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Answers to your questions about fighting racism

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Mr. Mutuma Ruteere

As part of our observance of the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (21 March) we asked social media fans and followers to post questions for Mr. Mutuma Ruteere, the UN Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance

Over 30 questions from 13 counties were posted on Facebook and on Twitter using #FightRacism.  Thank you to everyone who submitted questions!

Here are answers from Mr. Ruteere to four selected questions.

Sabbir from the UK asked, “How do we draw the line between freedom of speech and racial discrimination? Who decides the differentiation of the two?” 

Freedom of speech and expression is a fundamental component of every democratic society. However, the freedom of some ends where the rights of others begin. Therefore any restrictions to freedom of speech should be formulated in a way that makes clear that its sole purpose is to protect individuals holding specific beliefs or opinions, whether of a religious or other nature, from hostility, discrimination, or violence, rather than to protect belief systems, religions, or institutions as such from criticism. Only an independent judiciary can define precise criteria on the limitations on freedom of expression.

Dawn from Australia asked, “How do you fight racism when it’s been entrenched in a culture for a century, institutionalised at some stage by the political system, and is still accepted at a passive aggressive level in society and taken for granted as part of its culture?”

It is important to stress the crucial importance of education in the prevention of all forms of racism, xenophobia, intolerance and discrimination,and in particular in changing attitudes and correcting stereotypes. Encouraging diversity in work places, in sports, and in public life is also important in promoting positive attitudes to different racial and ethnic groups.

Jake from the United States asked, “How does/can the UN address multiple discrimination in its work? e.g. women of color, LGBTQ members of religious minorities… ?”

The UN has addressed the issues of discrimination through its human rights mechanisms, such as the Human Rights Council and its Special Procedures, as well as with the different treaty bodies monitoring compliance of State parties to international human rights treaties. In my work, I pay particular attention to the intersection of different forms of discrimination.

See also: Combatting discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identityLet’s Fight Racism campaign

Droits Humains Benin, a nongovernmental organization from Benin asked, “What measures has the UN taken in Africa, including Benin, to sensitize people about racism?” [See question and answer in French below]

I have emphasized that the problems of racism and xenophobia are present in every region of the world. I have therefore prioritized dialogue with States from all regions, including Africa. I also work closely with civil society groups and welcome opportunities to promote the efforts against racism and xenophobia in all countries.

“Quels sont les approches mises en oeuvre par l’ONU dans les pays africains dont le notre – le Bénin – pour sensibiliser les populations sur les méfaits du racisme?”

J’ai souligné que les problèmes du racisme et de la xénophobie sont présents dans toutes les régions du monde. ‘ai d’ailleurs accordé une priorité au dialogue avec les Etats de chaque région, incluant l’Afrique. Je collabore également avec la société civile et accueille favorablement toute initiative visant à promovoir les efforts pour lutter contre le racisme et la xénophobie dans le monde.

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