UN anti-racism committee set to begin 2003 session

UN anti-racism committee set to begin 2003 session

The United Nations panel monitoring progress on worldwide efforts to prevent racism and racial discrimination is set to open its first substantive session of 2003 next week in Geneva.

The 18-member Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) - the first body created by the UN to review actions by States to fulfil obligations under a specific human rights agreement - will meet from 3 to 21 March to review national anti-discrimination efforts and discuss ways to prevent racial discrimination.

The Governments of Côte d'Ivoire, Ecuador, Fiji, Ghana, Morocco, Poland, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, Slovenia, Tunisia and Uganda are expected to send representatives to present reports on national efforts to give effect to their treaty obligations under the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. These countries are among the 167 States parties to the Convention, which took effect in 1969.

At this sixty-second session of the Committee, its members will also look into the state of affairs in Barbados, Bahamas, Guyana and Papua New Guinea under its review procedure. All of these States parties, except Guyana, have previously submitted reports to the Committee, but their periodic reports are overdue.

Also at this session, the Committee will continue its consideration of the prevention of racial discrimination, including through early warning measures and urgent action procedures. The members - who serve in their individual capacities - may decide to take steps to prevent existing problems from escalating into conflicts or may decide to initiate urgent action aimed at responding to problems requiring immediate attention to prevent or limit the scale or number of serious violations of the Convention. The Committee may also schedule a review of the situation in some countries at short notice.

The Committee is also expected to continue its important practice of examining, in closed session, communications from individuals claiming to be victims of racial discrimination. Only complaints against the 41 States parties that have recognized the competence of the Committee under article 14 of the Convention are admissible.

Other agenda items include a general debate on a number of issues, including the Committee's methods of work; discussion of the effective implementation of international instruments on human rights; review of the progress of the Third Decade to Combat Racism and Racial Discrimination; and follow-up to the Durban World Conference against Racism.