The United Nations Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, Mutuma Ruteere, emphasized the importance of education in the fight against racism, xenophobia and intolerance, while warning that the rise of extremist political parties and groups poses a threat to democracy and human rights.
“Education has a central role in creating new values and attitudes and provides us with important tools for addressing deep-rooted discrimination and the legacy of historical injustices,” the Special Rapporteur said as he presented his annual report to the Human Rights Council.
Education was also key to empowering individuals and groups to lift themselves out of poverty, he said.
But, Mr. Ruteere stressed, education could only prevent and combat racism and xenophobia if its access and quality are also guided by the principles of non-discrimination and equality.
“It is important for States to ensure that their general curriculum, and not only the curriculum specifically devoted to human rights education, contains adequate and balanced information on the contribution of minorities, migrants and other non-dominant groups,” he said.
States should also carefully evaluate the potential impact of budget cuts at a time of economic crisis on the enjoyment of the right to education, particularly for disadvantaged minorities and groups.
“I have found that despite some positive initiatives, studies and findings by international and national bodies show that persons of African descent, Roma, Dalits, indigenous peoples, migrants, to name a few, still have limited access to quality and higher education,” Mr. Ruteere said.
The independent expert also highlighted the lack of ethnically disaggregated data and statistics which remains a significant challenge in assessing adequately the effective access to quality education by all individuals, including minority ethnic groups.
Mr. Ruteere also submitted a report pursuant to General Assembly resolution 67/154, which addresses the latest developments he has identified regarding the continuing human rights and democratic challenges posed by extremist political parties, movements and groups, including neo-Nazis and skinhead groups.
This report examines the main areas of concern where further efforts and consistent vigilance against racist and xenophobic crimes are required. It also identifies good practices developed by States and different stakeholders, Mr. Ruteere said.
“The rise in extremist political parties, movements and groups poses major challenges particularly in the context of the on-going economic and financial crisis,” the Special Rapporteur warned.
Discontent and fears brought about by a rise in poverty, unemployment and cuts in social benefits had sometimes manifested themselves in votes in favour of extremist political parties, he said.
“Racist, xenophobic, homophobic and other intolerant acts continue to be perpetrated by individuals or groups linked to extremist political parties or movements, against people of African descent, members of minorities such as Roma, foreign students, Jews, Muslims and migrants,” Mr. Ruteere added.
“Attempts by some extremist groups to falsify history and in particular to glorify Nazi criminals or their actions calls for continued vigilance and decisive action by states.”