HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL HOLDS GENERAL DEBATE ON RACISM, RACIAL DISCRIMINATION, XENOPHOBIA, AND RELATED FORMS OF INTOLERANCE
Hears Presentation from the Intergovernmental Working Group on the Effective Implementation of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action
20 March 2012
The Human Rights Council this afternoon held a general debate on racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related forms of intolerance, including follow-up and implementation of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action. It also heard a presentation from the Intergovernmental Working Group on the effective implementation of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action.
Presenting the report of the Working Group on the effective implementation of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action, Mohamed Siad Douale, Chair of the ninth session of the Working Group, said racism was a concern for all peoples and countries, and that individuals had a responsibility to contribute to its eradication in every way possible. During its ninth session, which was held from 17 to 28 October 2011, the Working Group discussed and stressed the importance of States adopting national plans of action and the role sports and education played in the prevention of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance. Another important area concerned measures to combat impunity for instances of racism and xenophobia in sport.
During the general debate, speakers said encouraging progress on the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action had been made. However, the fight against racism and xenophobia remained a global challenge that demanded a multilateral response. Speakers appreciated the active role played by the United Nations in combating racial discrimination and actively supported the future direction of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action. It was disappointing that the ninth session of the Working Group had been closed to non-governmental organizations. Governments, civil society, traditional media, electronic media and the business community had to work together to combat all stereotypes and racism. Racist and xenophobic speech, from public figures and in the media, still persisted.
Speakers said education and training were necessary and positive tools for promoting principles of tolerance, equality and respect for diversity, particularly for youth. Sports could assist in spreading the values of diversity and equality, and combating racism and racial discrimination, while education played a significant role in promoting tolerance. Several speakers said the international community should recognize that Islamophobia in particular and discrimination on the basis of religion and belief were contemporary forms of racism. Discrimination and violence increasingly affected immigrants and remained a serous challenge. Perverse forms of racism could fuel prejudice and hatred against ethnic minorities and migrants, leading to discrimination in many areas of social and economic life. Speakers supported the suggestion for a decade for people of African descent and the creation of a standing forum.
Senegal on behalf of the African Group, Egypt on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, Denmark on behalf of the European Union, Pakistan on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, Mauritania on behalf of the Arab Group, Russian Federation, United States, China, Qatar, Cuba, Indonesia, Kuwait, Libya, Bangladesh, Austria, Costa Rica, Turkey, Egypt, Algeria, France, Tunisia, South Africa, Morocco, Iran, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Venezuela, Nepal, Viet Nam, Brazil, and the Council of Europe took the floor during the general debate.
The following non-governmental organizations also spoke during the general debate: International Youth and Student Movement for the United Nations, African Commission of Health and Human Rights Promoters, International Association of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists, International Educational Development, Inc., Mouvement contre le racisme et pour l’amitié entre les peoples, North-South XXI, Fraternite Notre Dame, United Towns Agency for North-South Cooperation, International Islamic Federation of Student Organizations, Recontre Africaine pour la Defense des Droits de l’Homme, Centre for Human Rights and Peace Advocacy, International Action for Peace and Development, International Buddhist Relief Organization, Liberation, World Muslim Congress, African Association of Education for Development, United Schools International, Indian Council of South America, Sudwind, United Nations Watch, and International Committee for the Indians of the Americas.
Latvia, Japan, Russian Federation and Democratic People’s Republic of Korea spoke in right of reply.
When the Council meets at 9 a.m. on Wednesday, 21 March, it will hold an interactive dialogue with the Independent Expert on Côte d’Ivoire and consider the country reports of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Secretary-General of the United Nations under its agenda item on technical assistance and capacity-building.
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 ninth session (A/HRC/19/77)
It also has before it the Report of the Ad Hoc Committee on the Elaboration of Complementary Standards on its fourth session - Note by the Secretariat (A/HRC/19/78).
Statement by the Working Group on the Effective Implementation of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action
MOHAMED SIAD DOUALE, Chairman-Rapporteur of the Intergovernmental Working Group on the Effective Implementation of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action, said racism was a concern for all peoples and countries, and that individuals had a responsibility to contribute to its eradication in every way possible. During its ninth session, which was held from 17 to 28 October 2011, the Working Group discussed and stressed the importance of States adopting national plans of action, and of the role sports and education had to play in prevention of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance. Another important area concerned measures to combat impunity for instances of racism and xenophobia in sport. Education was recognized to have an essential role in the promotion of tolerance and respect, and prevention of young people joining racist groups. The report’s recommendations were primarily addressed to Member States, but also to the United Nations family and civil society: those recommendations should be implemented with equal attention. The determination to combat the scourge of racism hinged on States remaining united behind the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action.
General Debate on Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Forms of Intolerance, Follow-up and Implementation of the Durban Declaration
Senegal, speaking on behalf of the African Group, said resolution GA/66/3 and the Political Declaration issued as a result of the tenth anniversary of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action and its emphasis on racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and other forms of intolerance merited a large dissemination. Clear and lucid analysis showed that the situation of racism was alarming, with many manifestations of racism leading to death, violence and other attacks faced by indifference. In this serious context, the African Group noted the lack of constructive commitment in the Council to combat racism.
Egypt, speaking on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, noted the recommendations included in the report of the Intergovernmental Working Group on the effective implementation of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action on its ninth session, including the role of sport and the role of education. Sports could assist in spreading the values of diversity and equality, and combating racism and racial discrimination, while education played a significant role in promoting tolerance.
Denmark, speaking on behalf of the European Union, said the fight against racism and xenophobia remained a global challenge that demanded a multilateral response. The European Union wished to stress the importance of addressing multiple discrimination because mechanisms that discriminated and excluded individuals were the same, regardless of the grounds for discrimination and based mostly on stereotyping. As the cornerstone of the implementation of European legislation, States had to establish so-called Equality Bodies which functioned as independent organizations to provide assistance, conduct research, and organise information campaigns.
Pakistan, on behalf of the Organization for Islamic Cooperation, said the importance of Resolution 16/8 had been reinforced by the recent burning of copies of the Koran in Afghanistan. Thousands of Muslims continued to be held in detention and denied their right to a due legal process simply on a suspicion of involvement in terrorism. Muslim citizens were victims of economic and social discrimination especially in Western societies. The international community should recognize that Islamophobia in particular and discrimination on the basis of religion and belief were contemporary forms of racism.
Mauritania, on behalf of the Arab Group, said appropriate methods should be adopted at the international and national levels to encourage understanding and tolerance and called on all States to respect their commitments under the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action. The Arab Group promoted and supported sports activities which could fight against intolerance and promote the establishment of societies based on diversity and respect. Education could also play a crucial role in combating racism.
Russian Federation said that there were continuing cynical attempts to falsify the events of the Second World War and the verdict of the Nuremberg trials. There was open encouragement and support for a revival of Nazism in many European States. The latest gathering of Nazi supporters had recently taken place in Riga, Latvia with the permission of the Latvian authorities. The Russian Federation was perplexed by the glorification of Nazism in young democracies in Europe and called upon the Human Rights Council and Special Procedures to give special attention to the rebirth of Nazism in European countries.
United States said its history reflected lapses, challenges and encouragingly, ongoing progress, in addressing racial discrimination and intolerance. The battle continued as the United States enforced laws to combat discrimination, including protection of the human rights of persons with disabilities, protection and expansion of the right to vote and enforcement of laws protecting freedom of religion. In the past three years the United States had filed a record number of law enforcement, misconduct and human trafficking cases.
China appreciated the active role played by the United Nations in combating racial discrimination and actively supported the future direction of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action. China believed in the promotion of harmonious relationships between all races, ethnicities and religions.
Qatar said that despite the Durban Declaration and other efforts, racial discrimination continued to be a challenge, particularly in terms of racial or ethnic superiority and the targeting of persons based on their religion, such as people from Arab or Muslim communities. A disturbing example was the recent burning of a copy of the Holy Koran by a group of racist extremists, which only served to increase intolerance and hatred.
Cuba said mankind was far from achieving implementation of the important agreements found in the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action. Racism and xenophobia were increasing in a worrying manner. New and sophisticated ways of applying discrimination were emerging. In many cases, there was no political will to combat discrimination. The need for international cooperation on the issue of discrimination had been highlighted by the General Assembly and other forums. Cuba called on all States to contribute to the work of the Working Group in order to stamp out once and for all the terrible scourge of racism.
Indonesia reiterated its firm commitment to combat racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related forms of intolerance. This commitment derived from the very nature of Indonesia as a multi-ethnic and multi-religious nation. In combating forms of intolerance, prevention was of utmost importance. In Indonesia, human rights, including issues of non-discrimination, had been integrated into national curricula at all levels. A human rights component had been integrated into the curricula of military as well as police training. Indonesia also attached the importance of the community in combating forms of intolerance.
Kuwait condemned all forms of discrimination, racial discrimination, xenophobia and other forms of intolerance that hindered the enjoyment of human rights around the world. Kuwait was concerned about the widening waves of incitement of discrimination against religions, especially monotheistic religions. Kuwait noted with concern the increasing amount of discrimination against Muslims and reiterated its call to the High Commissioner for Human Rights to study forms of discrimination against Muslims. Education and training education were necessary and positive tools for promoting principles of tolerance, equality and respect for diversity, particularly for youth.
Libya thanked the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights for the activities and programmes it had carried out to combat racism and the efforts it had made to distribute the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action on a broad scale to a wide variety of stakeholders. Libya encouraged the Human Rights Council and all Member States to take concrete actions to fight racism.
Bangladesh was particularly concerned about racial attacks on migrants including on their houses and places of worship, cases of beatings and stabbings of migrants and asylum seekers and racist demonstrations against migrants and asylum-seekers. Although sports could promote tolerance, it was important to remove rules and regulations of sports associations and institutions that prevented women and girls from participating on the grounds of dress codes.
Austria said the aim of its educational policy was to create and ensure equality of opportunities for all regardless of their linguistic, social or cultural background. The drop out rate before the end of compulsory school years was 15 per cent for students with a migration background compared to 5 per cent for Austrian students. The Government had adopted a National Plan of Action on Integration in 2010 which included teacher training in intercultural skills.
Costa Rica said that racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related forms of intolerance were all forms of violence that could range from verbal to physical. Costa Rica understood that it needed to deal systematically with any signs of racism in the country and had already initiated the drawing up of a national plan to combat this phenomenon, with participation and inclusion of all relevant actors.
Turkey said that racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related forms of intolerance continued to present a challenge to the enjoyment of human rights and it had become more essential then ever to combat this scourge. Discrimination and violence increasingly affecting immigrants remained a serious challenge. Immigrants should be seen as contributors to wealth and welfare of societies, not as competitors and scapegoats for ills of the societies.
Egypt condemned all instances of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related forms of intolerance and expressed its concern about platforms that contributed to racial hatred. Egypt also expressed its concern about negative stereotyping of religions and underlined the need to address disturbing incidents of religious intolerance and violence, including by legal measures.
Algeria said more than 10 years after the adoption of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action, implementation remained slow. This was due to backsliding on the part of some countries. Racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and intolerance continued, unfortunately, in many areas of the world and often in countries where democracy and respect for human rights were well developed. Algeria encouraged States to accede to and implement international instruments.
France had yesterday faced a horrible tragedy where four French members of the Jewish community, including three children, were murdered. Two days before, two Muslim French soldiers were killed. France reaffirmed its determination to redouble its efforts in the fight against discrimination and anti-Semitism. These crimes would not go unpunished. France was determined to strengthen its work in this area. It was essential that the Human Rights Council played its full role in this area as well.
Tunisia considered that the results of international work in the area of combating discrimination were not very positive. Results were modest and uneven. Fighting racism required an effective commitment by all States and stakeholders. Governments, civil society, traditional media, electronic media and the business community had to work together to combat all stereotypes and racism. Tunisia was convinced of the necessity to intensify individual and collective efforts.
South Africa said it stood ready to support the Intergovernmental Working Group on the effective implementation of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action which was dedicated to the total eradication of racism and racial intolerance. National ethnic and religious minorities were often the victims of racism. South Africa and the African Group would present a resolution during the twenty-first session of the Council on the concrete and tangible implementation of the Durban Declaration Programme of Action.
Morocco said it underscored the crucial role played by sport as a universal language that supported the values of diversity, respect and tolerance and was concerned by recent racist incidents that occurred at many sporting events. Concerning the role of education, Morocco noted the positive contribution that new technologies and communication tools, including the internet, could provide in combating racism and intolerance.
Iran said that certain Western States had boycotted the tenth anniversary commemoration of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action which had undermined international efforts to address racism and racial discrimination. Among the different forms of racism, discrimination against Muslims and Islamophobia had been on the steady rise in recent years. Instances of desecration of Muslim sanctities and the disgusting incident of Quran burning that had occurred at Bagram Airbase in Afghanistan were extremely alarming.
Democratic People's Republic of Korea said that racism rooted in colonialism still remained because the colonial powers had not completely addressed past crimes. Japan had not yet settled its crimes against humanity committed during its military occupation of Korea in the last century. Japan should acknowledge its legal and moral responsibility for those crimes, compensate victims and make a sincere apology.
Venezuela said that the report of the Working Group welcomed the establishment of national special mechanisms to combat racism and racial discrimination. Venezuela had promulgated a new law to deal with racism and racial discrimination which prohibited it in all spheres of public life. The celebration of the tenth anniversary of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action in Venezuela aimed to intensify awareness about racism and racial discrimination in this country.
Nepal said a society plagued by racism could not ensure peace which was crucial for development. Democracy, secularism and inclusion were pillars of Nepalese society; people from all communities were equal before the law and formed a national chain of unity among diversity. The world had a collective responsibility to combat racism, racial discrimination and xenophobia, and more resolute efforts and renewed commitments were essential at all levels for their total elimination.
Viet Nam said encouraging progress on the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action had been made at the international and regional levels. However, further efforts and resources were required. Viet Nam condemned all forms of racial discrimination which was enshrined in its constitution. Viet Nam called on all parties to strengthen efforts to combat discrimination and support cross-cutting measures to mitigate social disparity, especially with a view to helping vulnerable groups.
Brazil said sports and education, as emphasized by the Working Group in its report, played a fundamental role in combating racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance. In spite of many strides forward, people of African descent continued to face challenges posed by unemployment, violence and poverty.
Council of Europe said in some European States, tolerance and rejection of discrimination were on the increase. Positive developments needed to be strengthened and stimulated. At the same time, racist and xenophobic speech, from public figures and in the media, still persisted. Perverse forms of racism could fuel prejudice and hatred against ethnic minorities and migrants, leading to discrimination in many areas of social and economic life. This created a situation of social exclusion, if not open hostility and violence.
International Youth and Student Movement for the United Nations asked why non-governmental organizations had been prevented from attending the final meeting of the Intergovernmental Working Group on the effective implementation of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action. There was a need for a global mobilization campaign by the United Nations to develop world wide support for the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action.
African Commission of Health and Human Rights Promoters said it was disappointed that the ninth session of the Intergovernmental Working Group had been closed to non-governmental organizations, which was a violation of the rules that had been adopted at the first session of the Working Group.
International Association of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists said that the Durban III draft resolution had failed to mention the Holocaust and similar atrocities which encouraged falsification and distortion of historical facts. The international community should ensure respect for the genocide convention and international law.
International Educational Development, Inc. said that there was no definition of racist regimes in the Additional Protocol to the Geneva Convention which, among others, severely hampered the responsibility to protect process. The Council should identify some clear indicators and so facilitate respect for international humanitarian law.
Mouvement contre le racisme et pour l’amitié entre les peoples said that members of the Working Group had not been able to reach agreement on the final text of the meeting and the text proposed to the Council was different from the one proposed by the President of the Working Group in January.
North-South XXI said that Governments’ efforts to combat discrimination ceded to discriminatory practices carried out under the guise of national security, combating terrorism and controlling immigration. Increasing manifestations of Islamophobia and discrimination against Muslims, especially in Western Europe, were a matter of concern, and very little was being done to combat those serious threats.
Fraternite Notre Dame solicited the attention of the Council on the religious discrimination and xenophobia in Mongolia. Since March 2011, insidious and incessant persecutions had multiplied in attempts to close an orphanage and expel the religious people running it. Religious freedom was severely threatened.
United Towns Agency for North-South Cooperation said a fact-finding mission of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan to Balochistan recorded that racism directed towards the Baloch people surfaced quite openly. Such racism violated the Durban Declaration.
International Islamic Federation of Student Organizations said minorities, particularly Muslims, across the United States and Europe had been targets of increased State control and nationalist campaigns by right wing groups. The Muslim minority in Indian occupied Kashmir were subjected to religious profiling and implicated in false cases.
Recontre Africaine pour la Defense des Droits de l’Homme said that countries in conflict and post-conflict situations and those making the transition to democracy should not discriminate against and violate the human rights of peoples whom they claimed as their citizens. Member States should combat all forms of racism with strong political commitment.
Centre for Human Rights and Peace Advocacy said that the Adivasis were the aboriginal population of North East India who faced serious systematic discrimination and exploitation in the realization of their economic, social, cultural, civil and political rights. The Government of India should repeal the Indian Armed Forces Special Powers Act and the Forest Rights Act.
International Action for Peace and Development said that the 1973 constitution of Pakistan had declared Ahmadis as non-Muslims in clause 295C and anyone accused under this Act would not be given the right to a fair trial. The same fate was shared by Shia and other minorities which amounted to racial discrimination in Pakistan.
International Buddhist Relief Organization said discrimination based on race, colour, sex, religion or other was on the rise in all parts of the world. Dalits, as lower-caste Hindus, were bound to live in an extremely discriminatory environment in India. Caste-based discrimination was rampant in the Indian society and the international community must intervene to dismantle the institution of casteism.
Liberation said that the lives of Dalits in India sullied the reality of modern times. India always defended and protected this uneven practice by linking it with age-old institutions of socio-racism in India. The international community must convince India not to extend derogatory and discriminatory treatment of Dalits and other lower-caste Hindus.
World Muslim Congress expressed concern about the rise of Islamophobia and the increased support for right-wing parties in Europe as the economy took a downturn. The World Muslim Congress drew the attention of the Council to various forms of discrimination during armed conflict and the situation of Kashmiris who requested nothing but their right to self-determination.
African Association of Education for Development supported the suggestion for a decade for people of African descent and the creation of a standing forum. Ethnic politics were a major obstacle in Africa because they hindered the work of civic organizations and divided and weakened civil society.
United Schools International said perhaps the biggest violators of minority religious rights in the world today were some Muslim-majority countries. More than any other country, Pakistan seemed to be suffering from an epidemic of minority bashing.
Indian Council of South America said scourges of racism were causing the systematic destruction of whole and parts of indigenous peoples with impunity. Indigenous people did not receive the required protection in the United States. All States denied that indigenous peoples had faced apartheid and genocide.
Verein Sudwind Entwicklungspolitik said that the ratification of the International Convention on the Rights of all Migrant Workers was fundamental to promoting and protecting human rights. Iran promoted xenophobic and racist behaviour against minorities in that country.
United Nations Watch said that it had been excluded from the conference on the Durban Declaration and asked if it was because certain Governments feared that United Nations Watch would speak for the thousands of prisoners of conscience who were victims of political discrimination in China, Cuba, Egypt, Viet Nam and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea?
International Committee for the Indians of the Americas said that racism was rooted in the denial of self-determination. In Alaska and Hawaii the issue of racism and other human rights violations could be traced to over one hundred years of foreign occupation of these islands by the United States and the denial of self-determination for these territories.
Right of Reply
Latvia, speaking in a right of reply, condemned in absolute terms all totalitarian ideologies, including neo-Nazism, and crimes committed in World War II. The position of the Government concerning private gatherings of its citizens was clear: the Government did not attend them. The widespread acts of racism in a number of countries attested that totalitarian ideologies were not dead. There were isolated incidents of racism committed by individuals. Widespread manifestations of racism, racial discrimination and xenophobia were frequent in the Russian Federation and Latvia hoped that they would be addressed adequately.
Japan, speaking in a right of reply, emphasized that the figures mentioned by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea on victims in the pre-1945 period were groundless. Concerning the post 1945 period, the Constitution of Japan guaranteed human rights to all without discrimination based on any grounds.
Russian Federation, speaking in a right of reply, said that it did not agree that Nazi activities which had occurred in Latvia could be considered as a private affair. Every year Nazi parades occurred in Latvia and in this year’s parade there were deputies from the Parliament that were in attendance.
Democratic People’s Republic of Korea said that Japan had committed crimes against humanity, including over 200,000 women and girls taken as comfort women from Korea. Such crimes remained ongoing because they had not yet been addressed. Japan had tried to avoid its State and legal responsibility and insisted that the number of victims were groundless when these figures had been documented.
Japan, speaking in a second right of reply, said the response of the delegation to the statement made by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea had already been covered by the first statement. Japan emphasized that the figures mentioned by that country were baseless. Japan refrained from going into further details about the pre-1945 period.
Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, speaking in a second right of reply, rejected the false and misleading statement made by Japan. The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea urged Japan to address the crimes against humanity that it had committed.
For use of the information media; not an official record