The issue of draft language for reparations for the historical wrongs caused by racism, racial discrimination and the slave trade was explored at length in the Reparations Commission of the NGO Forum.
A hot topic of discussion was the United States refusal to participate fully in the WCAR process, and how such a decision could affect the issue of reparations for all nations. U.S. NGOs stressed that although the U.S. government did not appear to want to address the issue of reparations, the U.S. NGO community was resolute in maintaining their fight for full reparations for African-Americans for the harms suffered through slavery and the slave trade.
Members of African, South American and European NGOs also expressed their frustration with the actions of the U.S. government and pledged to vigorously pursue the reparations issue, regardless of U.S. participation. Recognition of specific African- related reparations such as the need for governments to recognize the rights of coloured peoples as indigenous citizens and the elimination of discriminatory laws towards such Africans of mixed racial heritage was also discussed.
The Commission noted that reparations was not just an African and African Descendents issue, but was was an “issue for all humanity”. The panel stressed that “history never ends, but determines the future,” and emphasized the need for both interstate and intrastate reparations for repairing the harms caused by racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and reated intolerance.
NGO concerns ranged from the means of enforcing judgments for reparations, to the development of concrete plans of action for tangible results when pusuing reparations litigation. TheNGOs discussed the need for a framework for developing programs of reparations and agreed that the creation of strong and precise language was key to producing an NGO Declaration and Plan of Action that effectively addressed the reparations issue.
Legal Measures, Policies and Practices Commission
The Legal Measures, Policies and Practices Commission met to discuss the legislative and legal actions that States will need in order to follow-up on the Plan of Action and Declaration that will be adopted by the NGO Forum. The creation of the commission was suggested by the European Caucus of NGOs as a means of focusing on the measures that need to be addressed and implemented to have successful State compliance with National and International Action plans.
The panel comprised of representatives from India, Sri Lanka, and Norway, explained that the adoption of National Action Plans with language addressing legal measures, policies and practices was necessary to ensure compliance and enforcement by States of the policies and actions recommended by the NGO community.
The recommendations were drafted to address the Programme of Action on both international and national levels. Timely compliance with reporting obligations, the provision of a budget and mandate for the UN High Commissioner for the evaluation of National Action Plans, and the involvement of NGOs and national institutions in policy decisions and follow-up were suggested for insertion into the Program of Action.
In addition, improving the effectiveness of criminal law and mainstreaming the issue of combating racism in national policies and practices and all aspects of life were also suggested. Language was also recommended for denouncing globalisation and for addressing the specific discrimination suffered by groups such as the Dalits, African and African Descendents and the Roma.
Education, Information, Communication and Media Commission
This Commission discussed the role that education plays in the fight against racism and discrimination. Issues under the spotlight were media ownership; access; inter-cultural education; education for human values and human rights education.
Specific points were that media institutions were gender-biased and racially imbalanced – for example 90% of the administrative staff were women and men comprised 90% of the technical staff.
On the issue of assignment of stories – women are delegated mainly to soft or social issues and men are assigned to “harder” issues, such as political events. These issues contribute to gender-insensitive content being published.
Impact of Globalisation
Media channels are controlled by a small group of individuals, mainly from the North – the views expressed and the way information is disseminated thus serves the interests of this elite group.
Human Rights Education (HRE): Methodology and Strategy
On the point of Human Rights Education, it was recognized that there was an acknowledgement of the area but no implementation thus far. Kazunari Fujii, a human rights lawyer, proposed the following points to implement the Human Rights Education:
- HRE is a life-long process for both children and adult and can contribute to human dignity.
- HRE should be integrated to school system and extra-curricula activities.
- HRE must reach out to family units and communities
- It should be part of the University education
- Professionals need training on HRE. Business and media owners should be taught HRE.
- There must be public awareness campaigns. The media has potential to make this a success, but this must be explored.
- Finally, such plans should be implemented at national levels and care must be taken that they are sustainable and effective.