All States should sign global pact against racial discrimination – UN rights chief

Louise Arbour, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights

18 March 2008 – The United Nations human rights chief issued a call today for all the world’s States to both sign on to the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination and to strengthen their law enforcement so that victims of such discrimination can receive greater justice.

So far, 173 out of 192 UN Member States have ratified the convention, which came into force in 1969 and was the first human rights treaty to be adopted by the General Assembly. But many countries that have ratified have also included formal reservations.

Speaking before a high-level panel in Geneva, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour said it was time for all the States that are yet to do so to become party to the convention and for other States to withdraw their reservations and to accept the complaints jurisdiction of the treaty’s supervisory committee.

“Racism lies at the roots of many conflicts,” she said to the panel, convened just ahead of the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, which is observed on 21 March. “It poses risks to international peace and security. Racism is the springboard for extremism and all types of intolerance.”

Ms. Arbour noted that the world has made substantial progress in fighting racism since the General Assembly inaugurated the International Day in 1966, six years after the notorious Sharpeville massacre in South Africa.

However, “48 years after the Sharpeville shootings, no country can claim to be free of racism’s destructive influence.”

The High Commissioner also called on all parties to engage constructively in the follow-up process to the 2001 World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance, held in Durban, South Africa.

The theme of this year’s International Day is the key role that dignity and justice play in combating racial discrimination, and Ms. Arbour said this “reminds us that equality under the law and equal protection of the law are central pillars of the fight against racial discrimination.”


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