Prof Verene Shepherd off to UN

First Caricom national on racial discrimination committee

Sunday, April 24, 2016

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Academic and media personality Professor Verene Shepherd on April 20 took up an appointment in Geneva, Switzerland as an independent expert on the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of all forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD).

Comprised of 18 internationally recognised and accomplished human rights experts, committee members are elected to serve in their personal capacity and not as representatives of their respective governments.

All State parties are obliged to submit regular reports to the committee on how citizens’ rights are being upheld. The committee examines each report and addresses its concerns and recommendations to the State party in the form of concluding observations.

Prof Shepherd, in June 2015, became the first Jamaican and Caricom citizen to ever be elected to serve on the CERD in its nearly 50-year history, and she received the highest number of votes of any candidate.

She is no stranger to UN matters and now adds yet another dimension to her social justice work on CERD, which is a body of independent human rights experts tasked with monitoring the implementation of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination.

The University of the West Indies Institute for Gender and Development Studies (IGDS) director told the Jamaica Observer that high on her agenda, as she assumes membership of CERD, is to encourage states to support and implement public education which promotes respect for cultural diversity and counters racism and racial discrimination, in line with Article 7 of the ICERD.

"A key philosophy of mine in life is that discrimination is abhorrent to peaceful coexistence and that justice is vital to peace," she said.

Shepherd hopes to advocate the promotion of the development of educational material and review of textbooks, so as to include history and human rights education in the curricula and promote the training of teachers and other relevant personnel in these areas.

Since 2010, Prof Shepherd has been a member of the United Nations Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent (WGEPAD), serving as the group’s chair from 2011 to 2014.

While serving as chair of the WGEPAD, her contributions assisted in shaping the programme for the International Year for People of African Descent, which ultimately led to the declaration of the United Nations’ Decade for People of African Descent.

Just prior to her historic election to CERD, Shepherd was invited by the president of the United Nations General Assembly to deliver the keynote address to mark the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination on March 20, 2015.

A release from the IGDS stated that, "Professor Shepherd notes that she is passionate about justice and adamant that the scourge of racism, racial discrimination, Afrophobia Islamophobia, xenophobia and related intolerance must be expunged from the human family, thereby ensuring the inherent dignity and fundamental rights and freedoms of all — regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, skin colour, heritage/ancestry, religion, sexual orientation, and place of birth."

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