World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance

Department of Public Information - News and Media Services Division - New York
Durban, South Africa
31 August 7 September 2001




Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, President of the World Conference against Racism, emphasized this morning that nothing is beyond negotiation, Conference Spokeswoman Susan Markham said at today's daily press briefing.

She said the President told the Plenary: "That is the beginning of a tolerant society - one that can sit down and negotiate; one that can listen to another point of view, even if you don't agree with it. "No country can stand here and claim that they have been able to conquer racism."

The President continued: "We have to build a spirit of talking until we agree to disagree. At the end of the Conference, there will be a document that is the product of tolerance, a product of negotiations, a product of give-and-take," the Spokeswoman added.

In another statement, Ms. Markham said, Mary Robinson, Secretary-General of the Conference and United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, stressed that it was important for all States to rise to the challenge of the Conference "or we will have failed those who need us most - the marginalized people, the victims of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance."

A copy of the High Commissioner's statement was available at the information counter.

Ms. Markham said the President also announced this morning that Nobel Peace Laureate Rigoberta Menchu Tum would address the Conference in her personal capacity. We expect this might be later today or early tomorrow.

She said that today the Conference would hear statements from the last of the Ministers and other heads of delegations. Then the representatives of other organizations would speak, followed by the Special Rapporteurs on human rights issues, and the representatives of national human rights institutions.

"Following the last of these, we will have NGO representatives speak in the Plenary and there's long list of those," Ms. Markham said. "But given that there's such a long list already scheduled today, we do not think that the NGOs will speak tonight. We think it will be tomorrow."

The Spokeswoman said that before the NGOs listed in the Journal to speak tomorrow, the Plenary would hear statements from the representatives of the NGO Forum and the Youth Forum.

Ms. Markham said that starting tomorrow there would be only two Plenary sessions, in the morning and the afternoon. "There will no longer be an evening session after today. This will allow the Working Groups to have night sessions and as you can see in the Journal they are already starting to have three sessions."

She said a press release would be issued later explaining what was going on in the Working Groups. Journalists were allowed to go in themselves and it was understood that the Chairmen would announce the paragraphs on which agreement had been reached.

The approved paragraphs would probably go through either the Drafting Committee or the Main Committee in the next few days, Ms. Markham said. There had been good progress, particularly in Working Group I on the draft Declaration, which had adopted a number of paragraphs. There was slower progress in Working Group II on the draft Programme of Action.

The Spokeswoman said that a meeting of the General Committee this morning heard reports from the three facilitators of the "difficult issues" before the Conference. However, the meeting of the group dealing with grounds for discriminations and the list of victims, chaired by Mexico, did not meet yesterday as planned and would meet today.

Ms. Markham said the group on the legacy of the past, headed by Brazil and Kenya, was reviewing several position papers. She said she would try to bring the representatives of those countries to the briefing tomorrow.

Regarding the Middle East, she said the Chairman of the General Committee and Conference President had announced that a consultation group was being formed and that she was preparing a draft text for its consideration.

The Spokeswoman said the special events were listed in the Journal. There were a lot of rapid changes in the scheduling of press conferences and journalists were asked to watch the board next to the information counter.

She said that as of midday yesterday, 163 countries were participating in the Conference. A total of 3,936 passes had been issued to NGOs, 2,295 to delegations and 1,141 to media.

Asked whether Norway had given up leadership of the group facilitating the Middle East, Ms. Markham explained that the Conference President had proposed informally that she handle the issue with a small group of interested parties. The European Union would be involved with her in drafting a completely new text, as announced by the Belgian Foreign Minister last night.

She said the General Committee endorsed the proposal this morning

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