UN lambastes Netherlands over Zwarte Piet

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Police form a line blocking Zwarte Piet protestors in Amsterdam. Nov. 16, 2014 (tui_tues/Twitter)Police form a line blocking Zwarte Piet protestors in Amsterdam. Nov. 16, 2014 (tui_tues/Twitter)

A Dutch delegation is facing a United Nations committee that acts against racial discrimination in Geneva on Wednesday. Topics that will be discussed includes the Zwarte Piet issue, ethnic profiling by the police and the situation on the labor market, NOS reports.

Every four years all UN member states that signed the anti-racial discrimination convention have to present the steps they have taken to eliminate discrimination. Wednesday is the Netherlands turn.

The UN Committee will also be looking at two shadow reports compiled by civil society organizations. One of these reports were compiled by Eefje de Kroon of the Dutch Committee of Jurists for Human Rights. Another was compiled by the College of Human Rights, according to the broadcaster.

De Kroon told NOS that they, working with 25 organizations and experts, started working on the report three years ago and finished it in about a year. "And then the bomb in the Netherlands erupted regarding the racism debate. Then we had to write the report all over again." According to De Kroon, the Zwarte Piet debate shows that it is impossible to discuss the history of slavery in the Netherlands in a respectful way. "On social media, mainstream media ans in everyday conversations, you almost trip over racism. In our opinion, the Dutch government could have played a bigger role in this."

The College of Human Rights agrees that the Dutch government has adopted a wait and see attitude when it comes to the Zwarte Piet discussions, though it adds that the government has intensified the fight against racial discrimination over the past few years. "Unlike some local governments, which organized discussions with the various parties, the government is still keeping its distance from Zwarte Piet. They are still consciously not getting involved in the Zwarte Piet as 'racist stereotype' debate because they do not see a role for themselves and find it a issue of society." the College's report reads according to NOS. "However, a more active role of the government is required here. The 'Zwarte Pieten' debate is not isolated and a wider debate about racial and ethnic stereotyping is needed."

Based on Wednesday's meeting, the UN Committee will come with a number of recommendations on improvement later this year. The UN can not force the Netherlands to take the recommendations, but according to De Kroon, the country's reputation is at stake.