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Address by Ms. Navanethem Pillay, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, at the Inter-Sessional Working Group of the Preparatory Committee mandated to negotiate the outcome document of the Durban Review Conference

6 April 2009, Geneva

Mr. Chairperson,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

I wish to thank you for the opportunity to address you at this crucial juncture in the preparations for the Durban Review Conference which will begin in two weeks.

Since the organizational meeting of the Preparatory Committee in August 2007, progress has been remarkable. This was due, in no small part, to the Chairperson who spared no effort to bring all Member States together. I have welcomed the draft outcome document that the Chairperson has presented to you recently. I have also expressed the hope that this new document would constitute a major turning point, and indeed a breakthrough, in the preparations for the Conference. In this regard, I am heartened by the positions that many ambassadors conveyed to me and by the equally encouraging public statements on the part of many groups and individual delegations.

I would like to express my sincere gratitude to all those who have shown flexibility in the drafting process and have accommodated different points of view, while maintaining a principled position. Such good will has enabled the Chairman to craft a text that is both comprehensive and widely welcomed. This demonstrates to me the extent to which all delegations are committed to keep their sights on the main goal of the Durban Review Conference that is, reaching out to the many victims of racism around the world and making the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action (DDPA) a reality for all.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

We now need to assess to what extent the solemn pledges States made in 2001 have been given effect on the ground, where of course it matters the most. In doing so we need to attain an unequivocal understanding of those continuing gaps in protection and in the implementation of the DDPA which may be due to a lack of capacity or insufficient political will, or both.

The demanding challenges facing the implementation of the DDPA require us to pursue the objectives of this Review Conference with a sense of unflinching purpose. I have repeatedly urged all UN Member States to fully contribute to this process. Procrastination and expediency are not acceptable approaches. The fight against racism and intolerance demands prompt and sustained action.


As I have conveyed to you last Thursday, I am firmly convinced that the current text contains all the elements that would foster and underpin a consensual outcome of the Durban Review Conference.

I am particularly pleased to see that my proposal for an observatory on racism within OHCHR is reflected in the draft outcome document. I am convinced that such observatory will induce a paradigm shift in the way the relevant UN mechanisms, as well as my Office, pursue the fight against racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia, and related intolerance.

Once established, this observatory will enhance the ability of OHCHR, treaty bodies, relevant Special Procedures and the Durban follow-up mechanisms to deepen our understanding of various aspects of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, as well as their effects. The information and analysis generated by the observatory will help devise more effective technical cooperation and capacity building programmes in the field of racism.

Moreover, through the observatory, my Office hopes to strengthen its relationship with pertinent regional organizations, as well as contribute to the work of the intergovernmental and expert mechanisms that are engaged in combating racism and racial discrimination.

To assist States in fulfilling their commitments under the DDPA, I have also proposed the enhancement of my Office’s capacity in the area of technical cooperation. Acting in synchrony with the work of the observatory, such bolstered technical expertise would help States in their fight against racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance.

Distinguished Delegates,

For what concerns the follow-up mechanisms, which unfortunately have not been able to fulfill their potential in part because of a lack of political will, the proposal on the table is to align the existing mechanisms under the auspices of the Intergovernmental Working Group on the Effective Implementation of the DDPA (IGWG). In my view, such realignment will clearly increase their efficiency and harmony. It will also most definitely improve their visibility. Allow me to stress, however, that I am not envisaging a demotion of such mechanisms, nor would I regard a modification of their specific mandates and functions as desirable.

This reinvigorated UN anti-racism machinery would reinforce and maximize specific expertise and ultimately boost the implementation of the DDPA. I will strive to enlist the support of all relevant UN entities to mainstream the implementation of the DDPA into their work.

These initiatives will contribute to the needed enhancement of the capacity of OHCHR’s Anti-Discrimination Unit to handle an escalating volume of work, including additional tasks that are expected to arise from the Durban Review Conference. Such enhancement will bolster the ADU capacity to meaningfully contribute to the work of CERD, relevant Special Procedures and the Durban follow-up mechanisms. In addition, adequate financial resources will contribute to the implementation of UN Member States’ recommendations and to shoring up OHCHR’s leadership position in pursuing the international anti-racism agenda.

Mr. Chairperson,

Let me conclude by pointing out that the way forward in the anti-racism agenda depends on the outcome of the Durban Review Conference. We can reasonably expect that success in two weeks will shore up not only the fight against discrimination and intolerance, but also the human rights programme and mechanisms that we all have endeavoured to create and pursue. With unity in purpose we can hope to alleviate the plight of countless victims of racism at home and abroad.

     Thank you.