HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL HOLDS GENERAL DEBATE ON RACISM, RACIAL DISCRIMINATION, XENOPHOBIA AND RELATED FORMS OF INTOLERANCE
Concludes General Debate on Follow-up to and Implementation of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action
19 March 2013
The Human Rights Council this morning held a general debate on racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related forms of intolerance and concluded its general debate on follow-up to and implementation of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action.
In the general debate on racism and racial discrimination, speakers said that in the present world there was still widespread racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related forms of intolerance. It was still an arduous task to fully implement the Durban Declaration. In today’s world, there was also an increase in racist demonstrations and discourse of hatred in all walks of life, from sports to politics. It was regrettable that over the past year references to religious intolerance had been mixed up with racial discrimination; those should be kept apart as they were separate issues. Despite the efforts of the international community to put an end to discriminatory policies and despite the adoption of instruments, many persons of African descent continued to live in conditions of total marginalisation and many Muslims in western countries were subject to significant discrimination. States also outlined national efforts to strengthen the fight against racism and racial discrimination.
Speaking on racism and racial discrimination were Ireland on behalf of the European Union, Bahrain on behalf of the Arab Group, Argentina, Indonesia, Venezuela, South Africa on behalf of the African Group, Botswana, Libya, China, Turkey, Algeria, Tunisia, Russian Federation, Senegal, Iran, Cuba, Latvia and Pakistan on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Conference. The Council of Europe also spoke.
The following-non-governmental organizations also took the floor:
Commission Africaine des promoteurs de la santé et des droits de l’homme, International Youth and Student Movement for the United Nations, Mouvement contre le racisme et pour l’amitié entre les peoples, North-South XXI, International Humanists and Ethical Union, Verein Sudwind Entwicklungspolitik, International Buddhist Relief Organization, World Barua Organization, Centre for Human Rights and Peace Advocacy, Rencontre Africaine pour la défense des droits de l’homme, Fratenrité Notre Dame, United Towns Agency for North-South Cooperation,
International Institute for Peace, International Institute for Non-Aligned Studies, World Environment and Resources Council, Organization for Defending Victims of Violence, Liberation, Indian Council of South America and the International Association of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists.
In the general debate on follow-up to and implementation of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action, speakers said that the collaboration of all States in a spirit of equal and mutually respectful dialogue was the most effective tool to promote and protect human rights and improve the situation of human rights on the ground. One speaker was concerned that States were using the United Nations human rights system to elevate traditional values to the same stature as human rights standards, without addressing the fact that “traditional values” were often invoked to justify human rights violations. Speakers said that promoting the safety of journalists and fighting impunity must not be constrained to after-the-fact, but required prevention mechanisms to address the root causes of violence. The Council was urged to systematically address collective indigenous rights. The Vienna Declaration stipulated that all peoples had the right to self-determination, which was at the heart of the recognition and enjoyment of all other human rights. However, some speakers said that the Human Rights Council continued to politicize the right to self-determination regardless of the grave human rights violations resulting from the denial of that right.
The general debate on the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action started on Monday, 18 March in the afternoon and a summary of the statements can be found here.
Speaking on the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action were the Council of Europe and the Russian Federation on behalf of a group of States.
The following non-governmental organizations also took the floor: COC Netherlands in a joint statement, Press Emblem Campaign, North-South XXI, Liberation, France Libertés: Fondation Danielle Mitterrand, International Humanist and Ethical Union, World Federation of Democratic Youth; Verein Sudwind Entwicklungspolitik, Centre for Human Rights and Peace Advocacy, International Commission of Jurists, Organisation pour la Communication en Afrique et de Promotion de la Cooperation Economique Internationale, in a joint statement, Indian Council of South America and International Service for Human Rights.
The Council today has a full day of meetings. At its noon session, the Council will hold its annual thematic discussion on technical cooperation.
General Debate on Follow-up to and Implementation of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action
Council of Europe said that, even though the Council of Europe primarily promoted rights at a regional level, nevertheless it was aware that human rights were truly universal. The Council of Europe participated in worldwide efforts for the promotion of human rights by offering its experiences, methods, conventions, and procedures which had proved their usefulness. Those experiences might be useful for other regions. The Council of Europe’s standard setting activities made possible a legal approach to human rights instead of a political one.
Russian Federation, speaking on behalf of a group of States, said that the United Nations had been created to restore human dignity and realize people’s aspirations for prosperity through international cooperation, and to solve problems through an environment of friendly relations between States. The collaboration of all States in a spirit of equal and mutually respectful dialogue was the most effective tool to promote and protect human rights and improve the situation of human rights on the ground.
COC Netherlands, in a joint statement, said that it was concerned that States were using the United Nations human rights system to elevate “traditional values” to the same stature as human rights standards, without addressing the fact that “traditional values” were often invoked to justify human rights violations such as female genital mutilation, honour killings, domestic violence, and dowry-related violence. States should abide by paragraph 5 of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action.
Press Emblem Campaign said there were places in all regions of the world where journalists were confronted in a vicious climate created by States that ultimately led to the killing of journalists and the establishment of a culture of impunity. Promoting the safety of journalists and fighting impunity must not be constrained to after-the-fact, but required prevention mechanisms to address the root causes of violence.
North-South XXI said children were the most precious resource and the best protection States could provide them was through the ratification of the Convention on the Right of the Child. North-South XXI saluted all those who were engaged in the struggle for promotion and protection of human rights everywhere.
Liberation said that crimes against women in India forced them to live under constant fear and rape cases had jumped almost 875 per cent over the past 40 years. The conviction rate for rape cases was only 26 per cent. The Council should urge the Indian Government to ensure equal rights for women and end their exploitation.
France Libertés: Fondation Danielle Mitterrand said that the Vienna Declaration stipulated that all peoples had the right to self-determination, which was at the heart of the recognition and enjoyment of all the other human rights. Despite that, Western Sahara, about which the United Nations had adopted 110 resolutions, continued to be under the military occupation of Morocco. The Council should step up its efforts to allow the people of Western Sahara to exercise freely their rights.
International Humanist and Ethical Union said that the Vienna Declaration required States to make the protection, development, and survival of children their priority. However, some European countries failed to comply with that, namely Romania and Bulgaria, where thousands of children were detained in State-run institutions and lived in horrible conditions. The international community should monitor the implementation of the Vienna Declaration in State-run institutions.
World Federation of Democratic Youth said that Morocco was openly violating the Saharawi people’s right to self-determination by keeping with its attempts to impose a colonial fait accompli in Western Sahara. The Council should investigate the non-compliance with the Vienna Declaration in Western Sahara. The war in Mali showed that there was an urgent need to pay special attention to the people’s right to self-determination.
Verein Sudwind Entwicklungspolitik expressed concern about progress of discussions leading to the adoption of the fifty-seventh session of the Commission on the Status of Women and the agreed conclusion to end violence against women and girls, in which phrase “child early and forced marriage” was omitted. Overruling women’s sexual and reproductive rights, sexual orientation and gender identity, and harmful practices perpetuated in the context of negative culture and traditions showed the will to find cultural or religious excuses not to combat violence against women.
Centre for Human Rights and Peace Advocacy said that the growing economical and social displacement of indigenous peoples in Asia was being ignored. The systematic violation of indigenous rights, particularly those related to land, led to many conflicts and the Centre for Human Rights and Peace Advocacy urged the Council to systematically address collective indigenous rights.
International Commission of Jurists reminded that one of the key focuses of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action was the obligation of States to ensure that victims of human rights violations had access to justice. The Council and States should actively promote universal acceptance of individual communication procedures of the treaty bodies and ensure full implementation of their decisions on interim measures and final views by States.
Organisation pour la Communication en Afrique et de Promotion de la Cooperation Economique Internationale, in a joint statement, said that the fundamental rights of women and girls were part of the universal human rights. Despite States’ commitment to the promotion and protection of human rights, women and girls were subjected to harassment and sexual exploitation, particularly in conflict zones. Appropriate legal measures should be taken to allow women to participate in the political and economic life of their country.
Indian Council of South America said that the Human Rights Council continued to politicize the right to self-determination regardless of the grave human rights violations resulting from the denial of that right. Did the Council support the right to self-determination or were there too many of its States exploiting indigenous peoples such as the peoples of Hawaii and Alaska?
International Service for Human Rights said that the work of the Council had made it clear that States had a responsibility and legal obligation not only to promote and protect all human rights but also to take action to eliminate stereotypes and discriminatory practices justified by traditional values. Indeed, that was the only way in which minorities and marginalized groups could flourish in society without discrimination based on race, gender, religion or disability.
The Council has before it the Report of the Intergovernmental Working Group on the Effective Implementation of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action on its tenth session - Note by the Secretariat (A/HRC/22/64).
General Debate on Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Forms of Intolerance
Ireland, speaking on behalf of the European Union, said that the fight against racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related forms of intolerance remained on top of its human rights agenda. The European Union had adopted legislation prohibiting incitement to religious hatred and had established bodies to assist victims of racial discrimination. It was regrettable that over the past year references to religious intolerance had been mixed up with racial discrimination; those should be kept apart as they were separate issues.
Bahrain, speaking on behalf of the Arab Group, said that there were campaigns launched against Islam and its sacred law which were contrary to the objectives of tolerance. Legislation must be drafted to put an end to this type of discrimination. There were international instruments to combat racial discrimination which advocated promotion and respect for all religions.
Argentina said that its population was of very diverse origins and were successfully integrated into society, leaving aside discriminatory practices. The National Institute to Combat Racial Discrimination had developed a national plan against discrimination and was working on developing strategies to eliminate discriminatory and xenophobic practices from the society.
Indonesia said that Indonesia consistently supported the work of the Working Group and was committed to combating racism, discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance. Indonesia drew attention to the criminalization of racial discrimination in the form of sentencing and fines to any corporation found to be committing racial discrimination as defined in the law, and pointed out that Indonesia upheld the right of persons, individually or collectively, to effective remedy.
Venezuela said that in today’s world there was an increase in racist demonstrations and discourse of hatred in all walks of life, from sports to politics. The upsurge of Nazi movements in many countries showed that the fight against racism should be a priority for the international community. Venezuela, as a multi-ethnic and multi-cultural society, remained committed to inclusiveness, equal opportunities, and multi-culturalism.
South Africa, speaking on behalf of the African Group, said that the African Group fully supported the effective implementation of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action. It was vital for Member States to fulfil their commitments undertaken at the 2001 World Conference against Racism and to take measures to ensure the effective implementation of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action principles.
Botswana said that the centrality and significance of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action could not be overemphasised. Botswana believed that it was appropriate to introspect on achievements made since its adoption. Despite significant headway, States faced challenges such as poverty, conflict and terrorism. With those disparities not being addressed they would continue to contribute to racist practices.
Libya said that policies that were based on racism, racial discrimination and xenophobia were a blatant violation of human dignity. Despite the efforts of the international community to put an end to these policies and despite the adoption of instruments, many persons of African descent continued to live in conditions of total marginalisation and many Muslims in western countries were subject to significant discrimination. The media had a crucial role to play in awareness-raising.
China said that in the present world there was still widespread racism, racial discrimination and xenophobia and related forms of intolerance. It was still an arduous task to fully implement the Durban Declaration. China supported the work of the Working Group to effectively implement the Durban Declaration. China advocated that different civilizations and religions should engage in dialogue, and it would continue to join efforts of the international community.
Turkey said that the tendency to label immigrants as scapegoats for the ills of economic systems was a dangerous phenomenon. With more than 4 million of its citizens living abroad, Turkey was always vigilant about the emergence of xenophobia. Punitive measures were not sufficient and efforts must be increased to ensure that legal and political systems reflected the cultural and religious diversity of societies and the international community must seize every opportunity to eradicate discrimination.
Algeria said that racism still existed despite the significant efforts to fight it throughout the world. Rejection of a person who was different continued and new phenomena were merging such as xenophobic speech. Everyone must take action to reverse the negative trends of racism and xenophobia and the international community must adopt reactive and preventive measures to strengthen this fight.
Tunisia said it was of utmost importance that high ranking leaders of States and politicians took a clear stand against racial discrimination and xenophobia and their instrumentalization in political life. Democracy was incompatible with racism and the fight against racism demanded that all take a firm commitment, go beyond rhetoric and combat all forms of discrimination on racial and ethnic grounds.
Russian Federation said that racism and xenophobic slogans were on the rise and that Nazism was being revived in many European Union countries. The latest of such Nazi gatherings had recently taken place in Riga, where some members of the Latvian Parliament were not ashamed to appear under flags featuring Nazi symbols. Although freedom of assembly was generally respected, nevertheless such gatherings should not be allowed. It was inadmissible for European Union authorities not to react to Nazi parades.
Senegal said that the persistent occurrence of racist and xenophobic acts of violence against the background of the economic crisis made it necessary to strengthen efforts to combat racial discrimination, xenophobia, and related intolerance. Following celebrations of the tenth anniversary of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action in 2011, the celebrations of the International Year of Persons of African Descent was an opportunity to ensure the improvement of the situation of persons of African descent who were vulnerable.
Iran said that it regarded the principle of combating racism and racial discrimination as one of the bedrocks for the realization of human rights. Racism and racial discrimination touched on the fabric of societies and negatively affected social cohesion and inclusion, which consequently led to marginalization and exclusion of certain racial and ethnic groups. In recent years, incidents of incitement to racial and religious hatred had been on the rise in Western countries.
Cuba said that the Conference continued to be a landmark in the fight for the equality of rights, but the full implementation of the Durban Declaration had not yet occurred. In the face of this undeniable reality the provisions of the Declaration should be implemented. Political will was still lacking. Cuba was determined to support initiatives and appealed to States to commit themselves to fight against this scourge.
Latvia said that this year’s theme, racism and sport, was highly relevant, taking into account that the problem of racism in sports all over the world was disturbing. Latvia believed that the prevention and adequate measures to fight all forms of violence and intolerance in sports should remain a priority. Latvia fully rejected the statement made by the Russian delegation. Latvia had clearly and repeatedly stated that it condemned in absolute terms all totalitarian ideologies.
Council of Europe said it wished to take this opportunity to share with the Council the statement made by its Parliamentary Assembly on the occasion of the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, dedicated this year to racism and sport. The statement called upon sport leaders, athletes and public authorities to firmly condemn any discourse or act of a racist nature and to promote respect, tolerance and solidarity as fundamental values.
Pakistan, speaking on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, said that concerted action was needed to address Islamophobia and other forms of religious intolerance and was concerned about the creation of stereotypes against Muslims in the media. The systematic pattern of events that alienated Muslims required further determined action and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation hoped that the Human Rights Council would adopt the relevant resolution with consensus during this session.
Commission Africaine des promoteurs de la santé et des droits de l’homme was surprised that the General Assembly had not taken a decision on the Decade of People of African Descent and was slowing down international action on combating racism. Escalation in racism against people of African descent was an issue of concern which should not be ignored.
International Youth and Student Movement for the United Nations said that despite clear resolutions of the General Assembly and the Council, the implementation of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action received little attention by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. The Outreach Programme for which the General Assembly had allocated resources should be implemented.
Mouvement contre le racisme et pour l’amitié entre les peuples said that instead of implementing the recommendations of the Convention for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, Israel continued to promote segregation between Palestinian workers and settlers by using separate buses for Palestinians. The Council should also investigate the fate of thousands of Sub-Saharan workers in Libya who had been chased, beaten, imprisoned and tortured since the fall of the Gaddhafi regime.
North-South XXI said that the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action was an important instrument which should guide both action and education to eliminate racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, and stressed that the struggle against racism was one in which all should engage. North-South XXI urged the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to produce the tenth anniversary commemoration document of the Durban Declaration.
International Humanists and Ethical Union said that the caste system in India was the result of ancient religious and cultural beliefs that not all human beings were equal. Today there was still suffering caused by that cruel, humiliating, and discriminatory system of apartheid. More specifically, the Dalits were a group suffering the effects of racial and cultural discrimination in the country.
Verein Sudwind Entwicklungspolitik said that it was very concerned by increased xenophobia in Iran, especially against Afghan citizens. In 2012 the authorities had banned the right to residence in 14 provinces for Afghans. These rules were taken only because of nationality and did not target special groups of people. It was an obvious act of xenophobia. Combating racism, racial discrimination and xenophobia was the duty of States.
International Buddhist Relief Organization said that Bangalore’s local government along with the police had demolished around 200 tin sheds, evicting slum dwellers, mostly Dalits, without written notice. About 1,200 women and 2,000 children were affected by this action and serious health and hygiene issues had surfaced in the peripheral area where over 200 evicted families were forced to make temporary homes.
World Barua Organisation said that the caste system in India described Dalits as untouchable and deprived them from equal treatment in their country of birth. The Government of India had to realize that the institution of racism and discrimination could not continue in today’s globalised world and the time had come for it to take steps to accord equal status to members of the scheduled castes in all spheres of life.
Centre for Human Rights and Peace Advocacy said that three Dalits had been killed in police firing during the protest rally for the Dalit community. In Galsana village, upper caste members had never allowed Dalits to enter the village temples. Action must be taken to secure the fundamental human rights of Dalits.
Rencontre Africaine pour la défense des droits de l’homme noted with astonishment the increase in hate and violent attacks against women, ethnic groups, religious minorities and others and said that it was paramount to take decisive political action to foster the culture of tolerance in the world.
Fratenrité Notre Dame called attention to attacks against Christians throughout the world and the prohibition of peaceful Christian events by public authorities. The media and school teaching should have more understanding for Christian culture.
United Towns Agency for North-South Cooperation said that the discrimination against Bengalis in Pakistan was continuous and that Hindus were considered as racially inferior. The people of Baluchistan had been deprived of their rights and a dirty war was being waged against them. Pakistan denied the rights of religious and cultural minorities, thereby violating its obligations under the Durban Declaration.
International Institute for Peace said that international solidarity could be meaningful only if there was greater global cooperation. The starting point had to be the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which clearly stated that all persons were born equal. It was up to the international community to push States to make sincere efforts in order to promote and protect human rights. It was essential for the global community to work in unison.
International Institute for Non-Aligned Studies said that acts of gender-based violence were incompatible with the dignity of the human person and should be eliminated along with all forms of discrimination on the grounds of gender. Discrimination experienced by women and girls in many parts of the world was deeply rooted in patriarchal definitions of traditions and value systems which continued to regard them as lesser human beings.
World Environment and Resources Council said that minorities in many countries were still not being permitted to worship freely and gender discrimination was taken to extremes where women and girls were bartered like objects. A willingness to sacrifice and a willingness to reach out and welcome those who were different, needy, and who may not have the same access to fortunes, was a pre-requisite to instituting true international solidarity.
Organization for Defending Victims of Violence said that the linking of Islamophobia to freedom of expression made efforts to fight xenophobia fruitless. It called for the consideration by the Council of subjects such as dialogue among religions and to give a joint mandate to the Special Rapporteurs on freedom of expression and opinion and on freedom of religion or belief to find sustainable solutions to overcome this problem.
Liberation said that racism had been known to Indian society for the last 3,000 years. Persons in the North Eastern territories were the target of racial discrimination and were systematically denied opportunity for education and development, and lands were arrogated by the State. Cases of rape were highly underreported as a result of stigmatisation. These people were treated as aliens in their own country.
Indian Council of South America said that the United States had walked out of the World Conference against Racism and had not signed the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Everything related to racial discrimination in the United States could be described with one word: impunity.
International Association of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists said that it abhorred the cynical use of Zionism as justification for violations or racial and discriminatory behaviour and called on the Council and its Member States to ensure that statements claiming that Zionism was a crime against humanity were not heard within the United Nations.
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