28 October 2003


Also Hears Introduction of Draft Resolutions on Advancement of Women

NEW YORK, 24 October (UN Headquarters) -- Racism and discrimination had its roots in a world history of conquests, slavery and colonialism marked by, violence, domination, and exploitation, Doudou Diene, Special Rapporteur on Contemporary forms of Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and related Intolerance told the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural), as it began its consideration of racism, the implementation of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action, and the right of peoples to self-determination. 

The international community must work together to transform a “de facto” conflict-ridden and unequal multiculturalism into a culture of pluralism, democracy and equality, he continued.  Concern was raised about recent intolerance, xenophobia and discrimination inherent in anti-terrorism policies, as well as the worrisome increase in racist acts and violence, particularly due to anti-Semitism and Islamophobia. 

The Special Rapporteur also noted the emergence within some intellectual circles and the media, of justifying and legitimizing new and old forms of discrimination through historic revisions.  He stressed that the international response to such developments required political will, as well as social and economic policies eradicating discrimination within the sectors of education, employment, housing and health.

The Director of the New York Office of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Bacre Waly Ndiaye, introduced reports of the Secretary-General prepared on items under consideration by the Committee.  He said the Office had requested information on implementation activities from States, the United Nations, and non-governmental organizations to facilitate the implementation of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action.  The Office of the High Commissioner was the lead agency responsible for their integration into the mandates, programmes and projects of the United Nations.

In the ensuing dialogue, delegations raised issues regarding international cooperation mechanisms in the battle against racism and intolerance, with speakers asking how the international community could increase its effectiveness.  Several delegations expressed concern about the increased discrimination and intolerance experienced by Muslims and Arabs, as a direct result of the terrorist attacks of  Third Committee 11 September 2001. Concern was also raised about the incitement of racist hatred and propaganda on the Internet.  Speakers asked how the international community could fight such trends, whilst still respecting the freedom of expression. 

Delegations also touched on the two main concerns of the report of the Special Rapporteur -- the caste system, and discrimination within sports.  Concerning sports and racial discrimination, the Special Rapporteur stressed that sports associations, as well as governments, must do their part to combat racial discrimination.  In addition, it was high time that Member States address the caste system -- an issue affecting both developed and developing countries.

During the general discussion, delegations stressed the importance of implementing the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action to eliminate all forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and intolerance.  Speaking on behalf of the European Union, the representative of Italy said the fight against racism was a multidimensional enterprise that called for a global approach.  It required action at all levels -- international, regional and national -- involving not only the adoption of legislative and administrative measures, but also the development of preventive strategies.  

Speaking on behalf of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), South Africa’s representative said that by adopting the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action, the international community had demonstrated its firm determination to combat all the evils of racism.  Those documents presented a concrete foundation for the activities aimed at addressing racism.  He informed the Committee that some SADC countries had already adopted legislative, judicial and administrative measures to combat racism, in cooperation with non-governmental and civil society organizations. 

Also this afternoon, the Committee heard introductions of draft resolutions on the advancement of women.  Texts were introduced on violence against women migrant workers, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, and the improvement of the situation of women in rural areas by the representatives of Philippines, Iceland (on behalf of the Nordic countries) and Mongolia respectively.

Participating in the general discussion this afternoon were representatives of Morocco (speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China), Brazil and Iran. 

The Committee will reconvene on Monday, 27 October, at 10 a.m. to continue its consideration of racism and the right of peoples to self-determination.

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