High Commissioner highlights importance of Durban Review Conference to Human Rights Council
In her first annual report to the Human Rights Council on 5 March, High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay underlined her support for an inclusive and successful Durban Review Conference, the anti-racism conference to be held in Geneva April 20-24.
The annual report, which was the first submitted by Navi Pillay, who took office last September, outlined the efforts made by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) to implement its mandate over the past year. As well as elaborating the strategic themes addressed by the OHCHR, the report, which Pillay addressed to the tenth regular session of the Council, gives an overview of ongoing activities and on the support by her Office for an inclusive and successful Durban Review Conference.
In presenting her report, Pillay underscored that “discrimination, a human rights violation in itself, is also all too often at the root of other human rights abuses. Combating discrimination in all its aspects represents a priority for my Office.”
In her presentation, the High Commissioner also engaged in an interactive dialogue with government and civil society representatives. Many of the speakers noted that the Durban Review Conference was an important milestone, and that it required everyone’s engagement in order to ensure an effective outcome. It is only by way of consensus and broad participation, they said, that the conference could be a success, and the international community should be sent a broad message on the importance of combating racism and discrimination. Many states noted that the preparatory process is intensive and as such all Members States should make vigilant efforts to reach consensus on the outcome document. Racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related forms of intolerance deserved urgent attention as they affected millions around the world and in particular, minority groups and victims of multiple forms of discrimination. In the run up to the Review Conference, all should engage in a frank, transparent, unconditional and constructive exercise.
At her opening address to the tenth session of the Human Rights Council on Monday, 2 March, the High Commissioner had urged governments and other stakeholders to participate actively in the conference. She said the conference was a crucial opportunity to address some of the most invidious forms of discrimination. Noting that racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance are problems that affect all countries, she said, “A persuasive outcome of the review conference and beyond hinges upon the genuine commitment of all States to seek consensus.”
The High Commissioner had previously urged states to work together to reach consensus in the interests of a greater common good. “Let me underscore,” she said, “That a failure to do so may reverberate negatively on the full spectrum of human rights work and mechanisms for years to come.
“It is the duty of States, regardless of their political, economic and cultural systems, to make a really serious effort to reach a conclusion that helps the millions of people around the world who suffer from racism, xenophobia and similar forms of intolerance on a daily basis.”