IHEU and IDSN call on India to protect Dalit rights and civil society space

  • post Type / Advocacy News
  • Date / 29 June 2016

The International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU), in association with International Dalit Solidarity Network (IDSN) has called on India to do more to eliminate the scourge of caste-based discrimination in the country and to ensure justice is served for Dalit victims.

As part of a discussion on racism at the UN Human Rights Council, the IHEU and IDSN also called on the United Nations to reform the manner in which NGOs are accredited to speak at the Council, ensuring more impartiality and transparency in its appraisal of NGO applications.

This call came after it had been revealed that IDSN had, for the 18th time been refused from gaining accreditation to speak at the UN – i.e. from gaining “ECOSOC status.” Decisions on this status is made by the UN Committee on Non-Governmental Organizations, which is a 19-member subsidiary body of the United Nations Economic and Social Council  (ECOSOC), whose members currently include: India, China and Cuba.

Rikke Nöhrlind, Executive Director of IDSN, said of caste discrimination and the UN’s refusal to allow IDSN accreditation:

“Caste discrimination is one of the most serious human rights issues in the world, but it is still missing from the Human Rights Council’s agenda. This cruel and inhuman form of discrimination breaches all the fundamental principles and rights embedded in the UN Human Rights conventions. It is a tool to dehumanize people and enforce practices of unequal treatment and is accompanied by extreme marginalisation and poverty. Yet the position of one state, India, has prevented any progress on the issue at the UN. Furthermore, for 8 years, India has blocked IDSN’s ECOSOC accreditation while over the last few years scaled up persecution of civil society organisations at home.”

IHEU’s director of advocacy, Elizabeth O’Casey, delivered the statement, which follows in full below:


International Humanist and Ethical Union

UN Human Rights Council, 32nd Session (13th June – 1st July 2016)
General Debate on Item 9 – Durban Declaration
Elizabeth O’Casey

This statement is presented by International Humanist and Ethical Union in association with the International Dalit Solidarity Network.

Caste-based discrimination has been described by the former high commissioner as “the very negation of […] equality and non-discrimination.” It is discrimination that currently effects an estimated 250 million people, and discrimination that “leads to extreme exclusion and dehumanisation of caste-affected communities, who are often among the most disadvantaged populations, experience the worst socioeconomic conditions and are deprived of or severely restricted in the enjoyment of their civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights.”

Just in the past month, caste-based violence has reportedly included eleven Dalit houses being burnt down by upper caste people, and three upper caste men allegedly electrocuting a 12-year-old Dalit boy for plucking a few ears of corn from their field.

Despite all the work to be done on this issue however, the UN Committee on NGOs has just, for the 18th time, deferred the application of the International Dalit Solidarity Network (IDSN), a global network of Dalit Rights organisations in affected countries, international human rights associates and Dalit Solidarity Networks, in its application for ECOSOC status. IDSN’s application is now the longest pending one of its kind. Two more questions from India have yet again delayed the process.

Sadly, this blocking of IDSN reflects a global trend, which India itself is part of, to increasingly shrink space for human rights defenders.

Therefore, along with urging India to renew its attention to the draft UN Principles and Guidelines for the effective elimination of discrimination based on work and descent and ensure justice is served for Dalit victims, we call on the Council to reform the manner in which NGOs are accredited with ECOSOC status, ensuring more impartiality, disinterest and transparency in its appraisal of NGO applications.


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