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The International Commission for Dalit Rights (ICDR) and the Global Conference Organizing Committee (GCOC), including a host of participating universities, foundations, as well as Dalit and Amebedakarite organizations from the USA, Canada, Europe, India, Nepal, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and other caste-affected countries, are pleased to announce the forthcoming 1st Global Conference on Defending Dalit Rights, set to occur on the campus of Trinity Washington University in N.E. Washington, D.C., just blocks away from the U.S. Capitol Building, March 19-21, 2015. The purpose of the Global Conference is to increase awareness of the injustices visited upon an estimated 260 million caste-affected individuals worldwide, who face caste-based discrimination, exclusion, inequality, and violence. Their plight is a modern humanitarian crisis, even referred to as the ‘apartheid’ of this millennium; though, historically, this injustice has gone on for thousands of years. Every day, Dalits are forced into slave and bonded labor, denied access to communal water sources, and refused service at public establishments solely on the basis of their caste or descent. Dalit women and girls are, themselves, victims of rape and murder, with countless numbers forced into sex-trafficking.
The conference’s objectives are to: a) strengthen links among U.S. and international organizations fighting for the end of caste and gender-based discrimination, violence, and inequality; b) identify strategies to increase the capacity of caste-affected countries to respond to and mitigate the harms of caste-discrimination; c) advocate the passing of a binding resolution against caste-based discrimination by the U.S. Congress; and, d) lobby member nations of the United Nations (UN) to endorse the UN’s “Draft Principles and Guidelines for the Effective Elimination of Discrimination Based on Work and Descent”, established by the UN Human Rights Council (A/HRC/11/CRP.3).
The conference will take place over three days and be divided into five thematic sessions, described below:

1) International Mechanisms and the Obligation to End Discrimination, Violence, and Inequality – The goals related to this theme are to build understanding of the international mechanisms and obligations against caste-based discrimination. Another is to develop an advocacy plan that leads to endorsement by the U.S. government of measures contributing to the elimination of discrimination based on caste/work globally and within U.S.-based diaspora communities through provision of financial and legal assistance.

2) Best Practices and Challenges: Empowering Dalit Civil Society – Major objectives of the session for this theme are to exchange best practices of the current Dalit movements and major challenges. In addition, a goal is to establish and strengthen links among local and international organizations fighting against caste, work, and descent-based discrimination.

3) Legislative Approaches to Ending Caste, Work, and Descent-based Discrimination – The objective of sessions within this theme are to educate, discuss, and develop an advocacy plan to gain passage by the U.S. Congress for a binding resolution or law that requires action against Caste-based discrimination (CBD). It would be based on Congresswomen Eleanor Homes Norton’s (D-DC) proposed resolution against Caste discrimination (HR 566) and House of Representatives’ historic 2007 resolution calling on the U.S. government to address the problem of untouchability in India.

4) Universal Measurement and Advocacy Framework: Caste Freedom Index (CFI) – Sessions for this theme will examine the strengths and challenges of the Caste Freedom Index (CFI), an unique universal measurement and advocacy framework that increases the capacity of caste-affected countries to eliminate caste or work and descent-based discrimination. The ICDR has introduced and begun development of the Caste Freedom Index that will provide insights to the plight of the Dalits, enabling Dalit rights activists and governmental and non-governmental actors to prioritize the most pressing issues. It will guide policy, advocacy, and community-development efforts. The CFI will provide critical data related to the degree of caste, work, and descent-based discrimination and violence. It will also provide information required by the UN and the U.S. Congress to pass a binding resolution that requires action against caste-based discrimination in all affected geographic areas.

5) Gender Equality and The Power of Dalit Women – The major objectives of sessions within this theme are to discuss gender inequality, violence, and discrimination against Dalit women and girls – from gender and caste violence to trafficking. Presenters will identify opportunities to strengthen the power of Dalit Women by linking organizations dedicated to gender equality and women’s empowerment with those dedicated to fighting against caste, work, and descent-based discrimination.
The Conference is being managed collectively by participating partner organizations, sponsors, and the ICDR. Some fellowships, scholarships, and internship opportunities have been made available for graduate and undergraduate students and scholars with an interest in Dalit rights, human rights, advocacy, international development, or related topics.

Please register for the Global Conference here.

To view the general Global Conference schedule, please visit this link.

For Global Conference logistics, please visit this link.