UN Secretary-General condemns rising anti-Muslim and anti-refugee bigotry

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. Credit: Wikipedia

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon condemned the divisive myth-making of the far-right and the growing hostility towards Muslims,refugees, Jewish communities and other minorities.

His remarks at a General Assembly meeting marked the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination on March 21.

This growing hostility and violence is ‘manifested most directly in anti-refugee, anti-migrant and, in particular, anti-Muslim bigotry, attacks and violence’.

As moderate parties harden their positions and far-right parties sow division. The Secretary-General’s grave tone bore the weight of Europe’s violent history. As the anti-refugee rhetoric mirrored ‘the darkest chapters of the last century’.

Ban Ki-moon spoke a universal and pluralistic truth: that ‘an assault on one minority community is an attack on all’. And that requires us to speak out against antisemitism, anti-Muslim bigotry and other forms of hate.

This year’s International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination also focuses on the challenges and achievements of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action.

The Durban Declaration and Programme of Action promised a robust response to racism. Ratified in 2001, the framework raised concerns about growing antisemitism and Islamophobia. Point 150 “Calls upon States, in opposing all forms of racism, to recognize the need to counter anti-Semitism, anti-Arabism and Islamophobia world-wide, and urges all States to take effective measures to prevent the emergence of movements based on racism and discriminatory ideas concerning these communities”.

Yet, fifteen years later, and for the UK at least, both forms of bigotry remain growing concerns. The same problems emerge in France and Germany.

A plan of action put focus on a victim-orientated approach to tackling racism. Years earlier and the Macpherson Report redefined how police in the UK investigate hate crimes following the racist murder of Stephen Lawrence in 1993. Victim perception would dictate how police investigate hate crimes.

The Durban Declaration is not without criticism. Three human rights experts said “very little progress has been made in tackling racism, afrophobia, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance”.

Mutuma Ruteere; the Chair-Rapporteur of the Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent, and Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism; Mireille Fanon Mendes-France; and the Chairperson of the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, José Francisco Cali Tzay cautioned against media and political scapegoating of minorities.

The experts also highlighted the under-reporting of racist hate crime and the need for tough policing responses. Another recommendation highlighted the need for reliable data collection in order to track the effectiveness of acti-racism action plans.