Written by:
Lester Holloway

UK Govt Should Support 'Decade for People of African Descent', says UN Committee

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The government should organise a programme of events to celebrate the International Decade for People of African Descent, a meeting in parliament heard yesterday.

The British Government have so far refused to put on activities, in contrast to several other nations. Earlier this year the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) ordered the UK to mark the decade as part of a damning report into the state of race equality in Britain.

A meeting of the United Nations Association (UNA) in Westminster heard demands for Theresa May’s government to take the call for action on the decade seriously and to respond to other areas of inequality.

Civil servant Ian Naysmith, from the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG), said that the government was prioritising the need to update the UN CERD committee on the UK’s response to the spike in post-Brexit hate crime, counter-terrorism measures and health inequality.

Lord Herman Ouseley, a crossbencher, told the UNA meeting: “We need to not just focus on hate crimes after the event but how do we take action to stop people being racist in the first place? The spike has been happening all the time. The question is where do they get the prejudice from?”

CERD, which is based in Geneva, requested that London produce an action plan on these areas within a year. Normally the UN committee gives countries a full five years to report on progress. Naysmith said that the government was preparing to consult non-governmental organisations and civil society to give their views on issues like Prevent and strategies to combat hate crime. Home secretary Amber Rudd has already announced a hate crime plan and it is expected that bodies that deal with victims of racial abuse will have their say about how effective that is.

Barbara Cohen, a former Runnymede trustee, told the UNA meeting that the standards that the UN CERD are seeking on race equality exceed Britain’s equalities laws but as Britain had signed up to the United Nations convention on the elimination of racial discrimination they were encouraged to meet those standards.

Runnymede led on a report written by a coalition of non-governmental organisations who gave evidence in Geneva, much of which was accepted by the committee. In September Runnymede invited the UN CERD chair, Anastasia Crickley, to give her view on the UK Government’s response. She said: “We are particularly concerned over the Prevent strategy leading to the victimisation of Muslims in the UK.”

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