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World Jewish issues at UN Human Rights Council

  • Alana
Minority rights, Iran, Israel and the state of racial discrimination worldwide, were just some of the many topics covered in statements delivered by representatives of the World Jewish Congress at the UN Human Rights Council meeting in Geneva over the last couple of weeks.
by ALANA BARANOV | Mar 23, 2016



Pictured: Alana Baranov listening to the translation of the discussions at the UN Human Rights Council.

I was one of the representatives for the World Jewish Congress at the UNHRC. The WJC was created over 80 years ago in Geneva in response to growing anti-Semitism in Europe and today works to combat all forms of intolerance and represents over 100 Jewish communities worldwide.

As a steering committee member of the WJC’s flagship programme, the Jewish Diplomatic Corps (JDCorps), I was among a group of Jewish Diplomats who travelled to Geneva over the past few weeks to deliver prepared statements on topics of vital interest to Jewish communities across the globe.

I also represented the World Jewish Congress at various side events held alongside the general assembly at the United Nations, as well as at various diplomatic meetings and events.

As part of my preparation for the Council, I drafted four statements to be delivered as part of debates on minority issues; the human rights dimension of countering violent extremism; the incompatibility between democracy and racism; and the state of racial discrimination worldwide.

Despite the time constraints and competition between non-governmental organisations for the few spaces available to speak, I was able to deliver three statements directly to the Council and submit the fourth to be included in the records of the discussions.

The key point of all four statements were intrinsically intertwined with the underlying need to both prevent and combat anti-Semitism and all forms of bigotry around the world, whether it is hate targeting Jews, refugee and asylum seeker groups, or members of the LGBTI community.

Drawing on my experiences with both the SA Jewish Board of Deputies and the Hate Crimes Working Group, I was able to share best practice on issues such as the monitoring of patterns of hate crimes to solutions for restorative justice where discrimination has occurred.

The rise of anti-Semitism across the world, as well as the need to strengthen democratic principles and mechanisms to truly challenge violent extremism were stressed in all my submissions alongside the need for community outreach projects, government awareness campaigns on discrimination and interfaith initiatives.

Multifaceted strategies that take a whole-of-society approach, are the only way to combat hate and violence fuelled by radical ideologies.

While in Geneva, I also had the opportunity to not only meet with the Israeli Mission at the United Nations and the diplomats representing South Africa at the Human Rights Council, but also to attend side events.

To give a voice to pressing human rights concerns on the international political stage was a humbling experience and it was an honour to bring a uniquely Jewish South African dimension to the deliberations.


Alana Baranov is vice-president of the Council of KwaZulu-Natal Jewry and a steering committee member of both the World Jewish Congress’ Jewish Diplomatic Corps and the Hate Crimes Working Group. 


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