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Kingdom of Swaziland
H.E. The Right Honourable Barnabas Sibusiso Dlamini
Prime Minister

22 September 2011

Statement Summary

Round Table 1

The Assembly then held two round tables under the theme “Victims of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance: recognition, justice and development”.

Co-chairing the first round table were Barnabas Sibusiso Dlamini, Prime Minister of Swaziland, and Arvin Boolell, Minister for Foreign Affairs, Regional Integration and International Trade of Mauritius. The panellists were Anwar Kemal, Chair of the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, and Edna Maria Santos Roland, a member of the Independent Eminent Group of Experts on the implementation of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action.

Co-Chair DLAMINI said that, while the Durban Declaration was the most comprehensive framework of its kind, forming a bulwark against racism, discrimination and xenophobia, millions of people around the world still faced discriminatory systems that defeated their dreams and aspirations, not because they had committed any crime, but because they had been born into a certain race or ethnic group. Outlining emerging forms of racism and groups of victims, he cautioned that the Internet had become a forum for racism that targeted the younger generation in particular.

Racial discrimination and xenophobia did not result from instinctive impulses, but was a social and cultural phenomenon that must be addressed as such, he stressed. Swaziland prohibited all forms of racism, discrimination and intolerance, and was a party to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. It supported the construction of a monument commemorating the victims of slavery and the transatlantic slave trade. “Let us not forget the victims, who look towards us to contribute to the improvement of their lives and to provide relief from the effects of this scourge,” he urged.

Co-Chair BOOLELL said it was one thing to have a plan of action, but another to ensure its implementation. Those who had not yet done so should accede to or ratify the Convention as a matter of priority, he said, emphasizing that doing so was a moral imperative. New frontiers in the struggle must be broken on the tenth anniversary of the Durban Declaration, he added, suggesting that the fight was like waging a “holy war”. New forms of discrimination and intolerance, including against migrant workers, were in fact unsung wars, he said, noting that the issues were constantly on the rise and at times far-reaching. The political will was there and the best effort must be made to translate it into action.

Mr. KEMAL said that his Committee — which monitors implementation of the Convention by States parties — placed a high value on the outcomes of the Durban Conference and the 2009 Review, and had adopted two general recommendations dealing with those texts. He described the Convention, which had entered into force 40 years ago and was just shy of universal ratification, as a “living document” that had evolved to address new situations. The Committee, for its part, focused on vulnerable groups facing multiple forms of discrimination and favoured special measures and affirmative action to address their problems. He affirmed the vital role played by civil-society actors, particularly national human rights bodies, in that regard, and called for addressing the phenomenon of hidden discrimination.

Ms. SANTOS said the international community had used a “panoramic lens” in its discussion of racism in 2001. Among its other achievements, the Durban Conference had acknowledged that slavery was a crime against humanity and recognized a number of specific groups, including people of African descent and the Roma. Underlining the persistence of great inequalities in terms of employment, income, education and health, she pointed to growing religious intolerance and increased bigotry. Additionally, technology was being misused to spread discrimination, she said.

Meanwhile, some minority groups in several Latin American countries were being victimized by armed groups and drug traffickers, she said, calling for a system of social indicators for the creation of an index to evaluate racism and discrimination. It was also necessary to reinforce the Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent. Where there was political will on the part of Governments, support from the United Nations system and civil-society action, the Durban Programme of Action was being implemented, she said.

When the floor was opened, the representative of Gambia stressed that denial could not continue, and victims must be acknowledged. Alarmed at the widespread increases in religious extremism and the unwillingness of some societies to embrace diversity, he criticized the media’s role in promoting intolerance by fanning the flames of racism and xenophobia. “You do not treat another human as less than human, unless you are less than human yourself,” he said.

Several speakers said that those States and groups of States still working against the Durban Programme of Action should abandon their political manoeuvring. The document was a cornerstone of global efforts to combat racism, discrimination and xenophobia, representing a turning point in the history of human rights, they argued, with one speaker emphasizing the need for a human rights approach that would encompass the principles of Durban as the best way to ensure sustainable development.

Disagreeing with those who would limit victims of discrimination to people from certain continents or of certain ancestry, the representative of Belgium said that continuing dialogue would help efforts to overcome the differences created by racism and discrimination, which knew no boundaries. More must be done to ensure that people who discriminated against others were dealt with under the law.

While it had taken decades for legislation on sexual orientation to develop, the fight against racism and intolerance had led to the creation of a powerful body of human rights legislation in Europe, he said. However, punitive measures were insufficient and States must take positive steps, including in education and public information. He agreed that the fight to end racism must not be clouded by politics and the international community should seek both a unity of purpose and a global perspective. “The word ‘dignity’ should guide us today,” he said, stressing the need to protect the victims of racist violence and hate.

A number of speakers highlighted national policies and efforts to address victims’ grievances, with several delegates calling attention to the discrimination inherent in the occupation of Palestine and strongly underlining the historical intolerance directed against the Palestinian people. Other speakers worried that too little progress had been made, saying that racism, religious discrimination and xenophobia were on the rise, particularly in developed countries where right-wing rhetoric and discriminatory immigration policies were proliferating.

The representative of Amnesty International said the number of Governments admitting the persistence of racism, discrimination and xenophobia in their countries was too low, stressing that the insufficient progress on the issue was the result of States playing politics. While it was relatively easy to discuss what was needed in the abstract, it was far more challenging to recognize the victims of actions often carried out by State officials. Whether more real action was taken would determine whether the next review conference would be able to celebrate true progress or merely provide an occasion to repeat the lament that not enough had been done.

Other participants in the round table included Heads of State and Government, as well as ministers and other senior officials from Mozambique, Ireland, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Cuba, Iran, Finland, Lebanon and Kazakhstan.

Round Table 2

Co-chaired by Mohamed Mouldi Kefi, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Tunisia, and Ricardo Bucio, President of the National Council to Prevent Discrimination of Mexico, the second round table featured panellists Verene Shepherd, a member of the Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent, and Mohamed Siad Doualeh (Djibouti), Rapporteur of the Intergovernmental Working Group on the Effective Implementation of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action.

Co-Chair KEFI opened the discussion by asking whether — 10 years after Durban — the international community could say that racism and other forms of intolerance had significantly been rolled back, and whether international actions were in accordance with the principles of the Durban Conference. The results were mixed at best, he said, adding that the international community should ask itself how racism could persist despite attempts to eradicate it.

While it was clear that progress had been made, the steps forward were not equally distributed, either geographically or socially, he said. Marginalization, exclusion and poverty led to injustice and despair, and that was the reason behind radicalization and certain extremist reactions. Countering racism went beyond national purview, he said, pointing out that lack of understanding was a global challenge that the world must tackle together. Furthermore, a settlement of the Palestinian question must be based on a legitimate international solution or the policy of double standards would continue to exacerbate instability in the Middle East.

Co-Chair BUCIO said the denial of human dignity was the common denominator of racism and related intolerance. The many forms of discrimination denied the rights of victims all over the world. It had been exercised against people of African descent, indigenous peoples, and other disadvantaged groups, including the disabled, young people and the elderly, he said. A historical debt was owed to all those victims, who must be compensated.

Efforts to effect legal changes based on the Durban outcomes had not changed cultural perception of certain groups and individuals, he continued, noting that social diversity had not been taken into account. Legislation was needed to prevent any kind of racial discrimination, as well as machinery to protect those at risk, he said. In addition to cultural and legislative changes, there was a need for special agencies with broad legal mandates, as well as the infrastructure to create equal opportunities and treatment for people of every group found in society.

Ms. SHEPHERD said that even as the international community applauded the tenth anniversary of the Durban Conference, it was important not to forget all the human rights movements that had existed before the 1979 anti-racism conference in Geneva and since. The plight of the victims of injustice remained a stubborn feature of the global landscape, she said, adding that it manifested in Afrophobia, Islamophobia, religious intolerance, anti-Semitism, and xenophobia towards migrants, refugees, displaced persons and asylum-seekers. There were also discriminatory actions based on age, gender, colour, class, sexual preference/orientation and culture, which were demonstrated in the persistence of modern-day human trafficking and even slavery, she noted.

Mr. DOUALEH said the text adopted today would go a long way towards bolstering the morale of victims. The international community needed to accord priority to expunging racial discrimination and promoting a “breeding ground” of new discussions on eradicating racism and related intolerance. The implementation of the Durban outcomes was a responsibility that the international community must fulfil, he stressed, noting that the 10-year anniversary was an opportunity to scale up commitments while also understanding that there was an upsurge in the troubling phenomenon of racism. While there was a right to express religious or cultural views, there was also a distinction to be made between such views and hate speech, he cautioned, saying the international community must mobilize to eliminate the latter.

In the ensuing discussion, participants described various efforts to eradicate intolerance and warned against the dangers of allowing prejudices to continue or intensify.

The representative of South Africa stressed that since 1994 his country had put new institutions in place to combat racism, and the Government had developed policies to support the poor. Like all other States, South Africa was facing tremendous discrimination-related challenges, and the international community must coordinate its collective efforts to free the world of racism, he said, adding that it was also necessary to ensure justice and social solidarity for all.

Many speakers addressed the need for inclusiveness within a State’s social fabric, with the representative of Brazil emphasizing that his country’s multi-ethnic and multiracial character was part of its identity — as a people and as a nation. The struggle against racism was a joint endeavour of humanity and must not be forsaken, he said, adding that one could not expect others to understand one’s own plight if one ignored the painful reality of others. Regarding Durban, he stressed that whatever had been said in or about the Conference or its outcome would not belittle its extraordinary achievement, which had made combating racism a primary responsibility of the State.

Several speakers called for reparations to be paid to victims of racial violence and discrimination, with many also voicing support for the permanent memorial to honour the victims of slavery and the transatlantic slave trade, to be erected in a prominent place at United Nations Headquarters.

Referring to the recent xenophobia-based violence in his country, the representative of Norway said discrimination fed mistrust, resentment, violence, crime and insecurity. Racism and xenophobia remained among the most dangerous forms of discrimination, and could easily lead to hatred, violence and — in the worst cases — full-blown conflict, crimes against humanity and genocide.

Exactly two months ago today, on 22 July, Norway had suffered such an eruption of violence in which 77 people had been killed and many more wounded, he recalled. The attacks had appeared to be politically fuelled by hate towards a multicultural society, different religions, cultures and individual rights. It had been an attack on Norway’s democratic society and its values, which were based on equality, non-discrimination and other fundamental human rights and freedoms.

The country’s response had been to intensify its resolve to push for more democracy, more openness, and more inclusiveness because “we must never allow terrorism to dictate our agenda”, he said. In a new action plan for the period 2009-2012, aimed at promoting equality and preventing ethnic discrimination, the Government had fortified its efforts to combat racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, he said. It was now more important than ever to combat those ills, and to insist on unconditional respect for human dignity and human rights for everyone, everywhere, and at all times.

Quoting the late Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie’s speech to the League of Nations, the representative of Barbados said that, until the philosophy that held one race superior and another inferior was finally and permanently discredited and abandoned, and until the colour of a man’s skin was of no more significance than the colour of his eyes, “everywhere is war”.

Other participants speaking were representatives of Algeria, Nepal, Uruguay, Honduras, Ecuador, Fiji, Argentina, Mauritania, Barbados, Russian Federation, Equatorial Guinea, Egypt, Colombia, Pakistan, India, Kyrgyzstan, Syria, Switzerland, Trinidad and Tobago, Japan, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Morocco and China.

Source: GA/11149

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