Final Declaration Of the Global Conference Against Racism and Caste-based Discrimination
Occupation and Descent-based Discrimination Against Dalits
1-4 March, 2001
New Delhi, India
A conference in preparation for the UN World Conference Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance
The Global Conference Against Racism and Caste-based Discrimination was convened in New Delhi, 1-4 March 2001, and included representatives and victims from India, Nepal, Bangladesh, Pakistan, South Africa, Japan, Sri Lanka, the Netherlands, Denmark, Germany, Hong Kong SAR, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
The participants of the Global Conference strongly condemn caste (occupation and descent based) discrimination and the practice of untouchability, which is the source of immense human suffering and the cause of gross human rights violations and of dehumanizing and degrading treatment of 240 million people.
We, the participants of the Global Conference, have listened to disturbing testimonies from victims of caste-based discrimination who have suffered extreme violence, abhorrent conditions of work, degradation, exclusion and humiliation. We have also heard from experts, activists, academics, and grassroots leaders about their work to end caste-based discrimination. We appeal to governments and the international community to end this crime against humanity, and we strongly endorse the following declaration.
The participants of the Global Conference adopt the following:
- Taking note of the concluding observation of the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD) "that the situation of scheduled castes and scheduled tribes falls within the scope of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination," and that the term "descent" contained in Article 1 of the Convention does not refer solely to race, and encompasses the situation of scheduled castes and scheduled tribes, as cited on September 17, 1996, in the document CERD/C/304/Add.13,
- Affirming that caste as a basis for the segregation and oppression of peoples in terms of their descent and occupation is a form of apartheid and a distinct form of racism affecting victims equally irrespective of religion,
- Asserting that Untouchability is a Crime against Humanity, (1)
- Recognizing that caste-based practices - distinction, exclusion and restrictions on social and occupational mobility - which lead to a negation of humanity and the inability to exercise all human rights are affecting at least 240 million persons in South Asia and millions of others in East Asia and West Africa,
- Recognizing that the 52nd United Nations Sub-Commission on Human Rights, given their concerns over caste-based discrimination, passed a unanimous resolution calling for a working paper on occupation- and descent-based discrimination,
- Recalling conclusions drawn by the Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), the Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC), the United Nations Special Rapporteur on racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance and the Human Rights Committee that Dalit men, women and children endure severe forms of discrimination, violence and exploitation because of their caste status,
- Committed to the inclusion of caste-based discrimination on the agenda, the declaration and the programme of action of the World Conference Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia, and Related Forms of Intolerance (WCAR), to be held at Durban, South Africa, from August 31-September 8, 2001,
- Calling attention to the proceedings of the Bellagio Consultation, the European NGO preparatory meeting, and the Asian and African expert meetings in preparation for the WCAR which specifically address the problem of caste discrimination,
- Encouraged by the solidarity expressed by non-governmental organizations in the WCAR preparatory and expert meetings and taking note of the consensus reached in the Asia-Pacific NGO Declaration in Tehran for inclusion of caste-based discrimination in the agenda of the WCAR and the Declaration and Programme of Action,
- Taking note of governments' obligations to uphold universal standards of human rights under the UN treaties and covenants,
- Commending those governments that are supporting the inclusion of discrimination based on caste on the agenda of the WCAR,
- Noting that many countries have recognized that certain communities, such as Dalit peoples in India, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and Bangladesh, Buraku people in Japan, and other communities in Senegal, South Mauritania and other countries, face caste-based discrimination,
- Recognizing that governments have undertaken constitutional, legislative, and policy initiatives, as well as set up administrative bodies to combat discrimination based on caste and race, but also that, due to lack of political will, these efforts have been insufficient and are being diluted, subverted, and not properly implemented,
- Noting that women - especially Dalit women - represent the most oppressed sections of all societies, and that they face multiple forms of discrimination, including caste-based, religious and patriarchal ideology and practices;
- Taking note of the support of some public leaders, the media, non-governmental organizations, and concerned citizens from various walks of life who have condemned the existence and perpetuation of caste-based discrimination,
- Strongly condemning the attempts of the government of India to oppose the inclusion of caste-based discrimination in the agenda of the WCAR, and urging other governments to support the inclusion of caste-based discrimination in the WCAR agenda, (2)
- Denouncing governments - particularly India - that refuse to comply with or recognize their legal obligations as defined by the CERD, (3)
PROGRAMME OF ACTION
The participants of the Global Conference Against Racism and Caste-based Discrimination call upon Governments to:
I. Measures at the national level
II. Measures at the United Nations level
- Enforce and implement an effective and time-bound program to abolish untouchability and similar practices in all spheres.
- Enact and enforce laws related to compulsory primary education and the elimination of child labor, bonded labor, manual scavenging, caste-bound free labor, the devadasi system or temple prostitution, and other similar practices.
- Ensure that all necessary constitutional, legislative, and administrative measures, including appropriate forms of affirmative action, are in place to prohibit and redress discrimination on the basis of caste, and that such measures - including those in Japan and India - are continued until discrimination is eliminated.
- Monitor and publicize the extent to which existing laws have been implemented.
- Monitor and analyze educational syllabi and textbooks that perpetrate caste-based oppressions and exclusion, and glorify worldviews that have contributed to the continued existence of a system of "hidden apartheid." Implement alternatives that emphasize human rights education at the school and university levels.
- Allocate adequate funds for and effectively implement programs for the socio-economic empowerment of communities discriminated against on the basis of caste or descent.
- Ensure full proportional representation based on percentage of national population size of Dalits, Buraku, and other groups excluded on the basis of caste in all sections of society including police, judiciary, public service, media, and private industry.
- Urge statutory and constitutional bodies such as national human rights commissions, commissions on women, race, minorities, and other relevant groups, as well as the Asia-Pacific Coordinating Committee of National Institutions, the African Coordinating Committee of National Institutions, and the International Coordinating of National Institutions, to take up the issue of caste-based discrimination and to support its inclusion in the WCAR.
- Urge national and state governments to take all measures to combat caste-based discrimination against women.
- Urge governments not to deny passports to people wishing to attend the WCAR in Durban, particularly Dalit activists.
- Demand that the WCAR agenda specifically address caste-based discrimination and that the WCAR Platform for Action identifies concrete measures for ending this form of discrimination;
- Demand that the caste system be included in the WCAR documents as a major source of discrimination.
- Call upon the WCAR to underline the necessity for States to adopt immediate concrete measures to eradicate the widespread discrimination and persecution targeting Dalits, Burakumin, and other communities facing discrimination on the basis of caste or descent.
- Call upon CERD and the Special Rapporteur on Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia, and Related Forms of Intolerance to reaffirm their position that caste-based discrimination comes under the purview of the CERD and to state that caste should be addressed in the WCAR.
- Call for a declaration by the United Nations that untouchability constitutes a crime against humanity.
- Call for intensified efforts at educating the public about the extent of caste discrimination and about the contributions of Dalit culture and history.
- Urge the appointment of a United Nations Special Rapporteur on caste discrimination.
- Declare April 14 (Dr. B. R. Ambedkar's birthday) as the International Day of Dalit Solidarity.
- Recommend that United Nations development agencies pay particular attention to caste violence and caste discrimination, assess the impact of their existing programs with regard to caste, and develop programs and strategies designed to curb abuse and encourage accountability.
- Untouchability is the subjugation and denial of the basic human rights of people labeled as "impure", a practice sanctified by religious tradition.
- The Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka does not subscribe to this section of the declaration.
- The Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka does not subscribe to this section of the declaration.