"Ours is a battle for freedom, ours is a battle not just for economical gains and political power, ours is a battle for reclamation of human personality”
— Babasaheb Ambedkar

International Congress on Discrimination Based on Work and Descent, Modern Slavery, Untouchability, and Analogous forms of Discrimination (ICDWD)

ICDWD (21-23 September 2019), Burnard College, Columbia University, New York

About 100 leaders of the community, including 10 members of Parliament and delegates from over 19 countries from all over the world are expected to gather at this International Congress in New York during the UN General Assembly which is meeting to overview the Climate Action Plans and the SDGs performance.

The objective of the ICDWD is build a global network of communities facing Discrimination based on Work and Descent (DWD) from Africa, Asia, Europe, North and South America for highlighting the need for inclusion, equity and non-discrimination in human rights and development through procedures of the Human Right Council and Sustainable Development Goals respectively.   

Communities discriminated based on Work and Descent (DWD) are some of the most excluded, segregated, and marginalized groups at the global and local levels within their social, economic, political, and cultural systems. The inequalities and disadvantages they experience exist in various services like education, hunger alleviation, health, water and sanitation, employment, voting rights, equal access to land and housing, access to religious institutions in the public sphere, disaster risk reduction and environmental health, some of which are represented in SDGs through definite goals. Gender equality, peace and justice constitute cross-cutting, significant determinants, which must be addressed to mitigate inequalities within the countries.

The population of 260 million (approx.) worldwide comes under the DWD framework, which accounts to 3.25 percent of the world’s total population.

The International Congress on Discrimination Based on Work and Descent (ICDWD) will look at particular types of hierarchical-hereditary based structures among societies across the globe, which generate the same set of human rights violations and barriers limiting socio-economic development for different DWD peoples. Unlike racism and xenophobia, the structural violence of this form of discrimination does not rest on the white/non-white binary and on inferiority based on visible or ostensibly ‘biological’ differences given the legacy of colonialism.

DWD affected individuals and communities are indelibly stigmatized in the social, institutional, and psychological mindsets, ranked low in the hierarchical social order, excluded from access to all types of resources and barred from upward mobility in society on the basis of  the following rationale:

  1. Purity and pollutuion polarity determining untouchability, unseeablity, unlivability with dominantly ranked social groups;
  2. Made to engage in degrading kind of occupations such as leather and sanitation works, blacksmithing, ritual musicianship, buring dead carcasses, etc. 
  3. Subjection to slavery and bonded labour through usury, trafficking,etc.
  4. Subjection to enforced endogamy or the restriction of marriage with particular predetermined groups, policed by violence from the dominant community for  transgressing socio-cultural mores;
  5. Physically kept at a distance  from dominant groups as regards residential dwelling, access to basic livelihood resources, etc.;
  6. Relegating women to patriarchal domination and subjection in both the private and public spheres;
  7. Predetrmining social identity and traditional occupation through descent based generational lineage.
  8. Disproprotionate suffering of children under slavery and forced labor     

These features of social exclusion restrict the possibility of social, political, and economic mobility and ensure the intergenerational reproduction of a stigmatized laboring class or caste. These types of social structures have created systemic violence for centuries on communities as heterogeneous as the Haratine in Sahel; Forgeron in West Africa; Bantu in Sudan; Roma in Europe; Burakumin in Japan, and Dalits (formerly known as ‘untouchables’) in South Asia.

The sustainable development goal/SDG 10 is a prism par excellence for developming other interrelated goals. Without reducing inequalities, it questions the true nature of the implementation of the other goals, especially for the discriminated and marginalized communities.  It emphasizes a human rights-centric focus to the SDGs. In fact, the intersectionalities of marginalized DWD must be at the forefront of the SDG debate and programme implementation in the national level, as well as regional and global levels.