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Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner
1049 Brussles, Belgium

28 August 2006

Dear Benita Ferrero-Waldner,

Dialogue on the Elimination of Discrimination based on Work and Descent at the EU-India Summit on 13th October 2006

The International Dalit Solidarity Network (IDSN) wishes to bring to your attention the Progress Report prepared by UN Special Rapporteurs Ms. Chinsung Chung and Mr. Yozo Yokota on the topic of Discrimination Based on Work and Descent (issued as Conference Room Document A/HRC/Sub.1/58/CRP.2 – attached herewith) for the 58th session of the Sub-Commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights.

On 24th August resolution 2006/14 was adopted by the Sub-Commission requesting the Special Rapporteurs to continue and complete their study on discrimination based on work and descent, to finalize draft principles and guidelines for the effective elimination of this form of discrimination and to submit their final report in 2007 to the Sub-Commission or its successor body, or in the absence of either, to the Human Rights Council. It further recommends that the Human Rights Council endorses the proposal to hold two regional workshops on discrimination based on work and descent, one in Asia and one in Africa, and a consultation meeting in Geneva within the first 6 months of 2007. We request the Commission, the Council and the European Member States to fully and wholeheartedly support this mandate, by providing the necessary political and financial support. The findings and recommendations of the Progress Report should enable the European Union and its member states to enhance its dialogue with caste-affected countries on this issue.

The report emphasises that discrimination based on work and descent is deeply rooted in culture and society, and has been reproduced continuously, further reinforcing the atrocities in the proc-ess of social change. [ ……, "for too long, discrimination based on work and descent has per-sisted due to under reporting, absence of political determination for change, and the chronic forms of disempowerment, disarticulation and social exclusion of those born with historically dis-credited identities," and therefore all future generations of such communities are potential victims, unless and until radical measures towards its elimination are systematically implemented by all the actors..]. Further the Special Rapporteurs' deplore in their report that states in which the af-fected communities exist, had failed to respond to their questionnaire on the subject. Particularly, given the new impetus to UN human rights mechanism through the new Human Rights Council, the Special Rapporteurs expected a better reception to their questionnaires from all the actors concerned.

It is with a strong sense of urgency that IDSN now repeats its call to your as Commissioner to help ensure that the European Union; the Council and the Commission to pay full and determined attention to the elimination of caste-based discrimination for the sake of the affected people and in respect of EU human rights policies and the principle of coherence. As you are aware, the Par-liament and various UN bodies have already taken a strong stand against caste-based discrimi-nation, but this has so far not been adequately represented in EU’s relations with affected coun-tries, most notably India. We appreciate your interest and commitment to fighting caste-based discrimination expressed in previous letters to IDSN and we urge you to ensure that EU take a very strong stance against continuing caste discrimination in all relations with India, both bilater-ally and multilaterally.

IDSN calls on the Commission, the Council and all member states to ensure that the issue is raised at the forthcoming EU-India Summit in Helsinki in October with reference to the above mentioned UN report and to the drafting of principles and guidelines for the elimination of dis-crimination based on work and descent. India and other caste-affected countries have ratified a series of UN human rights conventions with corresponding obligations, including the obligation to collaborate with the UN Human Rights mechanisms, which also entails cooperation on the elimi-nation of work and descent based discrimination. It is of vital importance that full cooperation is extended to the UN Special Rapporteurs in the last leg of their study which includes the prepara-tion of principles and guidelines for the elimination of discrimination based on work and descent. Contributions and engagement in this process by India’s and other caste affected countries shall be crucial to assess effectiveness of the range measures already applied; to identify most effective as well as new policy and programme measures; and also to propose new mechanisms for enhancing implementation of existing policies and measures to counter caste based discrimination.

For your information in January this year, the India finally submitted its joint report (fifteenth, six-teenth, seventeenth, eighteenth and nineteenth periodic reports) to the Committee on the Elimi-nation of Racial Discrimination. This report, which will be examined by the Committee in Febru-ary/March 2007, unfortunately, does not address caste-based discrimination in spite of the con-tinued existence of this extreme form of discrimination and related human rights violations in In-dia. General Recommendation XXIX of CERD issued in 2002, specifically addresses discrimina-tion based on work and descent and re-confirms that this form of discrimination falls under the descent leg of the ICERD. In spite of this, India has continuously failed to recognise caste-based discrimination as part of the CERD mandate and has disregarded its reporting obligations to CERD on this specific and overwhelming human rights and discrimination issue. Furthermore, so far India has exempted itself from responding to the request for information from the Special Rap-porteurs. We therefore urge the Commission, the Council and all member states to raise this issue at the forthcoming EU-India Summit and in all other relevant dialogue forums.

On 31st May 2006, the Committee on Development of the European Parliament stressed that meeting the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and combating poverty should remain a central element of the EU-India Strategic Partnership; and welcomed the fact that the next EU-India summit on 13 October 2006 will address the issue of the MDGs. The Committee further called for specific measures to be taken to ensure that Dalits and other marginalised communities are given priority in development cooperation in order to attain the MDG's. The Committee called upon the Commission and the Council to work together with the Indian government to improve the situation of above mentioned groups and to examine future cooperation as to their contribution towards ending gender and caste discrimination.

IDSN is in full agreement with the above recommendations made by the Committee on Development. The connection between caste discrimination and poverty is well documented; social and economic indicators reflect the fact that Dalits and other marginalised groups such as scheduled tribes, remain at the bottom of the society when it comes to education, health, income and employment, etc. All surveys and analyses point to the conclusion that special measures by the government, development agencies and the private sector to address the situation of Dalits and “Scheduled Tribes” in Indian, without which the Millennium Development Goals will not be achieved.

Lastly, we wish to explore with you to what degree concerted and strategic action to address caste-based discrimination has been made by the Commission in its development cooperation with affected countries and in country human rights assessments, analyses and reports; how the EU assesses the impact of trade and investment relations on those suffering caste-based discrimination, and finally if new measures to start addressing this area as part of CSR policies form part of the Commission’s agenda.

Yours sincerely,

Rikke Nöhrlind
Coordinator – International Dalit Solidarity Network


Answer EU Commission to this letter: here

Landelijke India Werkgroep - 14 november 2006