15 November 2006

Answers to questions by Jean Lambert (Verts/ALE) to the European Commission
by Mrs Ferrero-Waldner, on behalf of the Commission

Subject: Caste-based discrimination

by Jean Lambert (Verts/ALE)
to the Commission

The consolidated version of the proposal for a new regulation, the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (COM(2006)354), refers to ‘combating discrimination based on any ground, such as sex, race, colour, ethnic or social origin, genetic features, language, religion or belief, political or any other opinion, membership of a national minority, property, birth, disability, age or sexual orientation’ (article 2, iii); and to ‘the rights of minorities, ethnic groups and indigenous peoples’ (article 2, iv). United Nations' Special Rapporteurs mandated to conduct a study on discrimination based on work and descent estimate that at least 260 million people are severely affected by caste-based discrimination and subject to systematic denial of their basic human rights.

In recognition of this enormous, global human rights problem, will the Commission amend the regulation to ensure that the new Instrument effectively includes 'caste' as a basis of discrimination, and/or refers directly to Dalits and other communities affected by discrimination based on work and descent?

In December 2006 the Commission will finalise the preparation of country strategy papers (CSPs). What measures has the Commission introduced to adequately reflect human rights and poverty problems related to caste-based discrimination in the CSPs for countries severely affected by this form of discrimination? Can the Commission confirm that caste-based discrimination will be systematically addressed in the analyses, programming and operational guidelines of the relevant CSPs?

Answer given by Mrs Ferrero-Waldner
on behalf of the Commission

The Regulation establishing a financing instrument for the promotion of democracy and human rights worldwide (European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights) will refer in its provisions on the scope of the instrument to "the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms…" relating to inter alia "discrimination based on any ground", "the rights of persons belonging to minorities and ethnic groups", and to the "promotion of core labour standards". These provisions effectively cover any discrimination based on caste, descent, or work. Furthermore, within the overall framework of mainstreaming human rights, geographic programmes and thematic programmes on the basis of the Development Cooperation Instrument are encouraged to include the issue of caste discrimination wherever relevant in their programming documents.

The Commission's overall development cooperation strategy with India for the years 2007-2014 will address caste-based discrimination through an enhanced support to the social sectors, in particular basic health and elementary education. The Commission firmly believes that by assisting India to reach its Millennium Development Goal of achieving universal elementary education, with a special focus on the ‘hard to reach’ such as children from Dalit and tribal backgrounds, Dalits will ultimately have better chances to fulfil positions in Indian society at all levels.

A newly-established EU-India Dialogue and Cooperation on Employment and Social Affairs, which was launched at the 7th EU-India Summit on 13 October 2006, will also provide a relevant forum to address issues such as caste-based discrimination and corporate social responsibility, including in Special Economic Zones.

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