3rd Quarterly, 2005 No.137

"Towards the Elimination of Discrimination Based on Work and Descent"
Osaka Rally to Celebrate the 57th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

On December 9, 2005, to celebrate the 57th anniversary of the UDHR, the Osaka Liaison Conference for the Universal Declaration of Human Rights organized the symposium on the topic of "Discrimination based on work and descent" inviting four speakers from Japan and other countries. About 1,000 people from the business sector, local government, religious organizations, human rights NGOs attended the symposium. Here is the summary of the symposium.

To begin with the symposium, Mr. Kenzo Tomonaga, Secretary-General of the Osaka Liaison Conference, gave the keynote speech stating, "In recent years, it has been found that Buraku discrimination problem shares commonalities with the problem of discrimination against Dalits in India and analogue type of discrimination in African countries. With efforts of human rights NGOs including those of these affected communities, the UN Sub-Commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights has started to take actions by appointing Special Rapporteurs whose mandates include the development of a draft set of "principles and guidelines" in regard to the elimination of discrimination based on work and descent. Today, we are with one of Special Rapporteurs - Professor Chung Chin-Sung from Seoul National University. We also invite representatives from non-governmental organizations in India, Senegal and Japan. Through today's symposium, we will learn actual conditions of discrimination based on work and descent in different parts of the world, and discuss about future challenges towards the elimination of discrimination."

The first presentation was made by Mr. Abdoul Kamara from RADDHO (African Assembly for Human Rights) based in Senegal. He talked about the problem of discrimination against the caste in Senegal and other African countries. He stated, "Emergence of the caste system in Africa was attributed to the introduction of division of labors in the ancient times. Despised attitude towards some labor groups was nurtured after Islam and Christianity were brought into the African continent. In Senegal, the social strata was developed consisting of "freemen," "caste (blacksmith, goldsmith, leather workers, etc.)" and "slavery (prisoners of defeated groups of conflicts" in the ancient times. As time went by, the slavery was abolished, but the social strata have continued to date. While the Senegal constitution prescribes the equality of all, and it is not unusual any more that people with the caste backgrounds become high-ranking officers of the government and private business, discrimination against the caste remains. Especially, inter-marriage with those from the caste definitely faces strong opposition. As there are no NGOs in Africa which work on this problem, I hope that this will be the beginning of building a solidarity network with NGOs and individuals working for that in other parts of the world."

(four speakers on the panel) Dr. Sukhadeo Thorat from Indian Institute of Dalit Studies discussed about the situation of Dalits in India who account for about 20% of the total population of India. He stated, "Since the 1947 independence, India has had different measures to prohibit the untouchability and to promote reservation systems as affirmative actions after the enactment of the Indian Constitution which clearly prescribes equality and non- discrimination. Meanwhile, the caste system has had a 3000 years' history in India under the teaching of Hinduism. The caste system incorporating non-equal principles dominates people's minds and everyday lives regardless of the legal measures that have been taken since the independence. With these measures as well as the recent economic prosperities in India, living standards of Dalit people have also improved in comparison with those of 50 years before. Yet, gaps between Dalits and non-Dalits have remained unfulfilled. A large number of discriminatory incidents are still recorded especially in the rural area. Violence against Dalit people is also rampant killing and injuring many of them. Now, it is the challenge of India to fully implement these anti-discrimination laws, and take concrete actions to prevent discriminatory incidents from occurring everyday in the civil society. We will continue our efforts while working with the international NGO network."

Mr. Shigeyuki Kumisaka, President of the Central Headquarters of Buraku Liberation League, discussed about the history of Buraku liberation movement in Japan and current situations around the Buraku problem. He stated, "In 1922, the National Levelers Association was founded with the proclamation of Levelers Declaration. After the WWII, the National Committee on Buraku Liberation was formed. After the occurrence of All Romance Scandal, the Committee promoted the denunciation struggle against discriminatory administration policies and services throughout the country. With the 1965 Dowa Council Report and the 1969 Law on Special Measures for Dowa Projects, the environmental improvement in Buraku communities has been achieved to a certain extent. However, we still face continued occurrences of discriminatory incidents against Buraku including a series of blackmailing against Buraku persons, an illegal acquisition of copies of family registers for discriminatory purposes, discriminatory messages on the Internet, etc. By strengthening solidarity with minority groups in the world, we will continue our efforts to eliminate discrimination against Buraku, Dalits and certain groups in Africa."

Professor Chung Chin-Sung as the Special Rapporteur on this problem in the Sub- Commission briefed the recent development around the issue in the United Nations. She stated, "The 52nd session in 2000 of the Sub-Commission adopted the resolution concerning 'discrimination based on work and descent' requesting Mr. Goonesekere to study the problem and submit its report in the next session. To the 53rd session of the following year, he submitted the first report. Since then, the Sub-Commission has had adopted a resolution concerning the issue every year. On the basis of three working papers (report), the Sub-Commission has appointed two Special Rapporteurs (Professor Yozo Yokota of Chuo Law School and Professor Chung Chin-Sung of Seoul National University) whose primary mandate is to develop a draft set of principles and guidelines in regard to the elimination of discrimination based on work and descent. For this end, the Special Rapporteurs are conducting study and research activities by sending questionnaires to relevant governments, UN agencies and NGOs, and will hold general and regional consultations, so that the draft set of principles and guidelines will fully take the reality of discrimination into considerations. Today's initiative is giving a good opportunity to listen to real voices of people concerned."

After the discussion, the Osaka Rally to Celebrate the 57th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was concluded by unanimously adopting the "Osaka Appeal Calling for the Elimination of Discrimination Based on Work and Descent."

("Osaka Appeal," see page 15)

| Back | Home |