For information only - not an official document.
Press Release No:   UNIS/HR/156
Release Date:   22 March 2000
Human Rights Committee Briefed on Preparations
For 2001 World Conference Against Racism

 NEW YORK, 21 March (UN Headquarters) -- Despite two officially declared “Decades” to combat racism and two world conferences against racism, held in 1978 and 1983, respectively, racism continued to be a scourge on humanity and a threat to regional peace and security, Bacre Ndiaye, Director of the New York Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, told the Human Rights Committee this morning.

 Briefing the Committee on preparations for the forthcoming World Conference against Racism, to be held in South Africa from 31 August to 7 September 2001, he said that the world was currently past the mid-point of the Third Decade for Action to Combat Racism and Racial Discrimination (1994-2003), which was characterized by a global information campaign and increased activity at the national level to legislate against racial discrimination.

 In 1997, the General Assembly decided to convene an action-oriented World Conference, focusing on practical steps to eradicate racism, including measures of prevention, education and protection, he said.  The Conference would also endeavour to provide effective remedies for the victims of racism and racial discrimination.  In addition, it would highlight global efforts to promote the rights of vulnerable groups, such as minorities, indigenous people and migrants, and encourage the ratification of the 1990 International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families.

 United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson, as Secretary-General of the Conference, intended to work closely with the treaty bodies in preparation for the Conference and in implementation of the Conference’s recommendations, he continued.  The Committee could consider preparing a relevant study based on its general comments, concluding observations and decisions under the Optional Protocol, as well as issuing a new general comment specifically on the issue of racial discrimination and xenophobia.  As the most law-oriented of all the treaty bodies, the Committee might consider drafting “model national legislation”, and of formulating recommendations for the establishment of national recourse procedures for victims of racial discrimination.

 Following his presentation, a number of experts agreed that the Committee’s contribution to the Conference should take the form of a study about racism and racial discrimination and that a working group should be established to undertake that endeavour.  In that respect, they requested that adequate support services, especially from the United Nations system, be provided.

 Also this morning, Lord Colville, the expert from the United Kingdom, presented an overview of specific General Assembly resolutions adopted last year that related directly to the work of the Committee.  A number of them were relevant to and supportive of the Committee’s current exercise on the general comment to article 3.  He cited resolution 54/134 establishing the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women to be observed annually on 25 November.  The text recognized that violence against women was one of the crucial social mechanisms forcing women into subordinate positions, he said.

 Resolution 54/148, on the girl child, urged States to introduce laws that would ensure that marriage was entered into by free and fair consent, he said. It also urged States to enforce legislation to protect girls from violence.  In resolution 54/159, on the elimination of all forms of religious intolerance, the Assembly asked the Commission on Human Rights to change the title of the special rapporteur to the “Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion and Belief” because it was concerned by rights that were violated on religious grounds.

 By resolution 54/185, he said the Assembly asked all Afghan parties to respect human rights regardless of gender or ethnicity.  It also urged parties, particularly the Taliban, to ensure the right of women to education, and to respect their rights to security, freedom of movement, and protection of their physical and mental health.  Any future considerations of Afghanistan by the Committee would, therefore, be helped by revisiting that text.  Finally, resolution 54/157 stressed the importance of strict compliance by States parties with obligations under the Covenant and asked them to review reservations to both the instrument and its Optional Protocol.

 In addition, the Committee continued its consideration of its draft general comment on article 3 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, by reviewing paragraphs 20, 21, 22 and 23.

 Article 3 states that States parties to the Covenant undertake to ensure the equal right of men and women to the enjoyment of all civil and political rights set forth in the present Covenant.  The last General Comment (General Comment 4) on this article was in 1981, at the Committee’s thirteenth session.

 General Comments are recommendations made by the Committee on various articles of the Covenant.  Through their adoption, the Committee reiterates its desire to assist States parties in fulfilling their reporting obligations.

 The Committee, as a monitoring body, periodically examines reports submitted by States parties on their promotion and protection of civil and political rights.  The four countries presenting reports during the current session -? Republic of the Congo, United Kingdom, Mongolia and Guyana -? are among 144 States parties to the International Covenant.  (For further background on the current session, see Press Release HR/CT/544 of 9 March.)

 The Committee will meet again at 3 p.m. Wednesday, 22 March, to consider the fourth periodic report of Mongolia on its compliance with the Covenant.

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