post article reported that the arrangement with Petraeus “provided an incentive for defense contractors to contribute to Kim Kagan’s think tank,” the Institute for the Study of War, which advocates an aggressive U.S. foreign policy. At an August 2011 dinner, Kim Kagan thanked two contractors, DynCorp International and CACI International, for funding her institute and making it possible for her to spend a year in Afghanistan with Petraeus.


Excerpted from America’s War Machine: Vested Interests, Endless Conflicts by James McCartney with Molly Sinclair McCartney. Copyright © 2015 by Molly Sinclair McCartney and reprinted by permission of Thomas Dunne Books, an imprint of St. Martin’s Press, LLC. All rights reserved.

 

 

The 50th Anniversary of ‘The Battle of Algiers’ and the Film’s Impact on the Black Radical Imagination


The 50th Anniversary of ‘The Battle of Algiers’ and the Film’s Impact on the Black Radical Imagination

An excerpt from an important new book on the film.

Is the United Nations racist?


Is the United Nations racist?

Ramesh Thakur
JULY 19, 2013 02:27 IST | UPDATED: AUGUST 16, 2016 19:20 IST


Western countries occupy almost all powerful and big-budget posts in the organisation, and sadly developing countries, despite their numbers, have allowed the bias to persist

Ask it quietly, but ask it we must. Is the United Nations racist, either deliberately or unconsciously? Many years ago, the late Sergio Vieira de Mello, universally admired as one of the brightest and best U.N. officials, was pulled out of the Balkans because the Europeans would not accept a non-European as head of the U.N. mission there. This despite the fact that in personality, outlook and ways of thinking, he was more European than most Europeans. Their stance might have had credibility if, by the same logic, Europeans excused themselves from serving as heads of U.N. missions outside Europe. In fact, westerners dominate this category.

Double standards

We have seen the same double standard, rooted in the belief in the innate superiority of the westerners, in the choice of the chief executives of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. The former is always headed by an American. On any objective measure, the U.S. nominee last year would not have made it to the short list against the other two main candidates from Africa and Latin America. But under the cosy EU-U.S. arrangement, the American candidate got the job. This causes neither Americans nor Europeans to blush when they lecture others on good governance norms.

When Dominique Strauss-Kahn had to resign in the wake of a sex scandal, his successor as IMF chief was another French nominee. Again without blushes, where all the years previously they had justified the self-serving arrangements on grounds of how well Europe had done economically, this time it was because only a European could understand the grave crisis afflicting the eurozone and lead the IMF.

The position of U.N. Secretary-General (SG) is protected against such shenanigans by the rotation principle whereby each continent gets its turn for the top job. But almost all the top U.N. posts after that, at the ranks of deputy, under and assistant secretary-general, are within the personal discretion of the SG to fill. The same applies to the large number of his special representatives and envoys.

Unlike the parliamentary system of government, the top ranks of this international civil service are not filled by career officials. Instead the practice is closer to the U.S. system where the President gets to choose his own senior people. But in the U.S. system, senior appointments, including ambassadors, are subject to independent confirmation by the Senate. The U.N. practice does not have any comparable check on whimsical and unsuitable appointments.

>Ban Ki-moon has been commendably conscious of and good at appointing women to the senior ranks. But both he and the system are yet to be sensitised to the fact that the top-level under-representation of non-westerners is even worse. The situation persists not just because western donor countries use money power and are more focussed in lobbying for their nationals. An even more telling explanation is that the developing countries fail to act in pursuit of their collective interest, are not equally committed to backing their own, and do not wish to jeopardise their own individual chances of a cushy U.N. post.

Remarkably, many commentators seem to believe that the alleged waste, inefficiency and corruption in the U.N. system is rooted partly in affirmative action policies that prioritise incompetent and unqualified personnel from developing countries in recruitment and promotion. When I looked into the statistics almost a decade ago, I was astonished at the reality as compared to the myth. Almost all the powerful and big-budget senior posts in the Secretariat and in the U.N. system are filled by westerners, including peacekeeping, political and humanitarian affairs, management, development and environment programmes, children’s fund, refugees, etc. I suspect that for the same ability, qualifications and experience, western U.N. officials can expect to retire two ranks higher than the rest.

Asians contribute about half the U.N.’s total peacekeepers and one-quarter of its regular and peacekeeping budget (although most of this comes just from Japan). They have also suffered around one-quarter of total U.N. peacekeeping deaths. Yet a decade ago, two-thirds of senior peacekeeping officials were westerners. In the U.N. Secretariat overall, Asians comprised a mere 17 per cent of senior U.N. staff at the grades of director and above. This for a continent that accounts for well over half the world’s population, is not short of experienced and sophisticated diplomats, and has many high achievers. Between them, Canada and the U.S. had the same number of senior staff in the Secretariat as all of Asia, when they account for 5 per cent and 60 per cent of the world’s population respectively.

I no longer have access to U.N. data and cannot guess what the numbers might be today. But another set of figures is publicly available. A decade ago, Asians comprised a mere 12 per cent of high-level representatives. Today, according to the list available on the U.N. website, of the total of 94 special representatives/envoys of the SG, 16 per cent are Asian, 30 per cent African (almost all dealing with African crises), 2 per cent from Latin America and the Caribbean: and 52 per cent from Europe, North America and Australia with nine out of ten of them dealing with non-western and global problems. This is like western scholarship. If you are western, you can tackle any topic or region. If you are non-western, you are expected to inhabit the intellectual ghetto of your own country or continent.

Consider three specific examples. To avoid being misunderstood: my comments do not apply to particular individuals. I am interested only in the patterns of over and under-representation and the consequences for the U.N.’s legitimacy and effectiveness. We would have been rightly outraged if the first two heads of U.N. Women had been men, no matter how capable the individual might have been.

Why is there no matching outrage and unacceptability when the head of the Development Program is a westerner? No matter how well intentioned, they cannot possibly know the political and social imperatives driving development strategies and policies. This is compounded by having an American as a special adviser on development goals. A practising economist from a developing country would be an infinitely superior choice, instead of people whose knowledge of development is derived from books or as an aid donor. The developing-country background and experiences of Mahbub-ul Haq and Amartya Sen were crucial, not incidental, to the emergence and enduring appeal of the notion of human development.

The only part of the system that has its global headquarters in Asia is the U.N. University. Only one of its six chiefs to date has been Asian, when equity and justice would have seen only one non-Asian. On every table of university rankings, the Asian universities (although not, alas, Indian universities) have made the most dramatic progress. Asian university presidents and vice chancellors must be doing something right. How then to explain the bias against them?

Or take a third example, the responsibility to protect (R2P). The likely sites and targets of intervention in the foreseeable future will be developing countries. It is their people who will suffer if mass atrocities being committed are not stopped, or if geopolitical and commercial interventions are masked in humanitarian language. Conversely, people in developing countries will primarily benefit if interventions are motivated mainly by humanitarian concerns and executed responsibly. The interveners can come from advanced and/or developing countries. Conversations on R2P should occur therefore first among the civil societies and governments of developing countries, and secondly between developing and advanced countries.

Norm hijacked

And the SG’s special adviser on R2P should be a powerful (public) intellectual from the global South. Instead we have had an American and now a Canadian. This is not going to help as sentiment firms that the norm, in whose origins Africans (Kofi Annan, Francis Deng, Mohamed Sahnoun) have played the most crucial roles, is being hijacked and appropriated by the West to serve the old and discredited humanitarian intervention agenda, or to pursue regime change (Libya, Syria).

Why, with numbers to put a stop to it, do developing countries put up with such clear and heavy bias and permit it to persist? One dispiriting answer might be that a particularly insidious consequence of the century of European colonialism is that non-westerners have themselves internalised the sense of racial superiority of westerners. My own extensive experience suggests that the immigration, customs and security officials in developing countries are more obviously racist than in the West.

Part of India’s national identity is the self-belief in being a champion of developing countries. Is it prepared to take the lead in demanding an explanation-cum-correction of this anomaly in the U.N. system?


(Ramesh Thakur, a former senior U.N. official, is professor in the Crawford School of Public Policy, Australian National University)


UN to Campaign Against Xenophobia, Racism in Dealing with Refugees


UN to campaign against xenophobia, racism in dealing with refugees

Reuters | May 10, 2016, 10.11 AM IST


united_nations_trusteeship_council_chamber_in_new_york_city_2

UNITED NATIONS: The United Nations on Monday proposed that its member countries create and agree upon a system to share responsibility more fairly for the hundreds of millions of refugees and migrants around the world.

The global compact would be accompanied by a UN-led campaign to combat the xenophobia and racism that have tainted discussions of the refugees and migrants, UN officials said at a briefing to release a report on the global migration.

The UN estimates there are 20 million refugees worldwide and another 40 million people displaced inside their own countries. Of the refugees, 86 per cent live in developing countries, often near the countries they came from, it says.

Added to those figures are 244 million migrants who live and work in countries where they were not born, it says.

The campaign would attempt to counter an increasingly negative attitude and tone in debates over how to deal with the crisis, the UN said.

“I am concerned at the increasing trend of member states to erect fences and walls,” UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in the report.

“Xenophobic and racist responses to refugees and migrants seem to be reaching new levels of stridency, frequency and public acceptance.”

The proposals come ahead of a summit meeting planned at the UN in September to address the global refugee crisis.

The UN-led campaign will promote such steps as more direct, personal contact between refugees, migrants and people in their host countries, said Karen AbuZayd, UN special adviser on the summit.

Also, nations will be called upon to develop plans for including refugees and migrants in education, language and skills training and employment opportunities.

The global compact would require nations to share responsibility in a variety of ways so that a few nations do not shoulder much of the burden while others do far less, the UN said.

It might include resettlement policies, financing arrangements, aid to host countries and technical assistance, AbuZayd said.

“States will share responsibility for refugees more fairly. Host countries will receive immediate support for their development needs. International migration will be governed better,” she said.

Amnesty International called the plan a potential “game changer”, but said its success depends upon nations agreeing on a permanent system for sharing responsibility.

“World leaders cannot go on lurching from crisis to crisis, haggling over numbers and fiddling while parts of the world burn,” Amnesty said.

Citing “refugees in shaky boats, trapped at border fences or crammed into overcrowded camps where hopes and dreams wither”, it said: “Too often, these scenes of despair are borne not just from war and persecution but also of bad, callous policies.”

 Facilitating safe migration is included among the Sustainable Development Goals, a blueprint of plans for nations to fight poverty, promote equality and slow climate change by 2030. UN member nations signed the goals last fall.

“The UN estimates there are 20 million refugees worldwide” Out of this how many are Muslims? Almost all. Why should non Muslims be burdened with Muslim trash when the oil rich Muslim states… Read MoreCloudcompute


Is Durban the Answer?

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Is Durban the answer?

The Hindu
Online edition of India’s National Newspaper
Sunday, September 02, 2001

#UnFair #UN #DurbanConference


Dalit activists hope that raising the issue of caste at the Durban conference will pressure the Government to implement protection and affirmative action laws more effectively in favour of the underprivileged. VIR SINGH writes.

WHEN Madhuri Devi complained about the wife beating going on next door, people in her north Delhi neighbourhood dismissed it as an internal family matter. When she went to the local police station, the officer on duty angrily asked: Why is it your concern? Who are they to you?

These key questions will come up before the international community when scores of activists highlight the suffering of Dalits at a major U.N. conference on racism and other discrimination which started on August 31 in the South African port city of Durban.

The Indian government has marshalled mighty arguments as to why caste discrimination should not be discussed at the event, which is titled the World Conference on Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance. Chief among these is the contention that this problem is an internal matter.

Dalit activists ridicule this position, saying this is akin to the case made by the former rulers of South Africa just a decade ago to shield apartheid from outside scrutiny. India rightly rejected this argument, loudly declaring that the mistreatment of black Africans is a global concern. So how can New Delhi use the selfsame strategy to block wider discussion of a problem that affects tens of millions of Indian citizens every single day?

Well, the short answer is that it can and it will. India has more than enough diplomatic clout to ensure that references to discrimination based on “descent” – the compromise term for caste that human rights activists have injected into U.N. documents – are kept to a bare minimum in the Durban conference declaration and action plan. Most Dalit activists know this. The more compelling story, however, is about what they have already achieved.

The beginnings of a global Dalit movement have been traced back to the mid-1970s (see Gail Omvedt’s article, The Hindu, April 2001). The last five-odd years have seen this process gathering momentum. In 1996, the U.N. Committee for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination accepted the contention of human rights lawyers that its responsibilities include monitoring discrimination based on descent. (This makes it mandatory for all governments to file progress reports on actions taken to halt such discrimination). Two years later, activists from across India came together under the banner of the National Campaign for Dalit Human Rights. Last year, New York-based Human Rights Watch presented its highest award to Martin Macwan, a lawyer and Dalit activist from Ahmedabad.

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The Durban conference “is a sort of organising event,” says Maja Daruwala, director of the Commonwealth Human Rights Intiative. “There’s been a lot of solidarity, and a lot of churning, a lot of movement. (Dalit groups) are coming together and their demands are being amplified.”

To the charge from some quarters that highlighting abuses against Dalits gives India a bad name in the eyes of the world and is therefore an anti-national activity, Daruwala responds: “It is anti-national to continue with caste discrimination in this country… It is like saying to a woman that she is against family life because she is beaten at home, but she musn’t speak about it outside. You don’t blame the victim for making a noise.”

It is a powerful analogy and, for some Dalit activists, one that offers hope. Years of campaigning for women’s rights, especially at the international level, finally got governments to start doing something to prevent abuses such as wife beating. Similarly, Ashok Bharti of the Centre for Alternative Dalit Media hopes that a frank discussion of caste discrimination at Durban will “bring the issue in focus” once again and pressure the Indian government to implement protection and affirmative action laws.

“Those issues have been purposely kept away from the international forum,” he says. “And this time when it is going to be discussed, the government of India and the nation as a whole is responsible to the whole world community.”

“Our faith has been broken,” adds P.L. Mimroth, a lawyer working with Dalit victims. “That’s why we’re going to the conference.” He says that despite special laws guaranteeing compensation to members of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes who face atrocities, the government has fulfilled its responsibilities in only a handful of cases.

The caste debate is just one of the controversies dogging the Durban conference. After two years of preparatory meetings, governments are still deeply divided over the wording of a political statement and a comprehensive action plan to address racism and related problems.

The United States has repeatedly threatened to pull out if references against Israel are not removed. A group of mostly Islamic nations wants the conference documents to equate Zionism with racism, saying this accurately describes Israel’s treatment of Palestinians. Washington boycotted two earlier U.N. racism meetings, in 1978 and 1983, because of similar disputes involving Israel, a staunch U.S. ally.

The issue of compensation to countries, mostly in Africa, that still suffer from the effects of slavery, presents an even greater challenge for governments trying to hammer out a common agenda at Durban. The European Union led by Great Britain has joined the United States in opposing any mention of “compensation” for the formerly enslaved countries.

“This is a world conference that quite a number of governments would have preferred didn’t happen,” says Mary Robinson, U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights and chief organiser of the Durban conference. “That’s why as far as I am concerned this is a victims’ conference,” she said in an interview to the Ford Foundation Report. “It has to speak for and listen to the voices of those who are marginalised, excluded, discriminated against and put down because of their color or their background.”

The politically charged atmosphere of the conference has even seasoned U.N. monitors worried. “I have great concerns about what’s going to come out of it,” says Michael Colson, director of Geneva-based U.N. Watch. One problem is that governments have, according to Colson, failed to “de-politicise the debate on human rights.” The other is that the U.N. meeting has become less focussed over time, so that “it’s an open question now as to how wide the conference agenda is.” 

The author is an independent journalist.


 

durbaniii

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UN Racism Conference Fails on Caste-Based Discrimination

UN Racism Conference Fails on Caste-Based Discrimination

Document Ignores Abuses Against 260 Million People


#UnFair #UN #DurbanConference


(Geneva) – The international community should take action on caste-based discrimination, which violates the rights of 260 million people globally, a group of nongovernmental organizations including Human Rights Watch, Lutheran World Federation, Pax Romana, IMADR, IDSN, NCDHR, and FORUM-ASIA said at a news conference on caste-based discrimination and the Durban Review Conference.

The Durban Review Conference was organized to evaluate progress towards the goals set by the World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance in Durban, South Africa, in 2001. Millions of victims of caste-based discrimination, hoping that the conference would serve as a platform to highlight their problems, were left deeply disappointed.

“Caste discrimination is one of the most important issues being left out of this conference and because of the predominant attention to one specific issue, all other concerns within the field of racism, discrimination, xenophobia, and racial intolerance are being excluded,” said Peter Prove of the Lutheran World Federation, who has worked for many years toward eliminating caste discrimination.

Dalits have long claimed that caste- and descent-based discrimination falls under the remit of this conference. Despite this, the final outcome document makes no reference to caste-based discrimination.

“Caste discrimination is a major global human rights issue that needs to be effectively dealt with at the international level,” said Clive Baldwin, senior legal advisor at Human Rights Watch. “As the UN racial discrimination committee has made perfectly clear, caste discrimination falls under the Race Convention, and thereby within the scope of this review conference.”

Even as the issue is ignored at the conference, caste discrimination remains a massive problem in countries like India, where ongoing elections have once again exposed the challenges faced by Dalits. NCDHR, which has been monitoring the elections, has found that many Dalits are not being allowed to freely exercise their democratic rights, and are being beaten, threatened, and obstructed from voting at local polling stations.

“This Durban Review Conference has totally eliminated any mention of caste or discrimination based on work and descent,” said Paul Divakar of the National Campaign for Dalit Human Rights (NCDHR) in India, where more than 167 million from the Dalit communities suffer from caste discrimination.

Representatives from the Dalit communities present at the news conference also included Fatima Burnad and Dibakar Poricha, who explained how Dalits were subjected to violence, rape, inhumane untouchability practices, and suffered routine discrimination, socially, culturally and politically. They also explained that due to the high level of impunity in cases involving Dalit victims, they have no way of asserting their rights through the judicial system.

Pointing out that victims of caste-based discrimination suffer a hidden apartheid of segregation, modern-day slavery, and other forms of discrimination as a result of having been born into a marginalized group or caste, Rikke Nöhrlind, coordinator of the International Dalit Solidarity Network (IDSN), stated: “This issue has been skilfully hidden by certain governments, and Dalits are simply being treated as lesser human beings and denied justice.”

Determined to keep fighting for their rights and to try and get the international community to listen, a sizeable delegation of Dalit representatives has travelled to Geneva to stage a number of side events and raise their voices against the wall of silence they are met with at the Durban Review Conference.

Background

  • Caste discrimination is any distinction, exclusion, restriction, or preference based on inherited status such as work and descent, commonly originating from a division of society into castes or social categories. This chronic human rights condition, which is associated with the notion of impurity, pollution, and practices of “untouchability,” involves massive violations of civil, political, economic, social, and cultural rights. It is estimated that 260 million people are affected by caste discrimination worldwide.
  • The Durban Review Conference is being held in Geneva from April 20 to 24, 2009, with thepurpose of reviewing the implementation of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action (DDPA).
  • The Durban Declaration and Plan of Action (DDPA)includes several provisions relevant in the fight against this form of discrimination, andseveral UN bodies – in particular the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) – have repeatedly reaffirmed that caste falls underthe Race Convention.
  • Several UN bodies have furthermore reaffirmed that discrimination based on work and descent – the UN terminology for caste discrimination – is prohibited by international human rights law, and that it is a global human rights phenomenonwhich should be addressed comprehensively through existing human rights mechanisms.
  • Human Rights Watch has also previously highlighted the need for tackling the causes and consequences of this kind of discriminationby, among other things, encouraging delegations to welcome the work carried out by CERD on discrimination based on descent, to review CERD’s General Comment No. 29 on Descent, and to include reference to it as a guiding opinion in defining and combating descent-based discrimination.

To read a joint position paper prepared by IDSN, Human Rights Watch, NCDHR and other organizations, please visit:
http://www.idsn.org/fileadmin/user_folder/pdf/New_files/UN/Durban_and_caste_-_joint_position_paper.pdf

For more information on the Durban Review Conference, please visit:
http://www.idsn.org/international-advocacy/un/durban-review-conf/dalit-solidarity-events/

For more of Human Rights Watch’s work on India, please visit:
https://www.hrw.org/en/asia/india

For more of IDSN’s work, please visit:
http://www.idsn.org/

  • The IDSN website – provides a wide range of resources and material on the topic of caste-discrimination including case studies, video materials, and research materials.

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stories from: Skin | Colour | Race | Caste – Made in India

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