Enhancing equality and countering discrimination

The principles of equality and non-discrimination are at the heart of human rights and help to reduce disadvantage on numerous grounds and in many areas. Human rights are not reserved for special groups.

They are for everyone, throughout society and across the globe. However, discrimination persists against religious, ethnic and national minorities, persons of African descent, indigenous peoples, persons with disabilities, migrants, older persons, children, women, and LGBTI people, among others. Historic forms of prejudice combine with income and social inequality to drive conflict, racism and xenophobia. In addition, the rise of social media has triggered the spread of hateful messages that fuel discrimination. At the same time, the 2030 Agenda and its commitment to ‘leave no one behind’ have created a momentum in favour of equality and non-discrimination.

We will work to promote equality and counter discrimination through laws and institutions, and will encourage rights-based and inclusive public narratives; give particular attention to discrimination against women, persons with disabilities and migrants; combat hate speech in the digital space; and seek to ensure that the UN system and SDG implementation adopt a human rights response to discrimination and inequality, ensuring that no one is left behind.

Over the period 2018-2021, together with our partners, we will work so that:

Laws, policies and practices more effectively combat discrimination in all forms, and responsible authorities actively work to “leave no one behind”, including by addressing the root causes of inequality.

We will develop good practices to combat discrimination and engage with policy makers to implement them.

We will expose underlying social norms and lead strategic advocacy to combat discriminatory legislation, practices and policies, and oppose racial profiling and segregationist and stigmatizing practices. We will facilitate and build new partnerships for positive change; and advocate for the inclusion of those left behind in the implementation and monitoring of SDGs. We will bolster local efforts to combat discrimination and encourage youth, including through schools, to speak up against discrimination. Throughout our work, we will pay special attention to multiple and intersectional discrimination and counter the growing threats of hate speech and hate crimes.

Justice systems and related institutions increasingly monitor and investigate discrimination and provide redress to victims.

We will assist formal and informal justice systems to apply a victim-centred, human rights-based approach, through legal advice and technical assistance; encourage and assist States to address factors that contribute to disparities in the administration of justice, including by gathering and analysing comparative data; monitor and advocate against biases in law enforcement, the administration of justice, and sentencing; and assist national independent accountability mechanisms and State institutions to monitor and investigate cases of discrimination. We will also empower groups and individuals who face discrimination to demand justice and accountability for violations, including by providing support for strategic litigation.

Legal and social frameworks increasingly promote women’s and girls’ autonomy and choice and protect them from violence, including in the digital space.

We will assist efforts to promote women’s and girls’ autonomy and comprehensively address gender-based violence (GBV). We will provide assistance to develop non-discriminatory and adequate legal and policy frameworks, focusing on custody, protection orders, access to social services, inheritance, nationality, labour, access to credit, and legal standing; pursue efforts to integrate human rights in policies that address abuse and violence online; develop evidence and rights-based guidance on gender-based violence, harmful practices, and the appropriate use of criminal laws; and assess obstacles to women’s and girls’ participation online. We will build the capacity of various actors, including civil society, to monitor gender-based violence and harmful practices, and press for approaches that promote women’s and girls’ autonomy and choice. We will use our convening power to create spaces for discussion and knowledge-sharing; and reach out to new partners.

Judicial institutions, media, and other sectors increasingly recognize and challenge harmful gender stereotypes and gender norms with a view to their eradication.

We will develop research on how harmful gender stereotypes and social norms in the media, the justice system and digital space undermine gender equality; and develop tools and guidance to build the capacity of journalists, judges, digital technology companies, and border control and law enforcement officers to address harmful gender biases in their work. We will raise the awareness of youth and communities; and assist civil society organizations to monitor and analyse gender stereotyping and challenge harmful social norms and bias.

Principles and practices effectively counter discrimination and hate speech in the digital space.

We will support analysis of the impact on human rights of artificial intelligence, big data, and discrimination and hate speech in the digital space and identify and clarify principles and best practices. We will cooperate with governments and the private sector to protect human rights in the digital space, and tackle digital discrimination and hate speech. We will help to address the digital divide and work to integrate human rights in the UN system’s work in this area.

The human rights of all migrants, particularly those in vulnerable situations, are protected.

We will monitor and report on the rights of migrants during all phases of the migration cycle; advocate for full implementation of the specific protections to which migrants in vulnerable situations are entitled; provide technical assistance, guidance materials and legal expertise in support of human rights-based approaches to migration governance; and strengthen the capacity of Member States, civil society, national human rights institutions, and UN partners to advocate for and implement human rights-based approaches. We will research and analyse emerging migration concerns, including migrants in vulnerable situations, return and reintegration, and the human rights links between migration and climate change, poverty, women’s rights and child protection; and develop communication tools to reframe anti-migrant narratives and amplify the voices of migrants.

Public support for equal, inclusive and diverse societies, without discrimination, increases.

We will collect and disseminate evidence, human rights stories and effective messages in support of inclusion, including on the negative impacts of discrimination, and support communication strategies and multimedia campaigns, using social media tools, to reach youth and marginalized groups. We will support educational programmes for schools and universities, and for different religious audiences, focusing on equality and non-discrimination; and work closely with partners to build public support for inclusive and diverse societies.

The UN system implements a coherent and human rights- based response to inequality and discrimination, including intersecting and multiple forms of discrimination.

We will play a leading role in the UN’s work on discrimination and social and economic inequality, especially in the context of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which provides an overarching framework for addressing structural discrimination, exclusion and inequality within and among countries. We will help UN country teams to ensure that the 2030 Agenda’s commitment to ‘leave no one behind’ is grounded in the principles of equality and non-discrimination; provide technical support regarding specific groups that face discrimination, based on new research that will examine the human rights dimensions of inequality with respect to such issues as fiscal and tax policy, social protection, and labour rights; and strengthen the UN system’s capacity to identify and respond to potential violations and warning signs of discrimination and inequality.

Work under all six pillars covers the core components of our mandate, enabling universal but strategic coverage (given resource limits) of human rights in all countries. The thematic pillars are indivisible, interdependent and mutually reinforcing.

Through four major Shifts to our approach, we will better adapt our work to the changing external context.

These shifts will help us focus on key threats to rights and key opportunities for leveraging support to better protect and promote rights. The shifts we will make across our six pillars are to:

i.  Support prevention of conflict, violence and insecurity.
ii.  Protect and expand civic space.
iii. Support and further develop the global constituency for human rights.
iv. Deliver human rights in the context of emerging global concerns (‘frontier issues’).

These Shifts’ will further unify our efforts as one Office; driving coherence, scale and measurable human rights impact in an uncertain world.

Our work will be ‘people-centred’. Across everything we do, including when we focus on the human rights of other population groups, we will shine a spotlighton the human rights of women, young people and persons with disabilities. In support of the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda’s human rights-based commitment to ‘leave no one behind’, we will highlight the human rights concerns of women, young people and persons with disabilities, including as defenders of rights.