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Voices - Everyone affected by racism has a story that should be heard

Racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance damage lives, families and societies. Putting emphasis on those who suffer the consequences is a key objective of the 2001 Durban Declaration and Programme of Action.

The ‘Voices’ event, organized by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and held daily during the Durban Review Conference at the Palais des Nations in Geneva, provides a platform for individuals from diverse geographical and cultural backgrounds to share their experiences and gives a human face to issues addressed by the Review Conference. Fifteen individual Voices offer a personal and inspirational reminder of the necessity for the continuous fight against racism.

‘Voices’ illustrates the universality of racism and the suffering it causes. Participants related their experiences of racially motivated violence, exclusion and poverty caused by discrimination and racism, their situation as minority and indigenous peoples and their particular experiences as women facing racism.

‘Voices’ was a powerful addition to the World Conference against Racism in 2001. The ‘Voices’ is once again moderated by Ms. Gay McDougall, UN Independent Expert on minority issues.

20 April 2009

Al Shaymaa J. Kwegyir is living with albinism in Tanzania and has suffered from numerous forms of discrimination. She has fought to defend albinos’ rights and is the first albino Member of Parliament.

Geiler Romaña was forcibly displaced from his home by armed groups. As afro-descendants, he and his family experienced diverse forms of racism in Colombia. He founded an association for the rights of afro-descendants.

Sarah White suffered years of abuse as an afro-American worker in Mississippi catfish plants. Today, she is the President of the board of directors of the Mississippi Workers’ Center for Human Rights.

With the participation of Ms. Kyung Wha-Kang, Deputy High Commissioner for
Human Rights.

21 April 2009

Elena Gorolova is the spokesperson for the Group of Women Harmed by Sterilization in the Czech Republic. They initiated a campaign to gain public recognition of coerced sterilization and compensation for Roma survivors of these practices.

Robert Wilkins was the lead plaintiff in Wilkins, et al. v. State of Maryland, winning a landmark settlement in a “racial profiling” case, inspiring the US Congress and states all over the country.

Jenni Williams comes from a mixed race family and has suffered from racial discrimination all her life. In 2002, she founded WOZA, a Zimbabwean women’s movement, helping women to claim their human rights.

With the participation of Mr. Githu Muigai, Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance.

22 April 2009

Khalid Hussain faced daily discrimination as a Bihari Urdu speaker in a camp in Bangladesh with no adequate access to basic health services, water and sanitation. He gained education and a passport by denying his identity.

Mariama Oumarou is a dark skinned Tuareg woman from Niger. Like her mother and grandmother, she grew up as a slave to lighter skinned Tuaregs. She was freed in 2001 and lives today with her family.

Barbara Shaw is an Aboriginal rights activist. She has experienced discrimination as an indigenous person and as a result of her indigenous rights’ activities in the Northern Territory of Australia.  

With the participation of Ms. Gulnara Shahinian, Special Rapporteur on
contemporary forms of slavery.

23 April 2009

Datu Cosma Lambayon is a tribal leader of the Matigsalug-Manobo tribe of Kitaotao in the Philippines. He heads an organization of indigenous peoples’ elders who lobbied for the Indigenous Peoples Rights Acts.

Creuza Maria de Oliveria was ten when she was sent as a domestic worker to a white family in Bahia, Brazil, to take care of their children. She did not have access to education, worked without wages, and suffered physical violence.

Fakteh Luna Zamani is engaged in the defence of the rights of Azerbaijani and other Iranian minorities. She founded the “Association for the Defence of Azerbaijani Political Prisoners”.

24 April 2009

Doreen Lawrence is the mother of Stephen Lawrence, a Black teenager murdered in London, UK, because of his skin colour. None of the suspects were convicted and charges of institutional racism were made against police.

Nusreta Sivac was targeted as a Muslim intellectual, who were among the first victims during the war in Bosnia. At the Omarska concentration camp, she was repeatedly raped and beaten along with many other women.

With the participation of Ms. Navanethem Pillay, High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Participants in the ‘Voices’ event at the Durban Review Conference also agreed on the following common statement:

‘Everyone affected by racism has a story that should be heard’

We, the VOICES of the 2009 Durban Review Conference affirm and endorse the statement  by the 21 VOICES of the 2001 World Conference against Racism delivered to the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.

We stand in agreement that their voices should never be forgotten and we thank you for the opportunity to add our voices to the global call to end racism in all of its forms.

Providing us the platform for us to speak is acknowledgement of the global scope and extent of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance.

Our voices demonstrate that discrimination continues to this day, including such practices as slavery and oppression of indigenous peoples and of other individuals and communities in a vulnerable situation.

Listening affirms. Listening respects. Listening educates.

But listening is not enough.

VIGILANCE is required to defeat complacency, justification and excuses;

DETERMINATION must be our response to the inherent difficulty of the task to defeat racism and intolerance;

PERSEVERANCE must be our goal so that we do not give up the fight until we triumph.

Actions speak louder than words.

We must unite to deliver human dignity for all.

The statement by the 21 VOICES of the 2001 World Conference against Racism reads as follows:


Never forget our voices.

As individuals we speak of deeply personal experiences but make no mistake, these stories are not ours alone;

We speak for all of our brothers and sisters who suffer in every country, on every continent, in every part of the world;

We speak for every child whose days are filled with unspoken fear or who is tormented by ethnic violence;

We speak for every person living with the constant threat of losing homes, family, or livelihood simply because of the color of their skin, their ethnic origin, their faith or identity;

We speak to ensure that globalization does not become the new face of colonialism;

We speak for everyone who is forced to wear physical or psychological chains of bondage that may enslave the oppressor as well as the oppressed;

With one voice we demand that all nations and peoples of the world work together to lift the human spirit by recognizing;

That TRUTH and an honest accounting of history is the only way to acknowledge and move beyond the collective pain of our past;

That JUSTICE encourages everyone to be more just when it is applied fairly, and threatens all of us when it is denied to even one of us;

That LIBERTY inspires all people to create, invent, grow and prosper and can only enrich the many cultures of the world;

That PEACE among all people and all peoples regardless of race, ethnic origin, faith or identity should be the paramount goal of the United Nations;

And that RESPECT for diversity should be enshrined in the law of every nation and promoted in the heart of every person.