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E-3473/05EN, 8 November 2005

Answer given by Mrs. Ferrero-Waldner on behalf of the European Commission,
to written question by Max van den Berg (PvdA)
on discrimination against untouchables (Dalits) (20 September 2005)

Question 1
Has the Commission read the report entitled "The Missing Piece of the Puzzle: Caste discrimination and the Conflict in Nepal", published by the Centre for Human Rights and Global Justice (CHRGJ)?
The Commission has indeed read the report mentioned by the Honourable Member with great interest and is pleased to note the report’s positive assessment on the EU’s strong record in Nepal in compelling the government to adequately investigate and deal with some of its more severe human rights violations1.

Question 2
Does the Commission share the view expressed in that report that caste discrimination is a significant cause of the conflict in Nepal and that, specifically, untouchables (Dalits), especially women, are the victims thereof?
Caste discrimination in Nepal and the ensuing social and political impediments faced by more than twenty per cent of the country’s population has increased social tension. The Commission agrees that women have been particularly victimised by the conflict.

Question 3
What is the Commission Delegation to Nepal and India doing in order to bring the issue of caste discrimination to the attention of the Nepalese and Indian Governments respectively?
The Commission has consistently appealed to the Nepalese Government for an urgent need to address the deteriorating human rights situation in the country. Moreover, the Commission has repeatedly reminded the Government that the purpose of its development projects is to assist regionally, socially and economically disadvantaged groups of people and thus to address major root causes of the conflict.

Question 4
What priority does the campaign against caste discrimination have in projects and programmes initiated by the European Commission, the Asian Development Bank, the World Bank, UNICEF, UNDP and other UN organisations?
The Commission cannot speak for the International Financing Institutions or for the United Nations (UN) organisations. As far as the Commission is concerned, human rights clauses are included in all EC co-operation agreements since 1995 and form the basis for a positive dialogue on human rights concerns. As regards EC projects and programmes in Nepal and India, particular attention is given that these programmes reach the target beneficiaries, who usually belong to the poorest sections of society.

Question 5
What will the European Commission do with regard to the recommendations set out in what is known as the Kathmandu Dalit Declaration which was adopted at the broadly-based International Consultation on Caste-based Discrimination in late 2004?
Member States and the Commission strongly supported the adoption by the UN Commission on Human Rights (CHR), during its last session, of a draft resolution by the Sub-Commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights to undertake a comprehensive study on caste-based discrimination and to develop draft principles and guidelines for its elimination.
The Commission will continue to give the recommendations of the Kathmandu Dalit Declaration due attention in the design of projects and programmes, as well as in their monitoring and evaluation.

Question 6
Can the Commission give an overview of initiatives (partly) supported by the European Union and programmes which ascribe high priority to the campaign to end discrimination against untouchables?
The Commission has identified caste-based discrimination and minority status within India as a focus for projects under the European Initiative for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR).
In Nepal, through a variety of instruments, including the European Initiative for Democracy and Human Rights, the Rapid Reaction Mechanism and the EC bilateral programme, the Commission contributes about € 1 million a year to both civil society and statutory bodies in Nepal aimed at promoting democracy and human rights. During 2004 and 2005, the Commission has supported the establishment of regional offices of the National Human Rights Commission in each of the five development districts of Nepal (EC grants € 450,000) while support to the Nepal Bar Association (EC grants of € 400,000) has focused on improving free legal aid, human rights and access to justice. Moreover, support to non-governmental organisations (NGOs) has funded a wide range of activities from human rights education, combatting caste based discrimination through the promotion of the right to education, media advocacy on human rights issues, journalism training and skill development training for women’s groups. Finally, the Commission is preparing a major commitment (€ 5 million) for support to the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) mission to Nepal. This contribution represents some 30 per cent of the total OHCHR budget.
In India, the Commission attempts to target disenfranchised communities such as Dalits and Adivasis by focusing the bulk of EC development assistance towards social development sector programmes in health and education. In particular, the € 200 million grant for the universalisation of elementary education is expected to yield important results for children from Dalit communities, since Education for All will ultimately provide a better chance to these children in gaining positions at all levels of Indian society.

Question 7
What specific measures is the Commission taking with a view to ensuring that the Millennium Goals, especially ‘eradicating extreme poverty’ and ‘achieving universal primary education’ are attained in the case of untouchables in programmes which it (partly) finances?
Through EC monitoring and evaluation mechanisms, particular attention is given to assessing whether the target beneficiaries (which generally consist of the poorest and most disenfranchised communities such as Dalits and tribals) have been reached.

Question 8
The Joint Action Plan under the EU-India Strategic Partnership provides for joint consultation and discussions about human rights and democracy. Is the Commission intending to include discrimination against untouchables in those discussions?
This issue of caste discrimination, as well as other human rights concerns, is addressed within the framework of regular EU-India consultations on human rights, the next session of which will take place in December 2005 in Delhi.

1. cfr. page 30.