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Written statement submitted by the National Conference of Black Lawyers,
a non-governmental organization, to the United Nations Durban Review Conference


The National Conference of Black Lawyers (NCBL) is an association of lawyers, scholars, judges, legal workers, law students and legal activists. Our mission is to serve as the legal arm of the movement for Black Liberation, to protect human rights, to achieve the self-determination of Africa and Black communities in the Diaspora, and to work in coalition to assist in ending the oppression of all peoples. The NCBL is a bar association, but its program concerns matters of critical concern to the broader Black community.

The NCBL was an active participant in the World Conference Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia, and Related Intolerance (WCAR) held in Durban, South Africa in 2001. In addition, the NCBL has engaged other non-governmental organizations and the United States government during the process leading to the 2009 review conference in Geneva.

The NCBL recognizes that the WCAR held in 2001 was of global significance, addressing important issues such as the transatlantic slave trade and slavery; reparations; colonialism; the intersection of sexism and racism; discrimination against Roma and Sinti peoples; discrimination against indigenous peoples; and discrimination against Palestinians. 

The NCBL views the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action (DDPA), agreed upon at the 2001 WCAR, as a comprehensive policy document which guides States, non-governmental organizations and other actors in their efforts to combat racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance. The DDPA provides a valuable framework for addressing these issues, including suggesting measures to combat racial discrimination in all its manifestations, and improving the remedies available to victims of racial discrimination.

The Durban Review Conference is tasked with reviewing progress and assessing implementation of the DDPA by all stakeholders at the national, regional and international levels, including assessment of contemporary manifestations of racism; assessing the effectiveness of the Durban follow-up mechanisms and other United Nations mechanisms dealing with racial discrimination in order to enhance them; promoting the ratification and implementation of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination; and identifying and sharing good practices in the fight against racial discrimination. 

Despite the introduction of the DDPA eight years ago, significant gains have not been made in combating racial discrimination. It is notable that the measures recommended in the DDPA have not been implemented in the United States or in many countries in the West. In the United States, for example, people of African descent represent the poorest segment of the population, many lack access to quality health care and a quality education, and Black people suffer systematic violations of their human rights in the criminal justice system. Similarly, in other countries in the Americas and in Europe, Black populations suffer extreme poverty, social exclusion and violations of their human rights. In addition, the continent of Africa struggles with the vestiges of colonialism, and continues to be exploited by the West in the form of neoliberal policies associated with globalization. The NCBL urges all States to acknowledge the existence of racism, and to immediately implement the DDPA.

The NCBL wishes to draw the attention of the conference to the following subjects, which we request the delegates to address during negotiations and in the conference's outcome document:

• The Transatlantic Slave Trade, Slavery and Reparations

The DDPA recognizes that slavery and the transatlantic slave trade constitute crimes against humanity. Over a century after the abolition of slavery in the United States, people of African descent continue to suffer from its legacy. Nevertheless, the United States has failed to implement any remedies or compensatory measures for descendants of the victims of the slave trade, or to address the systemic problems that perpetuate the unequal status of Black people in the United States.

The NCBL urges the Durban Review Conference to reaffirm the DDPA’s language recognizing the transatlantic slave trade and slavery as crimes against humanity, and to reaffirm the language recognizing the right of the victims’ descendants to reparations. Further, we urge the conference to suggest specific plans for implementing proposals for reparations.

• The Establishment of a Permanent United Nations Forum for People of African Descent

The NCBL calls for the establishment of a permanent United Nations forum for people of African descent. This forum would serve as an advisory body to the Economic and Social Council, with a mandate to discuss issues related to economic and social development, culture, the environment, education, health and human rights for people in Africa and the African Diaspora. This forum would examine topics such as reparations for slavery; the economic basis of racism; the connections between globalization and racism; discrimination in the administration of justice; and the intersection of sexism and racism.

• The Ratification and Implementation of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination

The International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD) is an international treaty that prohibits racial discrimination in the enjoyment of human rights. CERD prohibits discrimination whether it is direct or indirect. CERD calls on governments to immediately pursue laws and policies to end racial discrimination. Article 5 of CERD instructs States to guarantee nondiscrimination in the administration of justice, in the enjoyment of political rights, and in access to health care, education and housing. CERD is inextricably linked to the WCAR. The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, the body that monitors States’ compliance with the treaty, asks States that have ratified CERD to report on how they have implemented the DDPA at the national level.

The United States has ratified CERD, but made a reservation that the treaty is not self-executing. Reports produced by US-based non-governmental organizations have demonstrated that the United States has failed to implement the treaty. The NCBL calls on the United States and other countries to implement CERD.

The Durban Review Conference is an opportunity to continue the dialogue on issues raised at the 2001 conference. The NCBL welcomes the collaboration with governments and non-governmental organizations in producing an outcome document that reaffirms the DDPA and makes an improvement on measures and mechanisms to combat racial discrimination.


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