Discussions gave way to disagreements at this morning’s Durban Ad Hoc Committee meeting. Countries debated the role of existing convenants, namely the ICERD (International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination), in formulating new standards. Western states stressed the need to bolster existing monitors before creating new ones, going so far as to demand Arab and African countries for evidence that there are gaps in current laws.
- The United States argued that current problems with implementation will be exacerbated by the addition of new complementary standards and monitoring mechanisms. Rather, “any new initiatives should be in the context of improving implementation by states.”
- Sweden for the EU added that there are significant problems in the implementation of current standards, particularly regarding the failure of many states to report to existing monitors.
- Cuba claimed that the Ad Hoc Committee was not the appropriate forum to discuss implementation. Nigeria and Pakistan agreed, citing the committee’s mandate.
Syria would have liked to have seen the European Union offer practical means of implementation. “How can we ensure that [the Convention] is complied with? We cannot fight racism with rhetoric. Some countries deny, wholesale, that racism exists in their country.”
- Denmark cited the CERD committee’s formal statement that any gaps that exist in current standards are procedural, not substantive. The delegation asked why countries like Nigeria and Pakistan “are saying the opposite, ” and asked nations that submitted certain proposals to explain the loophole or gap that these proposals fill.
- With regard to “multiple forms of discrimination,” the European Union argued that current standards, which have been adopted by all countries, such as the ICCPR and the ICESCR, already protect sexual orientation and gender identity. The European Union “deplores laws” that penalize consenting adults of the same sex from engaging in sexual activity and condemned the “ten countries that punish this with death.” Nigeria immediately contested the point, and said the debate must be limited to discrimination in the context of race.
- The United States proposed that each country collect data on multiple forms of discrimination, where they have jurisdiction.
- Pakistan and Iran argued that the definition of discrimination based on gender must be limited to the exact description in the DDPA, and therefore, does not include sexual orientation or gender identity.
- Canada was “a bit concerned that we are trying to narrow down where we can discriminate and where we can’t discriminate.”
- With regard to non-discrimination for victims of natural disasters, Finland for the EU argued that an international legal framework already exists to handle this issue. Nigeria said it was only willing to discuss the matter within the context of race-based discrimination.
Reporting by Cindy Tan and Bethany Singer-Baefsky