3 September 2001

Challenges confronting the international community in the fight against racism are great, so are the opportunities for collective and effective action. That is why, the chairpersons of the human rights treaty bodies wish to emphasise one central message on this occasion: The importance of the international rule of law in the fight against racism, both as a source of inspiration and even more importantly as a tool for legitimacy, accountability and empowerment.

The universality and legitimacy of internationally recognized human rights as a common concern of all is now no longer seriously in dispute. Apart from the Migrant Workers' Convention which is not yet in force, every United Nations member State is a party to at least one of the six major human rights treaties - the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD), the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), and the Convention Against Torture (CAT). Furthermore, approximately 80 per cent of UN member States are parties to four or more of these instruments, giving concrete expression to the universality of human rights.

While much work remains to be done by all stakeholders to `bring human rights home' at the national and local levels, the cumulative scope of these six major human rights treaties, properly implemented, takes us potentially a great way forward in the struggle against racism, and the fulfilment of the world community's goals as expressed in this Conference.

The treaty-bodies' vital role in this regard has repeatedly been acknowledged by the United Nations' political bodies. The General Assembly requested human rights mechanisms to undertake reviews and submit recommendations concerning the World Conference and the preparations therefore to the Preparatory Committee, through the Secretary-General, and to participate actively in the Conference. The Assembly also requested concerned United Nations bodies and the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination to participate actively in the preparatory process with a view to ensuring the success of the World Conference. We have collectively welcomed these invitations and made all our efforts to comply with them.

We have previously affirmed the central role of international human rights standards in the present context, and of the treaty bodies in monitoring their implementation. We take the opportunity here to reiterate our call for the World Conference to strongly urge the universal ratification of the international human rights treaties and to urge States to place the international standards at the centre of their efforts to combat racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance.

The most important achievement of humanity at present is the promotion and respect of human rights and fundamental freedoms. They are closely inter-related and constitute an indivisible unit. Therefore, if everyone's right not to be discriminated against on grounds of race, ethnic or national origin, is violated it imperils respect for all other human rights and, consequently, endangers peace and security throughout the world.

In our view, the continuing expansion of the international human rights regime, and its widening effects upon parties beyond the circle of subscribing States parties, promises much in terms of grounding political action within a firm bulwark of legal accountability. It is incumbent upon all stakeholders in the system - governments, civil society and NGOs, relevant international and regional organizations, and not least of all ourselves as treaty body members - to harness the benefits of this system, and work together to improve its effectiveness. As the number of States becoming parties to international human rights treaties is ever increasing, there is an imperative need to strengthen the monitoring organs by providing them the necessary resources in order to enable them to perform their tasks in an efficient manner.

We wish to put on record our commitment to collaboration and improvement, and look forward to constructive partnerships with all concerned towards the implementation of the World Conference's objectives, and its projected Declaration and Programme of Action.

We consider that the Third World Conference provides the historic opportunity for the adoption of new and appropriate result-oriented measures which will effectively combat the causes of racism and help eliminate its various manifestations. We maintain in this regard that the role of the Treaty Monitoring Bodies should be enhanced especially with reference to the implementation of measures to be adopted within the ambit of the Programme of Action which will emanate from this Conference.

The measures we envisage and expect that the World Conference will adopt - if implemented - would constitute important steps forward. They would provide protection for indigenous people living in the margins of society, for black people, who in many countries are treated as second class citizens, for the Roma people who have suffered so long from hardship and persecution, for migrant workers from many nationalities and races who cross frontiers in search of a better life, for refugees and displaced persons who were forced to flee their homes and lands as a result of international and internal conflicts. To these vulnerable groups, the disadvantaged and those discriminated against, the World Conference should offer something more than a hope for the future. We should aim to ensure that the World Conference comes out with concrete recommendations, conducive first to urgently alleviating the present disturbing situation and thereafter providing its solution.