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Robust International Frameworks Exist to Combat Racism
Item 9: Interactive Dialogue with the Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent
September 25, 2012

Statement by the Delegation of the United States
As Delivered by Arsalan Suleman

Human Rights Council 21st Session
Geneva, September 25, 2012

Madame President:

The United States condemns racism of any kind, for any purpose, by any person or group against any person or group.   We have worked hard at every level to combat it.  We take seriously our obligations as a State Party to the International Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination.  Our laws prohibit discrimination based on race in all areas of life, from education to housing to employment.  We work to ensure that crimes motivated by racial hatred are prosecuted, that law enforcement misconduct is investigated and remedied, and that our laws and programs to ensure fair housing, fair lending, equal educational opportunity, equal employment opportunity and the right to vote are enjoyed by all, without regard to race.

Our concerns about the Durban Declaration and the Durban Review conference outcome documents are well-known.  Nevertheless, we have supported the International Year of People of African Descent, which brought much deserved attention to the issues raised in the Working Group’s work.

There are robust international legal frameworks and the availability of technical assistance to put in place the mechanisms to effectively combat racism and racial discrimination.  In many parts of the world, however, concrete efforts needed to address the inequality faced by persons of African descent, as well as members of other racial and ethnic minorities, have not been taken or have been implemented only sporadically.  Persons of African descent are marginalized, and more needs to be done in order to fulfill the international commitments states have undertaken to combat this phenomenon.

There is without doubt a need to take steps to promote racial equality, and to ensure access to justice for all victims of racial discrimination, to address racial profiling and to ensure access to quality education for all.  What is lacking is the political will to take these steps.  States should be pressed to focus on improving implementation of existing human rights obligations and commitments under the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and under the Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities.

In this regard, we have serious reservations about the wisdom of the proposed Programme of Action for an entire decade, with ancillary efforts to create new human rights instruments and programs that we believe will do little to advance the needs of those they seek to serve.  Asserting that we need a new framework  may serve instead as a pretext for continued inaction in implementing current legal instruments. It is our view that diplomatic energy and financial resources should be turned to this end — the implementation of existing commitments and promoting equality for all — rather than to creating more instruments that will likely be honored in the breach by those who are not complying with their existing obligations.

Thank you.