Today marks the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination – an annual reminder of how we can help to combat racism and hate crimes all over the world. This year’s theme focuses on the incitement of hatred, importantly that which arises in the wake of large scale displacement and migration.

This is particularly poignant given recent developments in Myanmar. The racial, ethnic and religious profiling of the Rohingya had led to widespread discrimination and restrictions on fundamental freedoms, with many people subsequently forced to migrate to neighbouring countries. Cord recently highlighted the crimes outlined in interviews with Rohingya groups in Bangladesh by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. The majority of those interviewed had witnessed killings. Half had seen a family member killed or had a family member missing. Over half of the women interviewed had endured rape or another form of sexual violence. 

Racial and ethnic discrimination is also evident in other places where Cord works. During one of my most recent trips to Cambodia, I spoke with several indigenous groups who had had their land forcibly removed from them with total disregard for how inherent it is to their customs, traditions, way of life and values. They were forced to migrate to nearby forests where they were exposed to malaria and had access to barely any resources. In their mission to protect their land, they face increasing challenges. A recent report found that Cambodia is one of the most dangerous countries in the world for environmental Human Rights Defenders.

Cord believes that everyone is entitled to human rights without discrimination – regardless of race, religion or ethnicity. As a peacebuilding organisation working with people of all faiths and none, Cord is uniquely placed to address some of the root causes behind such discrimination, including inequality, intolerance and exclusion.

In Myanmar, it educates local organisations on prejudices, non-discrimination and inclusivity, gradually changing mindsets and bridging the gap between different races, ethnicities, religious groups, authorities, faith leaders and civil society. It recently launched a programme to Protect Women from Sexual Violence in Conflict, working with ethnic women’s groups, authorities and courts to support the prevention and prosecution of sexual crimes.

In Cambodia, I’ve seen firsthand the dedication and expertise of our local team which works with indigenous groups to tackle land grabbing, logging and concessions by educating them on international human rights frameworks, how to effectively document and report violations, and how to collaborate with decision-makers through peaceful, nonviolent advocacy.

Amy Dwyer, Programme Development Advisor

Cord will continue its efforts in documenting, investigating and reporting cases of sexual violence in marginalised communities, and to continue enabling our indigenous partners to protect their land. You can help us to protect these basic rights for all by supporting our 2017 Lent appeal.