International Dalit Solidarity Network
Working globally against discrimination based on work and descent

Nørregade 13
DK-1165 Copenhagen K
Tel: +45 33 18 77 99
Fax: +45 33 18 78 76
e-mail: rikke@dalitfreedom.org

Commissioner Chris Patten
European Commission
CHAR 15/135 B1049

17th October 2003
Dear Mr. Patten,

Caste discrimination and the EU-India Summit, November 2003

Thank you very much for your letter 8th July, 2003 in response to the IDSN on issues pertaining to measures to address caste discrimination. We appreciate the commitment to take the fight against discrimination based on work and descent very seriously and the initial measures taken by the Commission. We do believe, however, that much more can be done.

In view of the planned EU-India Summit on 29th November 2003 in New Delhi, the International Dalit Solidarity Network wish to take this opportunity to strongly urge the European Commission to include caste discrimination as a specific topic at the agenda as part of the human rights dialogue. We welcome and appreciate that caste discrimination was discussed at the EU-India Summit in Copenhagen in 2002 and underline the need to pursue and enhance this particular aspect of the human rights dialogue.

In spite of constitutional and legal measures put in place by the Indian Government, caste discrimination and its related human rights violations - from atrocities against Dalits to bonded labour - continues to be severe, systematic and widespread. This is largely due to lack of access to justice and means of redress. Provisions and policies adopted to address caste discrimination remain to a large extent non-implemented leaving Dalits deprived of their socio-economic rights. Extensive documentation on Dalit human rights and livelihood shows only a few indications of improvement. But also in other countries in both South Asia and Africa the phenomenon of caste- or descent based discrimination is prevalent and sometimes even hardly recognised as a problem.

The European Parliament has recently given strong recommendations on caste discrimination to the Commission, the Council and the Member states. On 4th September 2003 the European Parliament adopted its resolution on human rights in the world in 2002 and the European Union's human rights policy (2002/2011(INI)) with the following wording on caste discrimination:

"62. Calls on the Commission, the Council and the Member States to strongly support initiatives to promote and enhance the fight against caste discrimination in all relevant United Nations fora, particularly UN human rights bodies, the ILO and the World Bank,and to promote the call for a Special Rapporteur on caste discrimination;

162. Calls on the Council and the Commission to address and take concrete measures on the issue of caste discrimination in political dialogues and in EU development and trade cooperation with the countries concerned; calls for the establishment of bilateral consultative mechanisms on the issue and support for the emancipation of the Dalits through external assistance programmes; urges the EU to avail of every opportunity to ensure that the General Recommendation XXIX on Descent-based Discrimination, adopted by the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination in August 2002 be given the widest recognition in terms of implementation;

163. Calls on the Council to include in its human rights report an analysis on caste-based discrimination, as well as factual reports and a critical assessment of the effectiveness of the EU's Human Rights Policy in terms of addressing caste discrimination;"

Another important development is a further resolution (2003/22) on discrimination based on work and descent adopted on August 2003, by the UN Sub-Commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights. This resolution calls for Sub-Commission experts to prepare a third working paper, particularly to examine legal, judicial, administrative and educational measures taken by the Governments concerned, to identify additional communities affected by this form of discrimination, and to prepare a draft set of principles and guidelines in cooperation and collaboration with inter alia CERD, ILO, and UNESCO.

The resolution further calls on states to formulate and implement at the national, regional and international level new and enhanced policies and plans of action to effectively eliminate discrimination based on work and descent, taking into account the measures proposed in General Recommendation XXIX, and to give widespread publicity to the General Recommendation.

The IDSN calls on the Commission, the Council and the Member States to comply with, promote and support the above recommendations by the European Parliament and also to bring the substance of the above-mentioned Sub-Commission resolution into the human rights dialogue of the EU-India Summit in November 2003.

On behalf of the IDSN and its European members
Yours sincerely,

Rikke Nöhrlind
IDSN Coordinator

Dalit Solidarity Platform, Germany
Dalit Solidarity Network, United Kingdom
Dalit Solidarity Network, Denmark
Dalit Collective, France
Dalit Solidarity Network, Netherlands/India Committee of the Netherlands
Dalit Solidarity Network, Sweden

India Committee of the Netherlands / Landelijke India Werkgroep - January 20, 2004