COMMITTEE ON THE ELIMINATION OF RACIAL DISCRIMINATION
STATEMENT BY MR MICHAEL E. SHERIFIS,
OF THE COMMITTEE ON THE ELIMINATION OF RACIAL DISCRIMINATION,
AND CHAIRMAN OF THE 13TH MEETING OF THE CHAIRPERSONS
OF THE HUMAN RIGHTS TREATY BODIES
3 September 2001
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
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
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.