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UN Special Rapporteur underlines importance of mandate, independence and effectiveness of equality bodies

October 27th 2016

Report: Combating racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance and the comprehensive implementation of and follow-up to the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action.

The Secretary-General has the honour to transmit to the General Assembly the report of the Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, Mutuma Ruteere, prepared pursuant to General Assembly resolutions 68/151 and 70/140.

In the present report, the UN Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, Mutuma Ruteere, discusses the important role played by national specialized bodies and national plans of action in preventing and combating racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance.

Drawing from responses to a questionnaire sent to Member States and relevant stakeholders and other information, he highlights some examples of good practices undertaken by national specialized bodies and in national plans of action to combat racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance.

Numerous references are made to Equinet material throughout the report, and of course, as it focuses on equality bodies, makes many references to our members.

Conclusions and Recommendations

83. The Special Rapporteur welcomes the efforts made at the international, regional and national levels to establish national specialized bodies and develop national action plans for the elimination of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance.

84. The Special Rapporteur encourages States that have not done so to seriously consider developing a comprehensive national plan of action against racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, especially in the global context of a growing rise of xenophobic sentiments in a prolonged migration crisis. In this regard, he recalls the recommendations made in his most recent report to the Human Rights Council (A/HRC/32/50) in order to combat racism and xenophobia.

85. The Special Rapporteur calls upon States, when developing national action plans against racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, to establish a national specialized body as the key implementing agency. States should note the unique potential of such bodies in combating racism, xenophobia and other forms of discrimination, and should make every effort to link their national action plans and their activities with the specialized body. In this regard, he calls for more coordination between the objectives of national action plans and the reinforcement of the mandate and resources of national specialized bodies.

86. The Special Rapporteur also calls upon States, when establishing a national specialized body against racism and other forms of discrimination, to distinguish it from the general national human rights institution, but to do so in compliance with the Paris Principles of independence and impartiality. Whenever possible, this national specialized body should be mandated to ensure follow-up of the objectives of the national plan of action and the development of new plans.

87. In this regard, the Special Rapporteur recalls, as a good example, general policy recommendation No. 2 of the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance, on specialized bodies to combat racism, xenophobia, anti-Semitism and intolerance at the national level, especially chapter C of the appendix thereto, which states the functions and responsibilities of such bodies, in particular:

  • to work towards the elimination of the various forms of discrimination;
  • to monitor the content and effect of legislation with the aim of combating racism;
  • to advise the legislative and executive authorities with a view to improving regulations and practice in the relevant fields;
  • to provide assistance to victims, including legal aid, in order to secure their rights before institutions and the courts;
  • to hear and consider complaints and petitions concerning specific cases and to seek settlements;
  • to issue advice on standards of anti-discriminatory practice in areas of their application;
  • to contribute to the training of key groups;
  • and to promote the awareness of the general public on issues of discrimination and to produce and publish pertinent information and documents.


The Special Rapporteur calls upon States to take into account such provisions when creating national specialized bodies.

88. Finally, the Special Rapporteur recommends that States ensure that national specialized bodies are given the appropriate mandates and resources, both human and financial, to be able to carry out their functions to their full potential, in particular with regard to the challenges reported above.

The report is here.

Standards for Equality Bodies

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Many of these recommendations coincide with the Equinet call for standards as outlined in the Working Paper on Standards for Equality Bodies.

This working paper seeks to establish positions that equality bodies could promote, negotiate and advance vis-Ă -vis European and national administrations in the establishment of standards for equality bodies at European level and their implementation at national level.

It combines a concern to include minimum basic standards alongside standards that would ensure the full potential of an equality body is achieved. It does so to ensure that standards recognise and:

  • Enable the particular role, capabilities, and potential of equality bodies.
  • Respond to the wider institutional architecture in which equality bodies are located.
  • Address the changed context for equality bodies and new trends and evolution in their establishment, mandates, and operation.