UN Special Rapporteur Warns of Global Wave of Discrimination
Thursday, May 18, 2006 Posted: 01:50 PM JST
"The political agenda of right-wing parties, historically hidden in the woods, is slowly becoming part of the democratic political process," UN Special Rapporteur Doudou Diène warned yesterday during a meeting with human rights representatives in the Japanese city of Osaka. Diène is the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Contemporary Forms of Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance. He is visiting Japan on his second fact finding mission to report on discrimination and xenophobia in Japan.
Diène first visited Japan last year July. He met with, among others, representatives of minorities, human rights organizations and government officials. In his report, released last January, he observed "manifold" discrimination of social, economic, political and cultural nature against ethnic and cultural minorities in Japan.
The report was highly critical of Japan for not implementing laws to outlaw racism. At yesterday's meeting, Diène repeated his call for such laws. He insisted that the Japanese government is actively involved. "The fundamental basis to combat discrimination," he said, "is the recognition and the political will at the highest government level."
Diène yesterday spent a lot of time putting Japan's problems in an international context and strongly warned of the democratic process being corrupted by right-wing organizations all over the world.
Diène calls this right-wing penetration of the democratic process "a very serious development." The coming out of the woods of right-wing policies has two effects, says Diène. "It has become a normal part of the political discourse, and in more and more countries such parties are now part of the government. They have access to power."
As a result, explained Diène, governments are increasingly developing "policies to legalize discrimination and limit the movement of migrants."
The increase in global discrimination is not limited to politics, says Diène. "There is an international intellectualization of discrimination and xenophobia," he says. "We are seeing more and more scholars writing books that legitimize discrimination and xenophobia." He specifically mentioned Samuel P. Huntington ("The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order"; "Who Are We : The Challenges to America's National Identity").
This intellectualization has even infiltrated history books, says Diène. "The nationalistic writing of history," he said, "has always been done. But this is now becoming more serious."
Diène identifies several causes for the international increase in discrimination. Partly they have traditional and historical reasons, he says. But he also sees new trends. "Since the tragedy of 9/11 certain groups are seen as potential sources of terrorism. This is a new form of discrimination."
Another important cause, according to Diène, is a general crisis of identity. "There is a contradiction of the reality of the multicultural society and the way the society has traditionally been framed in laws and in the minds of its people."
Diène likens racism and discrimination to an iceberg. "What you can legally combat is only the visible part. We have to touch on the deeper sources and causes, the invisible part of the iceberg. The historical dimension and the values that lead to discrimination. These are beneath the law and are more difficult to reach."
"For that," the UN Special Rapporteur explains, "we need intellectualization, such as the way history is taught."
He also stresses the importance of international efforts to effect local change. Discrimination and xenophobia can only be combatted, says Diène if "internal actions", the fight against discrimination inside a country, are linked with "the action on an international front." He urges activists to join forces and to act on his reports. "What matters most is what the organizations inside a country do with my report."
- Links to sites about human rights in Japan
- Official Doudou Diene Report (pdf file)
- Article by Eric Johnston of The Japan Times about the above meeting
- Japan Focus: The Diene Report on Discrimination and Racism in Japan
- Critical counter report by William Wetherall (see site)
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