UN human rights expert outlines priorities for addressing the scourge of racism

Special Rapporteur Githu Muigai

4 November 2008 – The relationship between racism and migration, ethnic conflicts and poverty will all be under the spotlight of the new United Nations independent expert on racism during his time in office, he told journalists today.

“Migrants, refugees and asylum-seekers are among the most vulnerable groups to racial discrimination,” said the Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, Githu Muigai.

Mr. Muigai predicted that racism aimed at these groups will be aggravated by the current financial crisis as economic strains and competition for scarce resources will foster more ethnic or racial tensions as migrants are seen as competitors for jobs and welfare.

The threat of terrorism to security adds to the anxiety caused by the meltdown of global markets and compounds the discrimination felt by migrant groups, noted Mr. Muigai at a media conference at UN Headquarters in New York.

“Legitimate national security considerations have unfortunately generated practices that amount to racial profiling,” the Special Rapporteur told reporters.

Refuting the idea that ethnic conflicts have their root causes in racial divisions, Mr. Muigai said that in recent conflicts, such as the ongoing fighting in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), the causes of the violence are political, and racial and ethnic differences have been manipulated and used as instruments for political ends.

The Special Rapporteur said that the relationship between racism and poverty lies at the centre of his mandate.

“Victims of racism, in particular minorities, tend to form the most economically marginalized groups in any society, both in developed and developing countries,” he said.

“It is essential that we identify the appropriate legal tools and policymaking mechanisms to put forward concrete recommendations that can be implemented by Member States at the national, regional and international level.”

Mr. Muigai said that he would closely monitor how Member States address the issue of poverty and racism and create a “solid body of knowledge” with the aim of eradicating the obstacles to equality and development.


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