‘Very little progress in tackling racism and xenophobia’ say human rights experts21 March 2016

AheadoftheUnitedNations(UN)InternationalDayfortheEliminationofRacialDiscriminationhumanrightsexpertshaveraisedconcernsoverthe“alarmingincreaseofhateandxenophobicspeech”andtothe“normalisedimpunity”oftheseactions.

In a report, Human Rights Council Special Rapporteur Mutuma Ruteere, the Chair-Rapporteur of the Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent, Mireille Fanon Mendes-France, and the Chairperson of the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, José Francisco Cali Tzay, wrote: “Fifteen years after the Durban Conference very little progress has been made in tackling racism, afrophobia, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance”.

In 2016, the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, marked on 21 March, is devoted to assess the challenges and achievements of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action 15 years after it was signed.

The Durban Declaration and Programme of Action is the most comprehensive framework for fighting racism and related forms of intolerance and discrimination and represents a firm commitment of the international community to tackle discrimination and serve as a basis for advocacy efforts worldwide.

“Political leaders, public figures and even mass media stigmatise and scapegoat migrants, refugees, asylum-seekers and foreigners in general, as well as minorities,” the report cautioned.

Racism in football  
A week ahead the international day, the world of football witnessed a series of  incidents of discrimination take place in and outside stadiums, highlighting the concerns of human rights experts at sports level.

In a week, three incidents involving football fans humiliating Roma beggars in Italy and Spain outraged Europe, prompting condemnation from Roma and anti-discrimination organisations, governing bodies and European politicians.

General Rapporteur against Racism and Intolerance for the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), Milena Santerini, said: “They have been humiliated, taunted, even urinated upon by some supporters, as others watched on, cheering,

“These acts are demeaning and deny human dignity. They cannot be accepted.

“I also call on the authorities to investigate as a matter of urgency and prosecute to the full extent of the law any offences committed, and to ensure that any racist motivations are fully taken into account,”

In South America two incidents of racist nature marked week five of the region’s international club competition Copa Libertadores. Brazilian players were subjected to monkey gestures by Uruguay and Paraguay fans days before Brazil faces Uruguay and Paraguay for the FIFA 2018 World Cup Qualifiers.

São Paulo club Palmeiras, whose player Gabriel Jesus was racially abused in Montevideo, Uruguay, demanded swift action to punish the perpetrator.

“The club reiterates that it condemns behaviour that discriminates against people, whether it be because of their race, color, ethnicity, religion, gender or national origin.

“We have sent images to CONMEBOL so that the appropriate measures can be taken.” said a club statement.

Challenging discrimination and prejudices  
Against a backdrop of widespread racism on the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination NGOs and grassroots organisations will take on sport to address racism and discrimination and reinforce its use to bring people together and further social change.

In Italy, the Ufficio Nazionale Antidiscriminazioni Razziali (UNAR) is running a week of action to raise awareness of discrimination. Between 14 and 21 March activities will be organised across Italy under the motto “Switch on the mind and switch off the prejudices”.

As part of the activities, on 15 March Fare member Liberi Nantes invited AS Roma female team to play a match against sexism and racism.

Foundation Candido Cannavò and Comunità Nuova, who since 2007 have been carrying out the project IO Positivo to promote cheering free of discrimination, will focus their efforts to further their annual social media campaign #tweetoffracism.

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On its fourth year, the campaign is calling on social media influencers and individuals to publish a video practising a sport and defying colleagues and friends to join. The initiative aims to raise awareness of discrimination in football in the lead up to the UEFA Champions League final on 28 May.

European network UNITED launched on 12 March their annual campaign against discrimination aligned with the International Day Against Racial Discrimination.

NGOs, civil society groups, grassroots associations, schools, universities and city governments across Europe are organising activities under the umbrella of a common campaign.

On 19 March Fare member SARI hosted an exhibition football game with boys and girls from Mosney and players from SARI ‘Soccernites’ and ‘Hijabs + Hat Tricks’. In Ukraine ‘Ivano-Frankivsk Against Racism 2016’ will see a anti-racism football tournament be held alongside trainings for journalism students and roundtables. Latvia Fare member Sport for All will also join the campaign and organise a radio show and a football match to raise awareness of anti-racism work in Jurmala.

In Cape Town, South Africa, Fare founder Football Unites, Racism Divides (FURD) comic book ‘Albert Johanneson, the first black superstar‘ will be launched to support a programme of discussions on related matters. The book’s launch will be accompanied by an exhibition also related to the day.

World football governing body FIFA are also marking the day with a series of actions on social media. On Twitter FIFA announced all Member Associations will have until 31 March to present their action plans to tackle discrimination at national level in a move to further its efforts to address the problem in football.

In addition, they will inaugurate the FIFA Diversity Award in July 2016 to recognise an outstanding organisation, group initiative or personality that is standing up for diversity and anti-discrimination in football. An anti-discrimination video has also been launched as part of the day’s celebrations.

Over the weekend, the supporters of Portland Timbers, Timbers Army, organised an anti-discrimination tifo ahead of the day.