Race Matters

Government can make progress on race equality in a year says UN chief

The British government can make progress on many United Nations demands to improve race equality in just one year, the UN's head of race said yesterday.

Anastasia Crickley, who chairs the United Nations committee on the elimination of racial discrimination (#CERD) said that many of her committee's recommendations, which were announced in August, could be implemented by Theresa May's government within the next 12 months.

Crickley was speaking at a Runnymede Trust seminar in London yesterday. The UN body found that Brexit had fuelled a rise in hate crimes and also criticised the counter terrorism Prevent initiative for profiling Muslims and creating an atmosphere of suspicion. Yesterday Crickley repeated those criticisms, adding: "We are particularly concerned over the Prevent strategy leading to the victimising of Muslims in the UK." She said that there was a duty on public figures and the media to "explicitly reject hate speech" and celebrate diversity.

The UN boss renewed her call for the UK government to collect 'disaggregated data' on the impact of policies on all communities, and said that the UN was concerned about the "differentials in outcomes for people of African descent" in housing, health and employment in Britain.

She called on non-governmental organisations to keep up pressure on the UK government to act on the CERD report. The Runnymede Trust led a coalition of 70 NGOs on the state of race inequality in Britain, and director Dr Omar Khan gave evidence to the UN committee in Geneva. You can read the NGO report here.

Crickley said that the litmus test for the proposed new British Bill of Rights was whether it enhanced rights and protection for all citizens including minorities.

The UN committee on the elimination of racial discrimination report found that the British criminal justice system disproportionately targeted BME people, that there were higher rates of unemployment for African, Caribbean and Asian people, disproportionate low pay and workplace segregation.

The report found a lack of ‘objective baseline’ benchmarking of the ‘2020’ BME employment initiative and lack of access to justice due to legal aid restrictions and employment tribunal fees.

Soon after the CERD report the equality watchdog, the Equality and Human Rights Commission, released a race report exposing the deep inequality and divisions in society. Theresa May responded by announcing a race equality audit.

Speaking yesterday the EHRC's chief executive, Rebecca Hilsenrath, welcomed the audit but warned that it would not be enough without action to address racial inequality. She said that the watchdog would continue to keep up the pressure on the government ministers to respond to the UN report, adding that the EHRC was becoming "a more muscular regulator."

Anastasia Crickley
Rebecca Hilsenrath
Rebecca Hilsenrath
Dr Omar Khan
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