Delegation of the European Union
to the United Nations - New York

EU Statement – United Nations 3rd Committee: Elimination of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance

New York, 31/10/2017 - 00:00, UNIQUE ID: 171205_4
Statements on behalf of the EU

European Union Statement delivered by Doerthe Wacker, First Counsellor, Delegation of the European Union to the United Nations, at the 72nd Session of the United Nations Third Committee on Item 70: Elimination of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance.

– Check against delivery –

I take the floor on behalf of the European Union.

The Candidate Countries 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.

The European Union puts an enormous emphasis on the fight against racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance. This fight is closely intertwined with the prohibition of discrimination based on any ground such as sex, race, colour, ethnic or social origin, genetic features, language, religion or belief, political or any other opinion, membership of a national minority, property, birth, disability, age or sexual orientation which is one of the most important principles. Principles that are fully aligned with our international commitments such as to the Charter of the UN and our human rights obligations such as the Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination which is highly relevant for our discussions today.

As a result we have internally within the EU developed a robust legal framework.

This framework includes the EU Racial Equality Directive which provides for a general prohibition of discrimination on grounds of race and ethnic origin in all fields including employment, social protection, education, housing, access to services, and mandates EU Member States to create specialized bodies for the promotion of equal treatment.

EU legislation also exists setting the frame for a common response to certain serious manifestations of racism and xenophobia by ensuring that they constitute an offence in all EU countries and are punishable by effective, proportionate and dissuasive criminal penalties throughout the European Union. This legislation obliges EU Member States to criminalise racist hate speech, defined as the public incitement to violence or hatred against a group of persons or a member of such a group defined by reference to race, colour, religion, descent or national or ethnic origin. Such acts are also punishable if committed by public dissemination or distribution of tracts, pictures or other material. It also provides, as regards racist violence and crime, that EU Member States shall ensure that the racist and xenophobic motivation of any crime is considered as an aggravating circumstance in the criminal code or a factor to be taken into account by the judge when determining the penalties to be applied. Furthermore, victims of racist hate crime and hate speech can rely on EU provisions on the rights, support and protection of victims of crime, which pay specific attention to victims who have suffered a crime committed with a bias or discriminatory motive.

The transposition and implementation by EU Member States of EU legislation is rigorously monitored by the European Commission.

Building on the existing EU legal framework, the EU has initiated a broad range of measures to support national authorities and civil society in stepping up efforts on the ground to enforce the law more effectively and better prevent and counter racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance.

The High Level Group on combating racism, xenophobia and other forms of intolerance, set up by the European Commission, brings together EU Member States’ authorities, civil society organisations and community representatives, as well as EU agencies, and in particular the FRA (The Fundamental Rights Agency of the European Union), 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. The activities of the High Level Group support and give impetus to the work of relevant actors countering hate crime and hate speech on the ground, by fostering discussions on gaps and challenges, exchange of information and practices, and developing guidance for the authorities.

EU Coordinators were appointed in 2015 to take forward targeted action to address specifically Antisemitism and anti-Muslim hatred.

Furthermore, against worrying trends of bias motivated speech that incites to violence and hatred, in particular online, witnessed in recent years, this phenomenon has become an area of increasing focus for EU Action. The challenge is to address the exponential spread of hate on the internet, while ensuring full respect of freedom of expression. On previous occasions we have mentioned the EU dialogue that the European Commission initiated with the major IT companies (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube (Google) and Microsoft) which resulted in an agreement on a Code of Conduct in May 2016. The European Commission, in cooperation with a network of civil society organisations, presented last 31 May the progress achieved in the implementation of the Code of Conduct, one year after its adoption. Now, IT Companies assess and remove faster the illegal hate speech on the platforms. Moreover, IT Companies have strengthened their reporting systems and made it easier to report hate speech, trained their staff and they have increased their cooperation with civil society, including the expansion of the network of trusted flaggers.  The Commission is now further working to expand the Code to other companies and is also working with IT Companies towards improving transparency.

In our external action, we have taken an active part in the Durban Follow up Mechanisms:

  • Intergovernmental Working Group on the effective Implementation of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action (IGWP DDPA);
  • Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent; and
  • Ad Hoc Committee on Complementary Standards

This also means that we are open to country visits (we have extended open invitations) such as those by (to) the Working Group of people of African Descent as well as the Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance.

We will also follow with interest the regional consultations on the Forum for People of African Descent and we were pleased to note that the meeting days of the Forum once established will be taken from the meeting days allocated to the Intergovernmental Working Group on the effective Implementation of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action (IGWP DDPA).

As expressed on many other occasions, the EU does not believe that the proliferation of meeting venues – and days, as well as of legal instruments is the best way forward in combating racial discrimination in all its manifestations, including in the form of xenophobia. And we are pleased to note that our views with regard to the discussion on the procedural gaps are aligned with the experts of the CERD committee (The Committee of the Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination). I would here like to refer to the Annex 1 of the Report of the Ad Hoc Committee on the Elaboration of Complementary Standards (A/HRC/34/71). Here the Chairperson Rapporteur of the CERD Committee Ms. Crickly refers to the conclusions of the 2007 CERD report on complementary standards, expressing that the substantive provisions of the CERD are sufficient to combat racial discrimination in contemporary conditions and that in the near future it would be able to address problems without amending the Convention.

Also confirmed by the observations of the CERD Committee, the EU believes that what is needed the most is keeping the Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (ICERD) alive. ICERD is THE international reference instrument embodying all the norms and standards that we share as a world community in the fight for the elimination of all forms of racial discrimination. This is why we need to keep pushing for the universal ratification and implementation of the UN ICERD.

We would also encourage more acceptances of the amendment to ICERD’s article 8, so that it can enter into force. This technical amendment, which would allow for the financing of the CERD Committee from the regular budget of the UN, is vital for the effective functioning of the CERD and the regularization of the Treaty Bodies’ management. Still 25 years after the adoption by the State Parties and the ensuing endorsement of UNGA 47 in 1992 of this technical amendment, the acceptances of the amendment are short of approximately 50 notices by State Parties. (By now there are only 48). Surely we can do better.

But we also need to keep working at the ways we do business. In this regard the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development with its related goals presents a new way of doing business. The motto of leaving no one behind is highly relevant for the fight against racism, as those who suffer racial discrimination often are those that are left behind. The EU has recently adopted the New Consensus on Development aligning EU’s development policy with the global 2030 Agenda. We have great expectations in the New Consensus and we look forward to working with all our partners in pursuing an even more effective delivery on the ground.

The New Consensus also has a very strong focus on gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls. The recently adopted EU Gender Action Plan II will be vital in informing actions under the New Consensus for Development. The recent Panel Discussion on the Impact of the Racial Discrimination on the Human Rights of Women and Girls during the HRC 36 confirmed that being a woman adds another layer of discrimination suffered.

We believe that it is high time that we step up efforts to promote the economic and social rights of women and girls and their empowerment ensuring their strengthened voice; and address all types of violence against them. While we maintain a strong focus on women and girls, as they are often those furthest behind, we should always maintain a strong gender equality perspective. Many reports tell us that young men and boys often find themselves in highly vulnerable situations. For instance we know that young men tend to be more exposed to racially motivated violence than young women. Of other examples we can mention that in some countries we see that the education attainment results of girls with indigenous or minority background are better than their male peers or that the suicide rates of young men are higher than those of young women.

Both in the context of the discussion that we have in the follow up to Durban as well as in the 2030 Agenda, there have been many calls for improved data collection in relation to the indicators for the sustainable development targets. Calls for data disaggregated by other indications than gender and age have proven to be highly problematic. In this regard the EU would like to encourage a human rights based approach to data collection while also assessing correctly and with flexibility the situation of those furthest behind, including those who are most frequently subjected to discrimination, including racial discrimination.

Mme/M. Chairperson – in closing allow us to once again underline the importance of education for human rights.

Here we would like to point once again to the role of The National Human Rights Institutions (NHRI) including National Equality bodies. Human Rights education is an important objective of NHRIs according to the Paris Declaration. While many of the NHRI are already doing commendable work in this area, the EU believes that there is need for more awareness among all players on the crucial role of NHRIs in promoting tolerant and just societies free from racism, racial discrimination and xenophobia and related intolerance.

Thank you!


* The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Albania continue to be part of the Stabilisation and Association Process.

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