GENEVA March 20, 2018 – UN and regional human rights experts* have urged States, civil society organisations and activists to step up their efforts to stem the alarming rise in racism and xenophobia worldwide, citing concerns about the impact of populist nationalism on mainstream politics.

“Vile discourses of explicit hate and ideologies of racial supremacy have moved from the fringe to the mainstream,” the experts said in a joint statement** ahead of the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination celebrated on 21 March.

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“Racial, ethnic and religious bigotry fuels human rights violations, including extreme violence against minorities, and against refugees, migrants, stateless persons, and internally displaced, including people of African descent, with a particularly acute effect on women, and sexual and gender diverse populations. This bigotry is unashamed.”

The experts said “the assault on the human dignity of millions around the world had reached alarming proportions”. It cited examples such as crowds of youths marching to neo-Nazi chants in Charlottesville, Warsaw, and Berlin, to the racist and xenophobic attitudes of politicians in the highest levels of office worldwide; from the ethnic cleansing of Rohingya Muslims, to the excessive use of military force to police communities of African descent in different parts of the world.

They said urgent global attention must be paid to the structural economic, political and legal conditions that stoke racism and xenophobia among populations that perceive minorities and non-nationals as threats.

“It also means confronting the fact that the rise of populist nationalism is a product of widespread loss of faith in establishment politics that privilege elites, as well as the offensive, xenophobic rhetoric of extremist ideologues,” the experts said.

“This is especially evident in the context of backlash in different regions of the world to refugees and involuntary migrants, where gaps in existing international legal frameworks combine with short-sighted national policies to reinforce chaotic and dangerous movements. This chaos heightens anti-migrant anxieties.”

It is incumbent on states, including through the ongoing negotiations for the Global Compacts for Migration and on Refugees, respectively, to provide legal pathways for migration and to take the other concrete steps necessary to create an international framework that prioritises substantive equality for all, they said.

The experts said the language of discrimination and intolerance had now become common-place in the media and even in mainstream national political discourses, and they called on States and other actors to redouble their efforts to address the factors contributing to the increase in racial discrimination and inequality.

“Putting an end to racial profiling by law enforcement agents is just as urgent as putting an end to violent hate crimes perpetrated by private actors,” the experts said. “Denouncing xenophobic Muslim bans implemented through immigration policies that rely on offensive and flawed assumptions about entire religious groups, is just as urgent as denouncing explicit Islamophobic or anti-Semitic statements made by political leaders.

“Putting an end to the forced displacement and cultural extinction of racial, ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities and indigenous peoples that results from government and multinational corporation-driven extraction and construction projects, is just as urgent as addressing the resurgence of neo-Nazism.”