21 February 2001




GENEVA, 20 February (UN Information Service) -- The Asian regional preparatory meeting for the World Conference against Racism began in Tehran on 19 February with a call by the Foreign Minister of Iran, Kamal Kharazi, for mainstreaming universal culture without distinction as to race, colour or religion. The Minister also urged participants to consider normative linkages between the dialogue of civilizations and the elimination of racial discrimination in order to promote what he referred to as "creative diversity". In this endeavour, he said, civil society and non-governmental organizations have an important role to play.

In her opening statement, Mary Robinson, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and Secretary-General of the World Conference, emphasized that no country or region can claim to be free from racism. She said that racism, xenophobia and intolerance are pervasive problems that must be recognized and addressed. The High Commissioner drew attention to a range of current problems including those of migration and the trafficking in human beings that have direct links to racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance.

Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, Foreign Minister of the Republic of South Africa, the host country for the World Conference, underscored the significance of the event in preparing for the World Conference. She emphasized that many problems of racism were rooted in the legacy of colonialism. South Africa was working to ensure the success of the World Conference in Durban from 31 August to 7 September, the Minister added.

Prince Hassan Bin Talal of Jordan also addressed the opening session and urged that the reality of "Islamophobia" and its destructive potential be recognized by the World Conference. In his view, religious rights were part and parcel of the universal culture of human rights.

The Tehran meeting comes as the last in a series of four regional meetings after Strasbourg, Santiago de Chile and Dakar that were also held to prepare for the World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance. The Asia regional meeting, which is being attended by over 40 Member States of the region, several States from other regions as observers, international agencies, organizations bodies and programmes as well as representatives of more than 150 non-governmental organizations and civil society, is expected to adopt a declaration and a plan of action.

More information on the World Conference against Racism can be found on the Internet at: http://www.unhchr.ch/html/racism/index.htm

or Fax: +41 22 917 9050, E-mail: tshiawlk.hchr@unog.ch.

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