Press Release


                                                      17 January 2001


Governments, delegates and other dignitaries from all over Africa will gather in Dakar, Senegal, from 22 to 24 January, to define their common position in preparation for the upcoming World Conference against Racism, Xenophobia,  Racial Discrimination and Related Intolerance, to be held in Durban, South Africa later this year.

The African Preparatory Meeting, hosted by the Senegalese Government, will be opened by President Abdoulaye Wade of Senegal and chaired by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Cheikh Tidiane Gadio.  At a press conference held recently, Mr. Gadio said that the choice of the venue was a recognition of the efforts by Senegal to highlight the role and importance of the African continent.  He noted, however, that what remains to be done is "much more difficult" and cited as an example giving full effect to the rights of women, children and minorities.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mary Robinson, who is also the Secretary-General of the World Conference, is expected to call the attention of African leaders to the burning issues facing Africa today.  Those issues range from traditional and contemporary forms of slavery, trafficking in small children and women, the feminization of poverty as a result of globalization, the exclusion of the disabled and of persons living with HIV/AIDs from society, as well as environmental degradation and pollution as a consequence of racial policies, and racism expressed in terms of trade and exchange of goods and services.

On the agenda are issues such as victims of racism including migrants and refugees, ethnic violence in Africa, the legacy of the transatlantic slave trade, measures of prevention, and remedies including compensation, which will be discussed by some 500 participants in the Conference.  Other issues to be discussed include the economic and social situation of the African continent and the AIDS pandemic.

During the three-day meeting delegates will discuss and adopt a draft declaration and programme of action, which will be submitted to the next session of the Preparatory Committee for the World Conference against Racism.  The Preparatory Committee is to meet in May in Geneva, and will be chaired by the Absa Diallo, the Permanent Representative of Senegal to the United Nations Office in Geneva.


*     RD/903 of 30 October 2000 should have been RD/902.

- 2 - Press Release

The Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance will take place in Durban, South Africa from 31 August to

7 September 2001.  In the words of the Secretary-General of the Conference, Mary Robinson, “this World Conference has the potential to be among the most significant gatherings at the start of this century”.

Background documents before the delegates at the African meeting will include the recommendations of a number of African non-governmental organizations which met in Botswana earlier this month.  In their final document, the non-governmental organizations urged African States to recognize the critical relationship between poverty and inequality.  “Xenophobia, as it is currently practiced in Africa and elsewhere, consists mainly of the rejection and abuse of migrant workers, asylum seekers and refugees" according to the these organizations.  They also added that "Africans, in this respect, are singled out for discrimination”.  They called for the recognition of the value of the multi-cultural and multi-ethnic wealth derived from African people.

In the Dakar meeting, the delegates will also review a report of a seminar of experts on the prevention of ethnic and racial conflicts in Africa, held last October in Addis-Ababa, Ethiopia.  At that seminar, the experts said that historical factors such as the slave trade, administrative policies and actions of colonialism, concomitant with arbitrary delimitation of boundaries, have had negative effects on economic and social development and created breeding grounds for ethnic and racial conflicts.  The experts found that ethnic conflicts in Africa also originated from systematic and widespread violations of human rights, the absence of democracy, and the politicization of race, ethnicity and discrimination.  The role of foreign interests was linked to the exploitation of mineral resources and the arms trade.  The experts also stressed the correlation between racism and policies that create privileged minorities.  The seminar also noted that ethnic conflicts generate large movements of people seeking refuge or a better life in other countries, legally or illegally.  “Forced migration within and from Africa has often resulted in the disintegration of families and in situations of discrimination in the receiving country and has also caused particular risk for women and children”, the seminar concluded.

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

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