What Policy Tools Should Be Used to Counter the Mayhem of Xenophobia?
International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination is observed every year on March 21 around the world. The sole aim of this day is to combat racial discrimination and promote unity. On April 4, 2018, the Student Chamber in the Department of Public Policy held a symposium on promoting tolerance and respect for diversity in the spirit of ending racial discrimination and xenophobia. Attended by both students and lecturers, the symposium was conducted as an integral part of the course on 'Human Rights in Non-western Societies' that is taught in our Master’s programme on Political Analysis and Public Policy.
The main aim of the event was for students to voice their views on ways to fight racism and promote tolerance in our societies. Guest speakers encouraged a discussion on the issues of racial discrimination and spoke about the various legal documents concerning these issues. In kicking off the event, Prof. Sanjay Kumar Rajhans focused on the tradition of observing, analyzing and extrapolating the very diverse aspects of human rights issues that affect Asia, Eurasia and the political geography of states in transition. With the increasing mobility among citizens and globalization at various levels, there has been an unprecedented backlash and reactionary populism that threatens the core values of tolerance, diversity and social and cultural co-existence. This is the context in which it has become important to discuss uncomfortable truths at the societal level and the tools that can be used protect the vulnerable.
In opening the forum, student chamber member Li You welcomed Alexander Verkhovsky, director of the SOVA Center, and Zeynep B. Ackay, who works as an external legal expert for ad hoc projects at the Council of Europe.
Verkhovsky spoke on the issue of nationalism and hate crime in Russia, stating that the Russian nationalist movement began to grow in the 1990s when young neo-Nazis who called themselves ‘nationalist socialists’ were responsible for a growing number of hate crimes; this trend continued up until 2008. He shared statistical data on hate crimes gathered by the SOVA Center and noted that since 2008 there has been a significant decrease in such crimes, signalling that authorities and law enforcement agencies have intensified their prosecution of the far right. Verkhovsky also explained how the Russian judicial system deals with hate crimes and hate speech, focusing in particular on relevant federal laws.
Zeynep B. Ackay focused her remarks on the issue of human trafficking and the EU legal instruments that guarantee protection of human rights and fundamental liberties, including the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). An example she cited was Rantsev v. Cyprus and Russia and the judgment of January 7, 2010. She also addressed some of the articles against trafficking that the court used in this case (e.g., Articles 4, 6, 2, and 13).
Ackay explained the monitoring mechanisms that are aimed at preventing trafficking of human beings, protecting victims and prosecuting traffickers. On the fight against racism and xenophobia, she discussed at length the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI), which is the Council of Europe’s independent human rights monitoring body specialized in combating racism, discrimination, xenophobia, antisemitism and intolerance. She concluded by highlighting the steps taken by all member countries to ensure protection of individual rights.
The event ended with a Q&A session for students and other attendees.
Video from the event:
Written by Faye Malang
Edited by Bhurgri Mahrukh,
Sanjay Rajhans, Artem Uldanov
Photos by Emmanuel Obiri