World Video | Defence | Foreign Affairs | Natural Events | Trade | NZ in World News | NZ National News Video | NZ Regional News | Search


UN human rights expert calls on States to make reparations

NEW YORK (29 October 2019) – Reparations for racial discrimination rooted in colonialism and slavery are essential to the fulfillment of human rights, a UN human rights expert said today, calling on States to accept they have obligations and responsibilities to make reparations to victims and their descendants.

“Reparations are a vital aspect of a global order genuinely committed to the inherent dignity of all, irrespective of race, ethnicity or national origin,” said the UN Special Rapporteur on racism, Tendayi Achiume, presenting her thematic report on reparations and racial justice to the General Assembly.

“Ultimately, the difficult truth is that the greatest barrier to reparations for colonialism and slavery is that the biggest beneficiaries of both lack the political will and moral courage to pursue these reparations.”

Achiume emphasised that modern racism and discrimination were inseparable from their historic roots. “Legacies of colonialism and slavery persist as myriad contemporary structures of racial discrimination and oppression,” she said.

“Slavery and colonialism allocated rights and privileges on a racial basis, and they also entrenched economic, social and political inequalities along racial lines. Formal abolition of slavery and colonialism was by no means sufficient to undo these racial inequalities that were consolidated over centuries.”

The UN expert said that in one North American country, for example, researchers have demonstrated that historic injustices related to slavery as well as the adoption of law and policy that fails to address these injustices contribute significantly to persisting wealth disparities among blacks and whites. “Equality today depends on confronting the past,” Achiume said.

She also noted that discrimination in allocation of reparations has perpetuated colonial racial hierarchies. “To date, the individuals who have benefitted most from reparations related to the end of slavery have been perpetrators and their descendants — that is, slave-holding families and their descendants,” Achiume said. “Descendants of people who were enslaved and traded as property, on the other hand, remain unheard, and in some cases even vilified for seeking to relief from racial injustice.”

The Special Rapporteur’s presentation to the General Assembly briefly canvassed forms of political and legal resistance to reparations. Criticising overly-formalistic approaches that have obstructed reparations and racial equality, she exhorted States not to “privilege technical rules over racial justice and human rights: we must recognise that a genuine commitment to equality and justice requires states to take bolder, more ambitious action”.

Achiume also contested narratives that suggest that reparations for racial discrimination rooted in colonialism and slavery were unprecedented. “Too often, debates about reparations for racial injustice frequently begin with the premise that reparations are an inherently exceptional or unusual remedy,” she said. “But reparations — as a holistic and effective remedy for those who have suffered a wrongful act — are not novel in practice or in law.

“State practice, international tribunal decisions, and other sources of international law have repeatedly affirmed that State breaches of legal obligations entail a responsibility to provide reparations. International human rights law, including article 6 of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, has further entrenched this obligation.”

The Special Rapporteur called on States to accept they have obligations and responsibilities to make reparations to victims and their descendants. She also beseeched States to exercise their inherent power to reform and decolonise international laws that obstruct reparations and other means of achieving racial equality.

© Scoop Media

World Headlines


Myanmar: Military Must Stop Murdering And Jailing Protestors – Bachelet

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet on Thursday said security forces in Myanmar must “halt their vicious crackdown on peaceful protestors,” following another day of deadly violence across the country on Wednesday... More>>

Syria: Economic Decline, Rising Hunger And Surging Humanitarian Needs

Syria’s fragile economy has “suffered multiple shocks” over the past 18 months, with its currency plummeting and joblessness swelling as people struggle to cover their basic needs, the UN Emergency Relief Coordinator told the Security Council ... More>>

OECD: Final Quarter Of 2020 Shows Continued Recovery In G20 International Merchandise Trade

G20 international merchandise trade continued to rebound in the fourth quarter of 2020 ( exports up 7.2% and imports up 6.8%), following the sharp falls seen in the first half of 2020, as lockdown measures affected trade globally. Although growth ... More>>

Focus On: UN SDGs

UNFCCC: Greater Climate Ambition Urged As Initial NDC Synthesis Report Is Published

UN Climate Change today published the Initial NDC Synthesis Report, showing nations must redouble efforts and submit stronger, more ambitious national climate action plans in 2021 if they’re to achieve the Paris Agreement goal of limiting global temperature rise by 2°C—ideally 1.5°C—by the end of the century... More>>

2021: Critical Year To ‘reset Our Relationship With Nature’ – UN Chief

During this time of “crisis and fragility”, the UN chief told the United Nations Environment Assembly on Monday that human well-being and prosperity can be vastly improved by prioritizing nature-based solutions. Painting a picture of the turmoil ... More>>

Paris Agreement: UN Secretary-General António Guterres To Mark U.S. Reentry With Envoy For Climate John Kerry

Watch live at UN Secretary-General António Guterres will join U.S. Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John F. Kerry at an event marking the United States’ reentry into the Paris Agreement this Friday. The discussion with the Secretary-General ... More>>