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
2 September 2001


High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson and United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) Executive Director Carol Bellamy said today that young people must have their place in the emerging global alliance against racism and discrimination.

Speaking after receiving the report of the Youth Summit at the World Conference against Racism, held on 26 and 27 August in Durban, the United Nations agency heads said the young delegates had posed a challenge to their counterparts at the intergovernmental meeting: "Listen to what we have to say; our voices count".

According to Mrs. Robinson, the Youth Summit embodied the principle, enshrined in the 1989 Convention on the Rights of the Child, that children and young people must have a say in decisions affecting them.

"We have a chance to show that the young people who worked so hard before and during Durban were not just a token presence", she said. "I was impressed by the spirit at the Youth Summit. The young people who took part were engaging in that conversation which is so necessary if we are going to start healing the wounds we have inflicted on one another in this planet. The Youth Summit and its results are a genuine contribution to the emerging global alliance for tolerance and human dignity."

Mrs. Robinson said the results of the Youth Summit would be sent to the Special Session on Children, to be held in New York from 19 to 21 September. It will be the first time ever that the United Nations General Assembly will focus exclusively on issues facing children and young people.

Discrimination, in whatever form, compromises the right of young people to survive and develop, said Ms. Bellamy.

"Starting here in Durban, and continuing in New York later this month, we have a golden opportunity to put children at the centre of the global agenda", she said. "We must change the world not only for children, but with children."

Achieving that means putting children first and guaranteeing their right to a good quality education, where all are given the chance to reach their full potential.

"Children are humanity's hope for a better world," said Ms. Bellamy. "UNICEF passionately believes that with them we need to set the stage to end, at long last, the vicious cycle of exclusion, intolerance and discrimination."

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