April 18, 2021

Poverty linked to discrimination: UN racism expert

06 October 2013: A new UN report highlights how poverty affecting minority groups around the world is closely linked to discrimination and racism.

In his report to the UN General Assembly (UNGA) yesterday, Mutuma Ruteere, United Nations Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, explained, “Discrimination based on racial, religious, ethnic, linguistic and also socio-economic factors exacerbates vulnerability. The lack of participation of vulnerable groups in decision-making processes is also often the result of historical legacies.” The report notes that this results in poverty in the areas of economic and social rights such as education, adequate health care, food and water.

With more than 70% of its population living under the poverty line according to the 2011 UNDP Poverty Profile, Chin State remains the poorest of all the 14 States and Regions in Burma by a wide margin. In an interview with the Chinland Guardian, Rachel Fleming, Advocacy Director of the Chin Human Rights Organization (CHRO), said: “There are still a lot of misunderstandings and prejudice about the Chin people. People know that many Chin face the challenge of extreme poverty, but they don’t think about why that is, or what the root causes of poverty are.”

CHRO’s Rachel Fleming continued, “Mr. Ruteere’s report is very relevant for understanding the Chin situation.  There have been many impacts of state-sanctioned discrimination against the Chin on the basis of their ethnicity and religion. One is the long-lasting impact of decades of human rights abuses such as widespread forced labour and land confiscation, which have directly contributed to poverty. Those human rights violations have directly interfered with people’s ability to farm their land, which is the main source of food for most Chin families. Another impact is government neglect and lack of political will to provide even the most basic services for Chin people: adequate healthcare services, clean drinking water, electricity, adequate schools, and road and communication infrastructure.”

In his recent report to the UNGA, Tomás Ojea Quintana, UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Burma, stressed the level of underdevelopment in Chin State. Mr. Quintana also urged the government of Burma to address ‘institutionalized discrimination’ against Christians in Chin State, and lack of representation in local government.

CHRO’s Rachel Fleming concluded, “It is the government’s responsibility not only to address poverty, but also to address the underlying discrimination that directly contributes to poverty. Tackling the root causes of poverty will help to bring about meaningful changes in the lives of Chin people.”

Mr. Ruteere is one of 37 independent experts appointed by the UN Human Rights Council to examine important human rights themes like racism, freedom of religion or belief, and torture on a global scale, while Mr. Quintana is one of 14 country experts.#

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