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

6 September 2001

 

DAILY PRESS BRIEFING

The Chairman of the Drafting Committee, Ali Khorram of Iran, was expected to update the media at 1:30 p.m. on the status of negotiations in the two working groups dealing with the draft declaration and draft programme of action, Susan Markham, Spokeswoman for the World Conference against Racism said at her daily noon briefing today.

She said both working groups had made great progress as they met until late last night. Working Group II, on the draft programme of work, which had been the slower of the two, had now adopted 145 paragraphs and had 80 remaining. However, at least 30 of those paragraphs were tied up with the negotiations on the "difficult issues".

The Spokeswoman said that the meeting of the Main Committee that had been scheduled for 12 o'clock had been postponed. When it did meet, it would consider reports of the Working Groups and the Drafting Committee and adopt the paragraphs already approved.

She said the Plenary was continuing its hearing of NGO representatives, which started yesterday. It was not expected to complete its work today and would meet again tomorrow morning to hear the remainder of the list.

Regarding the "difficult issues" before the World Conference, Ms. Markham said that the facilitator on victims of racism, Arturo Hernandez-Basave of Mexico had reported this morning that agreement had been reached in consultations on a text identifying the victims of racism. It was understood that the text would become operative paragraph 1 of the draft declaration.

Describing the paragraph as generic she quoted: "The victims of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance are individuals, or groups of individuals, who are, or who have been affected by or subjected to or targets of those scourges." Everywhere else that the list of victims appeared would be replaced with the words "the victims". That should simplify things, she said.

Concerning the other part of that facilitator's work -- the factors or grounds of discrimination -- final agreement was close, but not yet reached, the Spokeswoman said. "Again it will probably be a generic description. It could be something along the lines of "the Conference recognizes that racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance occurs on the grounds of race, colour, descent or national or ethnic origin" -- language that came from article 1 of the International Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination. It was therefore already previously agreed text. The paragraph would then go on to say something like, "and that individuals may be affected by multiple or aggravated forms of discrimination on the basis of other related grounds". That was not agreed yet and it may not end up that way, she pointed out.

Regarding issues relating to the legacy of the past, she said no agreement had been reached following informal consultations until late last night and continuing this morning. The group would continue meeting later this afternoon. The co-facilitators said this morning that they hoped to be able to report progress to Conference President Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma.

On the Middle East question, she said the President circulated a text in the General Committee this morning to representatives of regional groups and asked them to report back.

The President told the General Committee that a small group had met twice to discuss the initial text that she had prepared. They had not reached agreement, so she had prepared another text, which in her view maintained balance between the divergent views. That was the text she circulated this morning and on which the regional groups were still consulting.

Ms. Markham said the document listing the participants at the Conference would be issued today. There were 170 countries taking part, in addition to Palestine. A total of 947 NGO were represented in Durban, as well as
15 international governmental organizations, six specialized agencies of the United Nations and four other entities.

About 18,000 passes had been issued; 15 to intergovernmental organizations; almost 4,000 passes for NGOs; almost 2,300 for delegations from 163 countries and approximately 1,100 passes for the media, the Spokeswoman said.

Turning to special events, she said that United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson spoke at the 10:00 a.m. event this morning on the Millennium African Recovery Plan. She would also attend the final "Voices of Victims" events starting at 1:15 p.m. today in room 1.

Five press conferences were scheduled for today so far, she said, reminding journalist to watch the board next to the information counter in the Media Centre.

A journalist asked why South African President Thabo Mbeki was back in Durban when he was expected to be on a visit to Nigeria. Was it true that the Conference may be extended?

Ms. Markham confirmed that President Mbeki was in Durban. He had been scheduled to be back on the final day. Regarding the end of the Conference, she described the United Nations procedure by which the clock was stopped at midnight on the last day if necessary. Going from past conferences, some have ended at different times, she added. "I will let you know the possibilities as soon as I know. It's in the hands of delegates."

Asked whether the Dalits of India and indigenous groups in Japan were included in the list of victims, the Spokeswoman said the text was a generic text so some groups would come under a generic term.

Another journalist asked what effect the fact that Mrs. Robinson had not recommended the NGO Forum declaration to the Plenary would have on the conference.

Ms. Markham explained that the High Commissioner had spoken about this at her press conference on 4 September and the press release on it was available. "The NGO Forum document is not an official document of the conference", she said. The NGO Forum and Youth Forum declarations were both available at www.racism.gov.za.

Asked whether there would be travel difficulties on Friday owing to the funeral of Govan Mbeki on Saturday, Ms. Markham said that all the practical considerations concerning the end of the conference were yet to be worked out. If there were plans for the Conference to continue beyond the end of the day tomorrow, she would inform the media.

Responding to a question about anticipated changes in language on indigenous people, she recalled that the High Commissioner had said she would do as much as possible behind the scenes on the question of indigenous peoples.


* *** *