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Subscribe to this list via RSS Blog posts tagged in Human Rights

Rights to Realities – The International Convention for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination


This August, CRER will be reporting to the United Nations that, despite 41 years of commitment, BME people continue to face barriers in employment, political participation and accessing services such as health care . This discrimination is not inevitable, and with your support we can demonstrate to the UN how racial equality can be achieved in Scotland.

On 21st December 1965 the International Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD) was adopted and opened for signature by the United Nations (UN) General Assembly. It entered into force on 4 January 1969, which was ten years after Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on a segregated bus, four years after the Race Relations Act 1965 and 28 years before the official ‘end ’ of the British Empire.

Today the Convention has 88 signatories and 177 parties from across the world. ICERD requires state parties to submit a periodic report every few years on how they have complied with their ICERD obligations and then examines the states parties on their submissions, usually every four or five years; this is known as the examination process.

As well as the government report, civil society organisations (CSOs) and National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs) are encouraged to submit reports on the government’s report. These can provide important alternative information to the Committee.

Later this summer CRER and other anti-racism organisations throughout the UK will be submitting comprehensive evidence that on-going systematic discrimination of Black and minority ethnic (BME) groups continues in our country.

The importance of human rights conventions in tackling inequality cannot be underplayed. With more and more organisations and Governments  taking a ‘rights-based approach’ to policy, human rights are no longer abstract ideas confined to committees in Europe. They have become the minimum standards that every citizen expects from each other, but most importantly they have protected marginalised groups from their own Governments.

At the last set of UK hearings, in 2011, the UN recommended that the UK State “develop and adopt a detailed action plan, with targets and monitoring procedures, in consultation with minority and ethnic groups, for tackling race inequality.” On 21st March, the Scottish Government did just that when they launched the Race Equality Framework for Scotland 2016-2030. Yet this is not the time to be complacent.

The Framework was an excellent example of how the Scottish Government worked with partners, BME communities, academics and civic society to set out their ambitions for tackling racism in Scotland. It will not be achieved without continued commitment and resources from all that helped to shape it. Making a strong representation to ICERD is one way to keep the pressure on and ensure the Framework delivers on its promises to minority ethnic communities.

Working with the Runnymede Trust, CRER has helped to publish key evidence of where discrimination still exists within Scotland which we will present to the UN this August. Further to this, we have set out our ambitions for how the rights of BME people can be further protected, enhanced and ultimately – realised every day.

In order for this to happen we need your support.

Runnymede has now incorporated our Scottish evidence and specific recommendations in a UK-wide NGO Shadow Report which will be presented to the UN Committee. We ask that your organisation now support this shadow report to display the shared commitment that we all have to achieving racial equality in Scotland.

The UK NGO Shadow Report to CERD and further information on how your organisation can support it can be found here:

Further details on the ICERD and the UN Committee on Eliminating Racial Discrimination can be found here:

A copy of the CRER's Scotland-specific Alternative Report as submitted for the 2011 UK hearings can be downloaded here. We are planning to present an updated Scotland specific alternative report for the 2016 hearings and this will be published on our website in July 2016.

Lesley Warren



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A Crisis of Racism and Refugees
Colin Clark

"So, I think it's got a lot to do with racism. I think if these people were white, European… that [they] were coming from some dictatorship in Bosnia or somewhere… I think we would feel quite differently about it.” – Emma Thompson, BBC Newsnight, 02-09-15

​Choosing her words rather carefully, the actress Emma Thompson eloquently summarised what is surely a glaring truth regarding the current situation across the Mediterranean - this is as much a crisis of racism as it is a crisis of refugees. Indeed, the shocking images we have seen on the front pages of our newspapers, and on our television screens, in the last few days is a political crisis of failed Governmental responses to human mobility in the face of persecution. Further, this failed response to events in Syria - as well as countries such as Afghanistan and Eritrea - is explicitly built upon the foundations of a sedentary, ‘othering: a peculiarly European typology of racism.
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Culture, Confidence and Community – the new European Roma Institute (ERI)

A guest blog by Professor Colin Clark

On March 26th George Soros, founder and chairman of the Open Society Foundations, and Thorbjørn Jagland, secretary-general of the Council of Europe published a co-authored article entitled ‘Why we are setting up a European Roma Institute’ (Soros and Jagland, 2015).

Although less than 700 words in length, this European Voice article contains the foundations and promise of a symbolic and actual paradigm shift for up to 12 million Romani lives and livelihoods. The authors point out that although at the heart of Europe, the diffuse Romani communities spread across the territory have been denied an institution that can strategically and sensitively convey and represent heterogeneous issues of Romani culture, identity and politics.

The time has now come, argue Soros and Jagland, to change this reality: social exclusion and economic deprivation must transform into meaningful opportunity and material outcomes across areas of art, politics, music, life. The European Roma Institute, they suggest, is the vehicle to deliver this. At heart, this is the radical and fundamental paradigm shift that has been a long time coming in Romani Studies. The promise must now become reality.

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"I call on all people, especially political, civic and religious leaders, to strongly condemn messages and ideas based on racism, racial superiority or hatred as well as those that incite racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance."

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon


International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination is observed annually on the 21st March to commemorate the day in 1960 where police opened fire and killed 69 people at a peaceful demonstration in Sharpeville, South Africa. The official day was proclaimed six years later by the United Nations (UN) General Assembly in a call to the international community to redouble its efforts to eliminate all forms of racial discrimination. 

The 21st of March this year, marks the first celebration of International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination since the death of former South African President Nelson Mandela. President Mandela’s legacy is particularly relevant to the 21st March celebrations due to his historic struggle against apartheid and the victory over racist forces in South Africa. 

This year the UN has decided to honour the courageous struggle of an extraordinary leader in the fight against racism and chosen “The Role of Leaders in Combatting Racism and Racial Discrimination” as the 2014 theme for International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. 

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Above is Samina's photo from the the "I Speak for Myself"campaign, a travelling exhibition displaying hundreds of the messages captured during Amina's roadshow and which aims to tackle misconceptions and common stereotypes about Muslim women, thus reducing inequality and sexual discrimination not only within the Muslim community but also in the wider society.

“This was about Muslim women sharing their messages with fellow Scots."

“The messages talk about all the things that women talk about, regardless of their race and religion. In their own words they say, ‘This is who I am’.”

For her inspirational quote Samina chose the words of Mother Teresa.

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Vuyelva Mpongoshe

Vuyelva Mpongoshe

I think it is time to end violence against women. It's time to end hunger and poverty, we need to empower all women. Women should get access to education, training, science and technology.

We should have equal rights and the same opportunities as men. Men and women should unite to end violence against women and girls, women should have the right to make decisions at work or in a relationship. Women should be able to plan for the future.

I remember the time my mother was suffering in silence because she didn't know anything about her rights or where to go for help. This was in Africa where there are no facilities to help people to fight for their rights.

This women’s day makes me to remember the time there was a shame in my family. My father was a farm worker for years, one day the owner of the farm accused my father of stealing his goods and he was arrested. The same day, the farmer told our mother to leave his farm. When our mother asked him where she should go at this time with seven children and all of her belongings he told my mother that it was not his business and that he wanted to put someone new in our house that same night.

We spent our night on the street without food and drink. My mother’s last born was 8 months, we couldn't even help our mother because we were still too young. I think I was 12 years old girl. Our mother was full of tears and sadness in her face but, she had to be strong for us.

I grew up thinking about what happened to my family and have asked myself where was the humanity? Where was the humanity for the woman with seven children?  To be thrown out by the farmer at that time of the night, to have to sleep on the street with seven children. How on earth could people destroy other people's lives like that? No one was born to suffer like the way our mother was suffering.

I hope for changes because things like that are still happening. Enough is enough. 

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Rehana Faqir

The quotes that inspire me:

“I have been working for so many years and women still don’t get equal pay”

“Women's chains have been forged by men, not by anatomy.” ~ Estelle R Ramsey.

“Women are not inherently passive or peaceful, we're not inherently anything but human.” ~ Robin Morgan.

“If all men are born free, how is it that all women are born slaves?” ~ Mary Astell

“Nobody objects to a women being a good writer or a sculptor or geneticist if at the same time she manages to be a good wife, a good mother, good-looking, good-tempered, well-dresses, well groomed and unaggressive.”  ~ Marya Mannes

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Judy Wasige

My residence in Scotland the last 10 years has made me realise that irrespective of country, community problems are the same, only described by context relevant terms and analogies. Being Kenyan, I in my wildest dreams could never have imagined that poverty would make up part of Europe’s fabric. Through experience, mainly influenced by my daughter’s involvement with a food bank in Glasgow, this view has been altered. In responding to food shortages for families due to the recession and the resultant  job losses and unfavourable government welfare policies, the woman in her, like many other women around the world have done and continue to do, took it upon herself to sort out the problem using the only means available to her. She fasted for 7 days; a whole 7 days without food, only water and tea.

Initially, I thought she would last a maximum of 4 days and then give up. I watched keenly and waited…

Come day 5, I was very concerned; she looked weak, tired and complained about a lack of sleep and concentration in class.

By day 6 she had lost 10 pounds. I wanted her to give up and had my phone on standby, expecting a call from the emergency services.

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Anu Roy  

Feminist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

“We teach girls to shrink themselves, to make themselves smaller

We say to girls: ‘You can have ambition, but not too much

You should aim to be successful, but not too successful

Otherwise, you will threaten the man’

Because I am female, I am expected to aspire to marriage

I am expected to make my life choices

Always keeping in mind that marriage is the most important

Now, marriage can be a source of joy and love and mutual support

But why do we teach girls to aspire to marriage

And we don’t teach boys the same?

We raise girls to see each other as competitors

Not for jobs or accomplishments, which I think can be a good thing

But for the attention of men

We teach girls that they cannot be sexual being the way that boys are

Feminist: a person who believes in the social

Political, and economic equality of the sexes”


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Sangeeta Kaur

The women of my faith have been given the status of royalty. ‘Kaur’, meaning ‘princess’, is the second name adopted by every female Sikh. They are encouraged to use it proudly, whilst men are taught to treat them as the name dictates.

The women of my life are real princesses. They are the embodiment of virtue, integrity and true beauty. They have strength beyond measure and love beyond limits. They have endured more than I can say, yet their resolve remains firm each and every day.

My mother, grandmother, aunts, sisters and friends, are the light of my life. They have taught me the meaning of courage, perseverance and compassion through their kind words and brave actions.

However, the women of the world have suffered through oppression, and have been degraded. They have endured the pains of inequality and unfair treatment. They were subjected to abuse and their voices were silenced.

And yet, they fought. They demanded equal rights. They demanded an equal status for themselves, and they demanded to be recognised as the beautiful beings they are. They have progressed, inspired change, and continue to promote justice and love.

I am indebted to each and every woman that has challenged the world. Every woman that has lived and loved has coloured the world with compassion.

They continue to enlighten humankind.

They continue to inspire me.

Because of them, I am here, and I am me.

"Man is born from a woman; within woman, man is conceived; to a woman he is engaged and married. 
Man is friends with woman; through woman, the future generations exist. 
When the woman passes away, he seeks another woman; to a woman a man is bound. 
So why call her bad? 
From her, kings are born. From a woman, woman is born; without woman there would be no one at all" 
Guru Nanak Dev Ji
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As we mark the 60th Anniversary of the European Convention on Human Rights coming in to force, CRER believes it is time to stand up and remind people of the facts behind the Convention, how we all benefit from the rights that it protects and why we should oppose any attempts to undermine the Convention.

The European Convention on Human Rights was the first Council of Europe’s convention aiming at protecting human rights. Its ratification is a prerequisite for joining the Council of Europe.  It was adopted in 4 November 1950 and entered into force on September 3rd 1953. The United Kingdom was among the first states to ratify the ECHR and played a pivotal role in its creation. The UK accepted the right of individuals to take a case to Strasbourg and the jurisdiction of the European Court of Human Rights in 1966. 

The Convention guarantees a range of political rights and freedoms of the individual against interference by the State. Before the incorporation of the Convention, individuals in the United Kingdom could only complain of unlawful interference with their Convention rights by lodging a petition with the European Commission of Human Rights in Strasbourg. That all changed on 2 October 2000 when the Human Rights Act 1998 (HRA)came into force, allowing UK citizens to sue public bodies for breaches of their Convention rights in domestic courts. 

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The European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) Annual Report has set out a stark picture of the challenges faced by Black and minority ethnic communities in Europe.

Its review of racism and ethnic discrimination finds that crimes motivated by racism, xenophobia and related intolerances, the mainstreaming of elements of extremist ideology in political and public discourse and ethnic discrimination in healthcare, education, employment and housing persist throughout the European Union (EU). Roma populations in particular continue to face discrimination, as evidence collected by FRA and other bodies demonstrates. EU Member States made efforts to develop comprehensive approaches to Roma integration. Nevertheless, more still needs to be done when it comes to securing sufficient funding for Roma inclusion and ensuring that it benefits targeted groups, putting robust and effective monitoring mechanisms in place, and fighting discrimination and segregation, the European Commission concluded in its assessment of National Roma Integration Strategies.

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On Wednesday, we shared a report on Twitter that UKBA Officers were stopping people of minority ethnic appearance at the tube station in Kensal Green. Tweeters and some independent media quickly took up the story, with a few of the bigger news outlets (notably the Huffington Post and New Statesman) catching on this morning. But what actually happened at Kensal Green, and was it legal?

According to the Home Office statement made to Political Scrapbook, this was merely “a routine operation” where Officers “questioned individuals to check if they had the right to be in the UK”.

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Demonstrators outside the House of Commons. Image via International Dalit Solidarity Network When I first heard about caste based discrimination faced by people in Britain, I was appalled; I thought it would be one of those things people would prefer not to carry with them. Caste is an oppressive system of social stratification based upon occupation and the basis of one’s birth. In South Asia, the traditional caste system rooted in the Hindu religion begins with Brahmins (priests, academics) at the top, and continues downwards to Kshatriyas (warriors), Vaisyas (business community, minor officials) and then Sudras (unskilled workers). Beneath this hierarchy are those considered untouchables or Dalits who perform menial services. Caste systems are also found in Africa, other parts of Asia and the Middle East.

So how prevalent is caste discrimination in 21st century Britain? A study by the Anti-Caste Discrimination Alliance (ACDA) in 2009 showed that 58% of survey responses confirmed they had been discriminated against because of their caste. There have been cases of name calling ‘chamar’ or ‘churra’, names as derogatory as calling a black person a ‘n*****’, or calling people from Indo-Pakistan a ‘Paki’. There have been cases in Britain such as those of a carer refusing to bathe an ailing patient because the patient was from a lower caste and a case of a couple who were dismissed from work on the grounds that they were married but were not of the same caste.

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The Coalition for Racial Equality and Rights welcome the news that the Council of Europe has launched a campaign against the growing problem of hate speech online.

The No Hate Speech Movement will aim to tackle all forms of racism and discrimination on the internet by helping young people and youth organisations to recognise and act against this latest form of human rights violation. The rise in the use of hate speech – in social media, forums, chat rooms and elsewhere online – has prompted some commentators to label the digital phenomenon as a new form of human rights abuse. 

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