Governments need to improve data collection as a mean to better assess the situation of vulnerable groups, UN independent expert on racism, Mutuma Ruteere told the UN General Assembly on 3 November.
Ruteere noted that “the right to be free from discrimination includes the right to access information that could serve as evidence to prove discrimination.” He added that “the lack of disaggregated data has led to a serious information gap that limits the effective identification of population groups that are suffering discrimination.”
The UN expert stressed that better info on racism and discrimination will help the policy makers, at all levels to make better policies. However, he said that there is no international law which obliges the states to collect ethnic data, but on the other hand, “the right to be free from discrimination includes the right to access information that could serve as evidence to prove discrimination.”
The human rights expert acknowledged the fears and anxieties expressed by some states and vulnerable groups regarding the collection of sensitive data, but he said that these concerns can be overcome if strict human rights rules are observed, including the right to privacy, the protection of data, the establishment of participatory processes based on informed consent as well as the self-identification of respondents.
“The collection of data disaggregated by ethnicity on economic, social, cultural, civil and political indicators is a pre-requisite if we are to identify patterns of discrimination and existing gaps,” Ruteere said. “Through better data collection, discriminated groups will become more visible and get better protection.”
Equality is at the heart of the newly adopted sustainable development agenda which, under Goal 17, calls for the collection of disaggregated data to measure progress while leaving “no one behind,” to promote and foster non-discrimination while upholding the universality of human rights, he said.
“At a time where the international community is discussing how to measure progress on the new agenda, the adoption of indicators capturing levels of discrimination will demonstrate States’ commitment,” Ruteere underlined.