Thursday, June 20, 2013

No Tolerance for Discrimination

The movement for human rights in the Americas passed a major milestone that Global Rights has been behind for more than 10 years.  

Hi there, it’s Carlos Quesada, Global Rights’ Racial and Ethnic Equality Program director. I just returned from the General Assembly of the Organization of American States (OAS) in Guatemala where I witnessed history in the making.

Two very important Inter-American conventions were approved at the General Assembly this month and signed by Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay, Costa Rica and Ecuador:
  • The Inter-American Convention Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, and Related Forms of Intolerance
  • The Inter-American Convention Against All Forms of Discrimination and Intolerance

Global Rights and our Afro-descendant civil society partners have been working to pass these conventions for more than 10 years.  For the past decade, in every thematic hearing and in every General Assembly, our partners asked member states to speed up the process of approving these regional mechanisms to better protect individuals from harmful and unfair discrimination.

In 2004, Global Rights and our partners pushed Brazil to lead the working group to draft the Inter-American Convention Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, and Related Forms of Intolerance. After a shift in working group leadership over the years, we were stuck in a declining process and draining uphill battle.    

 It has been a long journey but the Assembly finally listened.

The Convention against racism emphasizes the state’s need to adopt affirmative action policies to ensure equal access to rights and the creation of an Inter-American Committee for the Prevention and Elimination of Racism.  Evidently, these new Inter-American instruments to combat racial discrimination and intolerance in the Americas are critical to hold governments accountable for treating all people, regardless of race or ethnicity, equal.

I am very happy that Antigua and Barbuda took the lead in pushing for both conventions. This is especially important because the Inter-American Convention Against all Forms of Discrimination and Intolerance includes a clause about protecting people from discrimination based on their sexual orientation and gender identity. Antigua and Barbuda and other Caribbean countries still have sodomy laws that criminalize same-sex practices. I hope that Antigua and Barbuda can be a leader in the Caribbean in decriminalizing these practices and pushing for gender equality.

I am so thrilled that our partner's advocacy was heard and that our hard work has paid off. Now, we must encourage more countries to sign and ratify both conventions to protect all people in the region. I look forward to keeping you updated on the process!


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