UN Special Rapporteur on racism / xenophobia concludes visit to Singapore

SINGAPORE (28 April 2010) - “The authorities have continuously and actively promoted social cohesion, religious tolerance and what they refer to as racial harmony, through a number of commendable policies and measures emphasizing tolerance, understanding and respect among the diverse ethnic and religious groups living in Singapore” noted the United Nations Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, Mr. Githu Muigai, at the end of his eight-day mission to Singapore.

“While there may be no institutionalised racial discrimination in Singapore, several policies have further marginalized certain ethnic groups” emphasized the UN expert, “this is a situation that must be acknowledged and acted upon in order to safeguard the stability, sustainability and prosperity of Singapore”.

Acknowledging that the peaceful coexistence of the diverse communities in Singapore was a remarkable achievement in itself, the Special Rapporteur nonetheless raised various issues of concern relating to some blind spots in the policies and measures pursued by the Government in its quest for racial harmony. These include restrictions on public debate and discourse on the issue of ethnicity, and the importance of ethnic identity in daily life. Other matters in the fields of housing, education, employment, as well as the question of recent migrants and the living and working conditions of migrant workers, including domestic workers, were also raised.

Moreover, the UN human rights expert stressed the need for a robust and solid legal and institutional framework to combat racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance.

Mr. Muigai appreciated that the Government of Singapore was acutely aware of the threats posed by racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance and that it had endeavoured to put in place laws, policies and institutions that seek to combat these scourges.

Mr. Muigai expressed his sincere gratitude for the full cooperation and openness of the Government of Singapore in the preparation and conduct of his visit from 21 to 28 April 2010. The Special Rapporteur emphasized that his country report to the Human Rights Council will be drafted in the spirit of contributing positively towards the reforms already undertaken by the Government.

Mr. Githu Muigai, a Kenyan national, commenced his mandate as Special Rapporteur on 1 August 2008 after being appointed by the Human Rights Council. He is a lawyer specialized in international human rights law. The mandate of the Special Rapporteur on racism was established in 1993 by the Commission on Human Rights to examine incidents of contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, as well as governmental measures to overcome them. It was further extended by the Human Rights Council in its resolutions 5/1 and 7/34.