Leitner Center Distinguished Scholar-in-Residence Gay McDougall gave an address on institutional racism and the situation of people of African descent worldwide at the United Nations on November 3. She spoke on the panel “Confronting the Silence: Perspectives and Dialogue on Structural Racism against People of African Descent Worldwide,” organized in honor of the United Nations International Decade for People of African Descent.
A member-elect of the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, McDougall highlighted the achievements of the movement for racial equality since the passage of the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD). She also called on states to pass comprehensive anti-discrimination legislation, institute special measures or affirmative action programs to help overcome institutional racism, and tackle racial discrimination in the criminal justice system, including racially-motivated police abuse and violence.
“It is essential that States have comprehensive anti-discrimination legislation and strong enforcement institutions with procedures that can be initiated by victims and their representatives,” McDougall said. “Additionally, there needs to be a comprehensive approach that recognizes the importance of tackling legal regimes, policies and practices that have negative disparate impacts on communities disadvantaged by racial discrimination, regardless of proof that those policies were intended to create harm.”
McDougall is the former United National Independent Expert on Minority issues and the former director of the Southern Africa Project of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. She also served as a member the South African Election Commission, which oversaw the country’s first democratic, non-racial elections in 1994.