US Program Executive Director Nicole Austin-Hillery delivers Human Rights Watch’s Item 9 statement to the UN Human Rights Council (UNHCR). This statement was for the UNHCR general debate on racism and racial discrimination which took place March 19, 2021.
We thank the High Commissioner for her update on the implementation of resolution 43/1, and welcome the joint statement delivered by the United States on combatting racism and racial discrimination. We echo concerns raised on the longstanding inequities that have been accentuated by the Covid-19 pandemic, and note with particular concern the stark racial disparities that exist in the enjoyment of the right to health in the United States.
These deeply entrenched disparities are the product of the legacy of slavery and post-emancipation policy decisions that resulted in structural racism, including economic, educational, health inequalities, housing segregation, and discriminatory policing, that still exist today and intersects with and compounds the impacts of other forms of discrimination and oppression, like misogyny and gender inequality.
Accountability and reparations are key steps to begin to remedy the far-reaching damage done by this legacy. We urge the High Commissioner to examine in her final report the root causes of structural racism and the impacts of slavery and subsequent discriminatory laws and practices in the United States, and to set out clear recommendations for the Council to advance redress for these practices.
The test of the US willingness to address structural racism will be whether it takes concrete actions toward structural change.