Press Releases

    4 November 2004

    Special Rapporteur Informs Third Committee of Rise of New Forms of Racism, Including Manifestations in Political Platforms, Struggle against Terror

    Special Rapporteur on Mercenaries also Addresses Committee

    NEW YORK, 3 November (UN Headquarters) -- The rise of new forms of racism had dealt setbacks to the global fight against racism, making it more difficult to combat racial discrimination and xenophobia, Doudou Diène, the Special Rapporteur of the Committee on Human Rights on contemporary forms of racism, told the Third Commission (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) as it began its general discussion of the elimination of racism and the right of peoples to self-determination.

    Mr. Diène said the legitimate struggle against terrorism had undermined the protection of human rights and had led to new forms of racial discrimination, as well as to a growing acceptability of traditional forms of racism.  This new ideological environment had led to a designation of categories as certain cultural or religious groups had come to be seen as a terrorist risk.

    A further setback in the struggle against racism, he continued, was the growing encroachment across all continents of racist, xenophobic political platforms.  What was novel about this trend was not the existence of such platforms, but their gradual, covert assimilation by democratic parties. As a result, he said, the world was witnessing a growing acceptability of racist and xenophobic discourse that posed grave threats to democracy. This trend had been accompanied by the intellectual legitimization of racism and xenophobia, not only by the media, but also in works of literature, indicating that the intellectual community, too, had lowered its guard against racism.

    He said such setbacks required renewed and strengthened efforts to implement all international instruments aimed at combating racism.  These efforts must be flanked by intellectual and cultural measures to combat the entrenched nature of racism, he added.  This strategy should include the promotion of intercultural education aimed at the long-term construction of multiculturalism in all countries.

    Participating in a subsequent question-and-answer session with Mr. Diène were the representatives of Switzerland, Netherlands (on behalf of the European Union), Norway, Russian Federation, Egypt, Cuba, Indonesia, Venezuela and Canada.

    The representative of Guatemala also spoke.

    Responding to questions, Mr. Diène agreed that sport could play a positive role in combating racism, but pointed out that, while sport could serve to advance the cause of eliminating racism, many racist gestures and actions also occurred within the domain of sport.  He said the Internet, too, played a similar dual role with regard to racism and discrimination. It could play a positive role in disseminating information to combat racism, but it could also be used to disseminate racist information. There was still no consensus on how best to use the Internet to combat racism.

    Also addressing the Third Committee this morning was Shaista Shameem, the new Special Rapporteur on the use of mercenaries as a means of violating human rights and impeding the exercise of the right of peoples to self-determination.  She said the ancient profession of mercenaries needed to be considered afresh -- theoretically, philosophically and pragmatically, from within a human rights framework. She said she was in the process of establishing a database of national legislation addressing the issue of mercenaries and would engage in regular dialogue with governments and with intergovernmental and non-State actors, as well as individuals working on issues related to mercenaries.

    In response to the representative of Cuba, who alone took part in the subsequent question-and-answer session with Ms. Shameem, she stressed that she would continue to work within her mandate, focusing particularly on issues related to the link between mercenaries and terrorists and to the definition of a mercenary.

    Bacre Waly Ndiaye, Director of the New York Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, introduced the reports to be considered by the Committee in its discussions on the elimination of racism and the right to self-determination.

    Addressing the Committee in the general discussion of the elimination of racism and the right of peoples to self-determination were the representatives of Qatar (on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China), Egypt, China, Netherlands (on behalf of the European Union), Poland and Japan.

    The Third Committee will reconvene at 9:30 a.m. tomorrow, 4 November, to continue its general discussion of the elimination of racism and racial discrimination and the right of peoples to self-determination.

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