1 November 2016, New York – European Union Statement delivered by Doerthe Wacker, First Counsellor, Delegation of the European Union to the United Nations, General Assembly Third Committee, Item 66: Elimination of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance: (a) Elimination of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance; (b) Comprehensive implementation of and follow-up to the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action
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It is a pleasure for me to speak on behalf of the European Union on this important agenda item.
The Candidate Countries Turkey, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia*, Montenegro*, Serbia* and Albania*, the country of the Stabilisation and Association Process and potential candidate Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as Ukraine, the Republic of Moldova, and Georgia, align themselves with this statement.
Racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance persist in all regions of the world and countless individuals and many vulnerable groups continue to be victims. These words quote the findings of the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination as reflected in its statement on the occasion of the celebration of the 15th anniversary of the adoption of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action.
Over the years the EU has developed a solid legal framework to address racism, xenophobia and hate crimes. One example is the Framework Decision on combatting racism and xenophobia by means of criminal law, which sets the frame for an EU common response to hate speech and hate crime, ensuring accountability of perpetrators. Another is the Victims’ Rights Directive that gives particular attention to victims of hate crime and gives victims of crime a broad set of rights, including access to justice, compensation and restoration, as well as the right to receive appropriate information, support and protection.
However, we are acutely aware that legislation on its own is not enough. We also need to build the capacity to ensure the effective application of existing legislation and to focus on and engage all actors both governmental and civil society at large on actions that can make a real difference on the ground. This is why we have been stepping up our action in this area, by working together as EU Member States and with other key actors. We have paid particular attention to the situation of the most vulnerable groups within the EU, such as the Roma. Since 2013, EU Member states have developed Roma National Integration Strategies in order to tackle the discrimination suffered by Roma and to develop measures for their integration and social inclusion.
In June 2016, a new High Level Group set up by the European Commission, on combating racism, xenophobia and other forms of intolerance held its first meeting. The new Group brings together, for the first time ever, EU Member States’ authorities, civil society organisations and community representatives, but also relevant EU agencies, and in particular the FRA, as well as international organisations, such as the Council of Europe, OSCE’s Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) and UN OHCHR and UNHCR. This provides the means to step up cooperation and improve coordination between relevant actors and maximize concrete impact on preventing and countering hate crime and hate speech on the ground.
Apart from the development and exchanges of tools and practices to improve responses to racism, xenophobia and other forms of intolerance in all of the 28 EU Member States, the Group will also foster targeted discussions on how to prevent and combat specific forms of intolerance to support and feed into policy and legislation targeted responses. A first thematic discussion was held at the Group’s launch meeting and focussed on combating Antisemitism and anti-Muslim hatred, led by the two Commission coordinators, one coordinator on anti-Semitism and the other on anti-Muslim hatred, who were appointed in December 2015.
Related and very important focus of EU action in this area has also been on ensuring more effective ways to address the exponential spread of hate speech on the internet which incites violence and hatred, while ensuring full respect of freedom of expression. An EU dialogue initiated by the European Commission with the major IT companies (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube (Google) and Microsoft) resulted in the agreement on a Code of Conduct last May. This Code of Conduct contains a number of key commitments, including the removal of illegal on line hate speech where necessary, and in building counter narratives. The European Commission and the IT companies, in cooperation with EU Member States and civil society, will regularly report on the implementation of the Code of Conduct in the framework of the aforementioned EU High Level Group.
On top of the above mentioned, initiatives financial support is also directed to national authorities of EU Member states and civil society. In 2015 alone about €5.4 million were awarded under the EU Rights, Equality and Citizenship Programme to support projects within the EU on training and capacity building, exchanging best practices to prevent and combat racism and xenophobia, and empowering and supporting victims of hate crime and hate speech. This year we are again making available around 6 million euros to support activities by grassroots organisations and national practitioners on fostering tolerance, dialogue and mutual respect, as well as best practice exchange among public authorities on tools and practices to effectively prevent and combat hate crimes.
Allow me now to turn to the fight against racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance in EU’s external actions. The fight against discrimination on any grounds is a fundamental priority for our multilateral and bilateral relations and cooperation. The accumulation of lessons learned and best practices at EU level are highly relevant for informing the exchanges and dialogues that we have with our partners under various cooperation agreements. Anti-discrimination and the fight against racism are also important objectives for our financial cooperation instruments and most notably in the EU funding instrument, the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR) that allows grants primarily for civil society actors. Through the EIDHR, the EU allocates annually more than €130 million to support civil society organisations and other key human rights actors worldwide in the promotion and protection of human rights.
In our contributions to the deliberations in UN fora and processes, the EU pursues an approach where we focus on national level implementation of existing commitments and recommendations, be they those arising from the Treaty Monitoring bodies, notably the Committee on the Elimination of all forms of Racial Discrimination, the Universal Periodic Review and the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action. In this regard, the EU wishes to thank the Committee of the Elimination of Racial Discrimination for its informative and comprehensive report to the General Assembly (A/71/18) which shows that there is a vast gap in fulfilling reporting obligations. Reports from a total number of 31 State parties are overdue by at least 10 years and 22 reports by at least 5 years. The EU wishes to encourage State parties to respond favourable to the simplified reporting procedure offered by the Committee. We also echo the Committee’s call for the universal ratification of the Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination without reservations.
The EU wishes to thank the Special Rapporteur for his report on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance. The EU takes positive note of his remark on streamlining the reporting processes.
Indeed streamlining, efficiency and effectiveness are key words for the way the EU believes that the international fight against racism racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance should be approached. It is from that view point that the EU has consistently argued for the efficient use of the time and resources spent in the Durban Follow-up mechanisms as well as in our proactive engagement in the development of the Programme of Activities for the Decade of People of African Descent. In the context of the Programme of Activities for People of African Descent that was adopted by consensus, there is a decision to establish the Forum for People of African Descent. The time and resources for the Forum were to be provided by the Durban follow-up mechanisms such as the Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent or the Intergovernmental Working Group on the Effective Implementation of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action. Regrettably and till this day we have still not seen any consensus oriented moves to follow up on that decision in accordance with the relevant General Assembly resolution (A/RES/69/16).
The EU strongly believes that the human rights and normative standards, as provided by the International Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Racial Discrimination and other human rights instruments, the Durban commitments and follow up mechanisms as well as the institutional set up of the UN human rights system, offer a strong and inexhaustible international framework for our common fight in eliminating racism, xenophobia and related intolerance. In Europe, those mechanism are reinforced by important regional standards and monitoring mechanisms, including the Council of Europe’s Commission against racism and intolerance. The EU would therefore encourage all UN Member states to keep a steady focus on the implementation and realisation of the existing commitments at country, regional and international levels and to make efficient and effective use of the many tools and resources offered by the existing UN mechanisms and processes.
In closing let me assure you and other colleagues of the EU’s active and consensus oriented engagement and steadfast commitment to the elimination of all forms of racial discrimination and related intolerance.
Thank you Madame Chairperson.
* The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Albania continue to be part of the Stabilisation and Association Process.
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