The UK responded to the report by the UN Human Rights Council’s Special Rapporteur on racism by commending the acknowledgement of the UK’s strong legal framework for combatting racism. But the UK government were however quick to criticise the UN’s findings that suggest that UK policies entrench racial inequality in the UK. A 2018 report by the UK’s Equality and Human Rights Commission says that those from ethnic minorities in the UK are twice as likely to live in poverty.
The Special Rapporteur’s report on racism
The enquiry into racial inequality in the UK was announced in April 2018 in response to post Brexit racism in the UK. The Special Rapporteur was mandated by the Human Rights Council to focus on issues of contemporary forms of racism and racial discrimination and to examine human rights education in promoting tolerance and the elimination of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance. At its launch Ms Achiume said,
“My mission across the country, including stops in London and Belfast, will focus on explicit incidents of racism and related intolerance, as well as attention to structural forms of discrimination and exclusion that may have been exacerbated by Brexit,”
After the conclusion of her visit to the UK, the Special Rapporteur observed a Brexit-related growth in “explicit racial, ethnic and religious intolerance”. Conclusions that were summarised in the report published on 12 July stated that,
“the Special Rapporteur highlights that important work remains to be done to address structural forms of racial discrimination and inequality…she stresses that all over the country persons belonging to racial and ethnic minorities have poorer outcomes in many areas of life.”
The UK response
The UK response has opposed some of the findings of the Special Rapporteur and stated a clear rejection of the ‘suggestion that its policies further entrench racial inequality’. The UK Mission to the United Nations in Geneva issued a response statement on 12 July restating that,
‘the UK is committed to the total elimination of all forms of racism and creating a fairer society in which all people, of whatever ethnic origin or background, are valued and able to participate fully and realise their own potential.’
In answer to the criticisms of the UN, the UK highlighted, in particular, criticisms of its controversial counter terrorism programme – Prevent. Refuting the UN’s claims that Prevent disproportionately targets Muslims, the statement made reference to the UK government’s more recent focus on right wing extremism and highlighted its independent review that is due to be presented to parliament before August 2020.
The statement went on to detail the numerous initiatives that the UK government has taken to tackle racial inequality that individuals have faced, some due to the ‘Hostile Environment’ exacerbated by unjust policies such as those of the Windrush generation. The statement also included a summary of the initiatives taken to address barriers faced in the workplace, as well as and the treatment of black and ethnic minority people in the criminal justice system.
The International Observatory of Human Rights commends UK efforts to improve racial inequality, but hopes they will continue to work on the recommendations on the UN Human Rights Council.