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Africa’s regional contribution to next year’s anti-racism Review Conference is a call for laws and policies to combat the dissemination of ideas based on racial superiority and incitement to hatred.

An NGO workshop during the Abuja regional meeting for Africa in preparation for the Durban Review Conference- © OHCHR

"An NGO workshop during the Abuja regional meeting for Africa in preparation for the Durban Review Conference - © OHCHR"

African Governments will call on States to wage a systematic campaign against racial and religious hatred at the conference to be held in Geneva in April 2009 to assess the implementation of the Durban Declaration and Plan of Action, the outcome of the 2001 World Conference Against Racism in Durban, South Africa.

From 24 to 26 August, delegates from 29 African countries and representatives of civil society gathered in Abuja, Nigeria, for a regional meeting to prepare for next year’s event. Participants at the meeting, chaired by Ambassador Martin Uhomoibhi, President of the Human Rights Council, heard that their region had made great strides in promoting human rights and accommodating diversity.

Bacre Waly Ndiaye, head of the delegation from the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), said the African Union was able to carry forward the ideals of the African Charter, which he called a pivotal contribution to the advancement of human rights.

“The rapid adoption and coming into force of the Protocol on the Rights of Women, as well as the establishment of the African Court on Human and People’s Rights add to the framework for the protection and promotion of human rights in Africa,” Ndiaye said.

“Mechanisms of transitional justice in several African countries emerging from conflict are now in place to ensure that accountability for past abuses provides some form of redress to victims and serves to deter future violations.”

However, Ndiaye noted, it was critical to acknowledge the gaps in the implementation of human rights standards. “In Africa, as elsewhere,” he said, “ensuring respect for human dignity is an undertaking that must start first by putting one’s own house in order.”

Ndiaye also urged the many African States that had not ratified the International Convention for the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination to do so.

The regional meeting in Abuja took stock of how of African countries had fared in implementing the Durban Declaration and Plan of Action, which is widely viewed as a blueprint to help States combat racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance.

The meeting’s final document, approved at the conclusion of the meeting, will constitute the Africa region’s contribution to the Durban Review Conference, to be held in Geneva in April 2009. The document stressed the “urgent need to address the scourges of anti-Semitism, Islamophobia and Christianophobia as contemporary forms of racism, as well as racial and violent movements based on racism, and discriminatory ideas directed at African, Arab, Christian, Jewish, Muslim and other communities.”

The Abuja meeting was facilitated by OHCHR, which has placed the effective implementation of the Durban Declaration and Plan of Action among its priorities. Another regional meeting was held for Latin America and Caribbean on 17 - 19 June in Brasilia, Brazil’s capital.

September 2008