SPECIAL RAPPORTEUR STRESSES IMPORTANCE OF LINK BETWEEN COMBATING RACISM AND PROMOTING DIALOGUE, AS THIRD COMMITTEE BEGINS DEBATE ON RACIAL DISCRIMINATION

23 October 2002
GA/SHC/3705

SPECIAL RAPPORTEUR STRESSES IMPORTANCE OF LINK BETWEEN COMBATING RACISM AND PROMOTING DIALOGUE, AS THIRD COMMITTEE BEGINS DEBATE ON RACIAL DISCRIMINATION

23/10/2002
Press ReleaseGA/SHC/3705

Fifty-seventh General Assembly

Third Committee

24th & 25th Meetings (AM & PM)

SPECIAL RAPPORTEUR STRESSES IMPORTANCE OF LINK BETWEEN COMBATING RACISM AND PROMOTING

DIALOGUE, AS THIRD COMMITTEE BEGINS DEBATE ON RACIAL DISCRIMINATION

The newly confirmed Special Rapporteur on measures to Combat Contemporary Forms of Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance, this morning outlined for the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian, Cultural) his vision for carrying his mandate forward –- a comprehensive and holistic strategy to combat prejudice and discrimination in the spirit of the Durban World Conference against Racism and its outcome.

“I want to dig deeper”, Doudou Diene said, as he opened the Committee’s joint consideration of the elimination of racism and the right of peoples to self determination.  Though his mandate was generally recognized as a difficult one, he would actively promote cooperation among all members of the global community towards the implementation of the Durban Declaration, which would serve as the overall touchstone for his work.  Most of all, he hoped to emphasize the link between combating racism and the promotion of dialogue among civilizations, nations, cultures and religions.

He said he also intended to add another dimension to his work -– in order to combat discrimination and racism comprehensively, it would be necessary to develop an intellectual strategy to get at the deep-rooted causes and motives behind racism and prejudice.  Everyone knew that the international instruments, while thorough, were not enough to change values and attitudes that bred racism and discrimination.  Stereotypes and cultural assumptions –- often-diabolical caricatures of cultures and religions -- had unfortunately become entrenched in many societies and must be discussed openly and combated with vigor. 

He would not shy away from subtle forms of racism or other complex issues, he said, and part of his mandate required him to prepare a preliminary study on instances of prejudice and discrimination against Arabs and Muslims throughout the world following the tragic events of 11 September.  He also planned to tackle the sensitive issue of discrimination in the sports community –- a serious issue, as sports should be used to bring people together and promote national and international harmony.

Also this morning Bacre Waly Ndiaye, Director of the New York Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, introduced the reports before the Committee and spoke briefly on behalf of Sergio Vieira de Mello, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.  He updated delegations on the status of the

Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, saying three

more States had ratified or acceded to it -- Equatorial Guinea, Honduras, and Turkey.  He also briefed delegations concerning the implementation and follow-up to the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action.

Maarit Kohonen, also from the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, read out a statement by Enrique Bernales-Ballesteros, the Special Rapporteur on the question of the use of mercenaries.  There had been three major events affecting his work -- the ceasefire in Angola, his visits to Panama and El Salvador on the use of mercenaries and the Second Meeting of Experts on the Use of Mercenaries.  He was convinced that in the coming year he would be able to produce general criteria useful for the development of policies and strategies to eliminate the use of mercenaries.

The representative of Uganda said her delegation would have wished to respond to the report on the use of mercenaries, however, in the absence of the Special Rapporteur, dialogue had been impossible.  Uganda categorically disagreed with Mr. Bernales-Ballesteros’ findings, since they were misplaced and lacked both facts and credible references.  She stressed that if Special Rapporteurs conveniently absented themselves from dialogue, there could be no exchange and they failed to undertake their mandate in an effective manner.  

During the consideration on the elimination of racism and racial discrimination, delegations stressed that the international community must be tireless in its efforts to implement the outcome of the Durban Conference against Racism.  Several speakers said efforts to combat racism were particularly urgent in light of the racist and discriminatory backlash against Muslims and Arabs following the tragic events of 11 September.  It appeared that security forces and law enforcement officials, among others, in certain regions now practiced racism and xenophobia openly.  This needed to be comprehensively addressed as well as the increased spread of hate speech and prejudice through modern communications technologies.

Also today, the representative of Egypt introduced a draft resolution on the situation of and assistance to Palestinian children. 

Speaking in the interactive segment were the representatives of Denmark and Cuba.

Representatives of the following countries also spoke this morning:  Fiji (on behalf of the Pacific Islands Group), Denmark (on behalf of the European Union), Senegal, Norway, Mexico, Egypt, Iran, Sudan, Cuba, Libya, Venezuela (on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China), South Africa (on behalf of the Southern African Development Community (SADC)), Argentina and Pakistan. 

The representatives of Israel and Egypt spoke in exercise of the right of reply.

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The representative of the World Bank also addressed the Committee this morning.

The Committee will reconvene tomorrow morning at 10 a.m. to continue its joint consideration of the elimination of racism and racial discrimination as well as the right of peoples to self-determination.  It is also expected to take action on a number of resolutions on matters related to the advancement of women.

Background

Having thus far considered items related to social development, the rights of children and the advancement of women, the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian, Cultural) met this morning to conclude its debate on the programme of activities for the International Decade of the World's Indigenous People.  It was then expected to begin its joint examination of the elimination of racial discrimination and the rights of peoples to self-determination.

The Committee has before it a report of the Secretary-General on the financial situation of the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) (document A/57/333) in which contains two annexes.  The first annex contains information about the approval of the General Assembly of the proposed amendment to article 8 of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination.  The second annex is a status list of contributions to the CERD as of 1 July 2002.

There is also a report of the Secretary-General on the Status of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (document A/57/334) which states that as of 1 July 2002, the Convention had been ratified or acceded to by 162 States parties.  The list of States that have signed, ratified, acceded or succeeded to the Convention, and the dates of their signatures, ratification, accessions or successions are contained in an annex to the report. 

The Committee will also have before it the Secretary-General’s report on implementation of the Programme of Action for the Third Decade to Combat Racism and Racial Discrimination and follow-up to the World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance (document A/57/83-E/2002/72).  That report contains detailed information on activities undertaken by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to combat racism, as well as to facilitate the implementation of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action.  The Third Decade to Combat Racism ends in 2003.

According to the report, after the World Conference, the High Commissioner’s Office established an anti-discrimination unit, which now has the responsibility for the implementation of the Programme of Action.  To this end, the unit will organize in 2002 a seminar for educational and training experts, including non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in cooperation with United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and other appropriate organizations, aimed at developing educational materials on eliminating violence and fostering tolerance.

The report goes on to highlight activities by the United Nations to combat racism.  Aside from the work of the unit, UNESCO will undertake specific action within the framework of the Decade for a Culture of Peace and Non-violence for the Children of the World (2001-2010).  The International Labour Organization (ILO) has also undertaken a series of activities and projects to promote non-discrimination in employment and occupation.  It would further continue its substantive work on behalf of indigenous and tribal people.  The report also notes that United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) will address racism in the context of education, focusing on designing strategies to reach children excluded from learning both in and out of school.

The Committee will also consider a note by the Secretary-General on measures to combat contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance (document A/57/204), which transmits the report of the Special Rapporteur on racial discrimination.  It highlights the factors which have adversely affected the functioning of the special procedures in general and the Rapporteur's mandate in particular, especially in the inhospitable climate with which human rights promotion and protection have had to contend since the tragic events of 11 September.  These include the uncertainty of the end of his mandate and new conference service rules governing the submission of reports.

The Special Rapporteur recounts his participation in the work of the Commission on Human Rights.  During the Commission’s fifty-eighth session, he highlighted the main achievements of Durban, particularly the acknowledgement of evils of colonialism and the classification of slavery and the slave trade as crimes against humanity.  On the situation of Muslim or Arab communities following 9/11, the report notes that the Commission adopted a resolution on combating defamation of religion.  It also notes that, while the Government of Australia had cast some doubts on the credibility of the Rapporteur’s findings in that country, he hopes that his recommendations will result in an improved situation for the Aboriginal peoples.

Before the Committee there is a report of the Secretary-General on the rights of peoples to self-determination (document A/57/312).  The report explains that in General Assembly resolution 56/141 of 2001, the Assembly requested the Commission on Human Rights to continue to give special attention to the right to self-determination, resulting from foreign military intervention, aggression and occupation.  In a note verbale the Secretary-General therefore drew the attention of Governments to the resolution and requested them to submit any pertinent information relating to that resolution.  The present report contains a summary of the replies received to date from Venezuela, Azerbaijan, Kuwait and Cuba.

Also before the Committee is the Secretary-General's note on the use of mercenaries as a means of violating human rights and impeding the exercise of the rights of peoples to self-determination (document A/57/178), which transmits the report of the Special Rapporteur on the question of the use of mercenaries.  The report covers Mr. Enrique Ballesteros' activities and the correspondence he received during 2002. He makes particular mention of the second meeting of experts on mercenaries, organized by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Geneva from 13 to 17 May 2002.

The report goes on to review the situation concerning mercenary activities in Africa, drawing attention to several positive developments, including the ceasefire agreement signed in Angola between the Chief of Staff of the Angolan Armed Forces and the Chief of Staff of National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA).  The Rapporteur goes on to highlight his continued concern for the ongoing conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the massacres reported in Kisangani last May; reports from the Government of Equatorial Guinea concerning recruitment of mercenaries, and the recruitment of mercenaries for operations in Madagascar.

The body of the report focuses on the Rapporteur's official visits to El Salvador and Panama.  He thanks the Governments of those countries for their full participation, which contributed to the success of those visits.  The Rapporteur recommended that the Assembly reaffirm its condemnation of mercenary activities, as well as its invitation to all Member States to ratify or accede to the Convention.  The Assembly should establish some mechanism to consider how better to implement the Convention.

The Committee is set to take up the report of the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (document A/57/18), which covers the sixtieth and sixty-first sessions of CERD.  It contains information on the organization, agendas, membership and attendance in those sessions.

A relevant note of the Secretary-General transmitting the report of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in follow-up to the Durban World Conference against Racism (document A/57/443), contains information on the activities of the Office of the United Nations Commissioner for Human Rights, United Nations bodies and specialized agencies, international and regional organizations, among others, to implement the Durban Declaration.

Statements on the International Decade of the World’s Indigenous People

AMRAIYA NAIDU (Fiji), speaking on behalf of the Pacific Island Group, said the Group welcomed the historic meeting of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues in May this year.  The positive support for this inaugural meeting had lent weight to increasing calls for a permanent secretariat to service the Forum.  For the Forum to move forward, it needed a new secretariat that was funded from the United Nations regular budget.  Only with this support could the Forum effectively advise the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) on those issues as it was mandated to do.  The six issues of focus for the Forum's meetings were health, indigenous rights, education and culture, economic and social development, environment, and children and youth. 

The Group hoped that the new Forum and other United Nations mechanisms dealing with indigenous issues could deliver real and practical benefits to indigenous peoples and solutions to their concerns.  The renewed energy that was evident in the reports gave the Group hope that the elaboration of a draft declaration on the rights of indigenous peoples could be achieved by 2004 as the Decade came to a close.  In that context, the Group welcomed the review of United Nations indigenous mechanisms, as mandated by ECOSOC.  The cross-cutting nature of indigenous issues had featured them prominently in recent global meetings, conferences and summits and in their respective outcomes.  It was a timely trend which the Group welcomed with satisfaction.  The Group stood ready to support any initiatives that would realize those global targets holistically. 

CLARE FLEMING, Deputy Representative of the World Bank to the United Nations, briefed the Committee on a round table held last Thursday and Friday as part of the Bank’s effort to revise its policies on indigenous peoples and to ensure that its projects were tailored to the specific needs of indigenous people and communities.  During those consultations, held with 15 indigenous leaders from different regions around the world and NGO observers, participants exchanged ideas on creation of a mechanism of dialogue to discuss relevant issues for indigenous people.  The Bank’s management and indigenous representatives also agreed to strengthen the dialogue on key development policies aimed at incorporating indigenous peoples’ viewpoints in the Bank’s programmes and projects.

Participants had also highlighted the importance of the creation of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous issues, which had held its first meeting last May, he said.  Indeed, several participants in that meeting were present at the Bank’s round table and made positive suggestions about how the Bank could strengthen its cooperation with the Forum.  Areas to be considered in future discussions included the application of international law, criteria for the identification of indigenous peoples and judicial reform initiatives that might strengthen the rights of indigenous people.  The Bank hoped that through the continuing evolution of such dialogue and exploration, it could truly contribute to promoting indigenous people’s development, and ensuring that development processes fostered full respect for the dignity, rights and uniqueness of indigenous peoples.

Introductory Statements on Racial Discrimination

BACRE WALY NDIAYE, Director of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in New York, speaking on behalf of Sergio Vieira de Mello, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, said that since the submission of the report on the status of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, three more States had ratified or acceded to it -- Equatorial Guinea, Honduras, and Turkey.

Regarding the report on the financial situation of the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, he recalled that the amendment to article 8 of the Convention adopted by the States parties and endorsed by the General

Assembly would take effect when it had been accepted by a two-thirds majority of the States parties.  However, at this date, only 36 States had approved this modification.

He also stressed that a number of States parties were still in arrears from the non-payment of previous assessments for the period prior to 1994 and the list of such States.  The amounts owed were listed in an annex to the report of the Secretary-General on the financial situation of the Committee.

Concerning the comprehensive implementation and follow-up to the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action, he said it was interesting that many States had reported that they were planning to review or were in the process of reviewing national legislation or constitutional provisions to better ensure equality and non-discrimination.  A significant number of States had also indicated that they were taking steps to develop, in consultation with civil society, national human rights institutions and national plans of action to combat racism.

He added that the gender dimension to racial discrimination had been an important focus of the Conference's final documents.  This theme had been incorporated in a number of activities of the anti-discrimination unit, including in its seminars.  The unit also planned to issue a user-friendly publication on implementation of the Durban final documents at the end of the year, destined for the general public and largely drawing on the report before the Committee.

DOUDOU DIENE, Special Rapporteur on Measures to Combat Contemporary Forms of Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance, then introduced the relevant report prepared by his predecessor, Maurice Glele-Ahnhanzo.  Mr. Diene assured the Committee that he intended to carry out his mandate in the spirit of the Durban World Conference against Racism and its outcome.  It was generally recognized that the mandate was a difficult one and could not be carried out without cooperation from all members of the international community.  He intended to implement the very important outcome of the Durban World Conference against Racism, and the Durban Declaration would be the overall touchstone for his work.

He said he would contribute to the implementation and promotion of all international instruments adopted against racism and xenophobia.  He also intended to add another dimension to his mandate –- that of developing an intellectual strategy to get at the deep-rooted causes and motives behind racism and prejudice.  Everyone knew that the international instruments, while thorough, were not enough to change values and attitudes that bred racism and discrimination.  “I want to dig deeper”, he said.

Stereotypes and cultural assumptions -– often diabolical characters of cultures and religions -- had unfortunately become entrenched throughout many societies and must be discussed openly and combated with vigor.  He urged the entire international community to call on his Office to invite him to discuss such issues openly.  He also called on States to respond to his findings in a constructive manner.  Such a comprehensive approach was necessary, particularly in light of the Durban Conference, which had examined racism in a holistic way, namely its historical dimensions -- such as slavery -- as well as the mental and psychological dimensions of racism.  He would like to contribute to all the mechanisms at his disposal, and work more closely with CERD, to implement, in the most complete way, the goals of his mandate.

He would not shy away from subtle forms of racism or other complex issues, he said, noting that part of his mandate required that he prepare a preliminary study on instances of prejudice and discrimination against Arabs and Muslims throughout the world following the tragic events of 11 September.  He also planned to tackle a very sensitive issue, discrimination in the sports community.  That was very serious, as sports should be used to bring people together and promote national and international harmony.  Yet, time and again, nationalism and xenophobia had characterized sports and sporting events.  He reiterated that he would work to fulfil his mandate in the spirit of the Durban Conference, particularly the spirit of cooperation and alliance forged between governments and civil society.

MAARIT KOHONEN, Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, read out the statement on the use of mercenaries on behalf of Enrique Bernales-Ballesteros, saying the report contained information on the activities carried out since the last report.  During that period, there had been three major events affecting his work.  The first event was the ceasefire agreement in Angola.  Today, it was necessary to not only rejoice but also give the sustained support of the international community to Angola.  The second event had been visits to Panama and El Salvador, investigating the use of mercenaries.  Finally, the third event was the Second Meeting of Experts on the use of mercenaries.  He was convinced that in the coming year he would be able to produce general criteria useful for the development of policies and strategies to eliminate the use of mercenaries.

The meetings in Panama and El Salvador had been fruitful.  In El Salvador, he had noted certain gaps in fiscal and police research, and he had learned about the networks used to carry out the illegal use of mercenaries.  In Panama he had met people who had been accused of terrorist acts in Havana in 1997, including the plot to kill the Cuban president.  They had been accused of recruiting and training mercenaries for these acts -- activities violating the fundamental rights of the Cuban people and basic international law.  They had, however, been recruited and used by third parties of Cuban descent outside Cuba, who had plotted, paid and recruited these mercenaries.

Finally, she said the report of the Second Meeting of Experts on the use of mercenaries would be presented to the fifty-ninth session of the Commission on Human Rights.  Proposals had been put on the table that might be useful for the final definition of mercenaries.

Interactive Dialogue

The representative of Denmark, speaking on behalf of the European Union, said that reports before the Committee had indicated that certain forms of racism and discrimination were indeed on the rise.  She wondered about the Special Rapporteurs’ specific plans on follow-up and asked about proposed country visits.  She also asked how he would cooperate with the new anti-discrimination unit created within the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Responding to those comments, Mr. Diene said that his approach would be based on several elements.  First, the Durban Declaration must be the ultimate frame of reference in international efforts to combat racism.  Therefore, the document itself must be known, and sadly, at present, it was not well known.  The Durban Declaration must be promoted throughout the world.  It was particularly necessary to overcome the negative connotations and media perceptions that surrounded the outcome of the Conference and support the Durban Declaration as the international community’s singular view on how to combat discrimination and prejudice.

Secondly, it was necessary to ensure that all the mechanisms created following the conference must be implemented or strengthened, he said.  Civil society would be particularly helpful in that regard.  Third, the tragic events of 11 September had demonstrated that there had been a backlash against certain ethnic and religious groups.  So, it was necessary to look at the root causes and attitudes that bred racism.  He said most of all, he would work to emphasize the link between combating racism and the promotion of dialogue among civilizations, nations, cultures and religions.

The representative of Cuba said the documents adopted in Durban must be disseminated more broadly and become better known in all countries in order to battle racism.  However, in the outcome documents of Durban, racist propaganda on the Internet had been emphasized.  He asked whether there were any plans to act on this disturbing phenomenon. 

Mr. Diene said all were aware of the extreme gravity of the use of the Internet to promote racist ideas and racial propaganda.  The Internet was an indicator showing that racism and discrimination remained relevant.  However, there was a conflict between the freedom of expression and the values that needed to be respected in communications.  This issue would have to be tackled in close cooperation with Member States as well as civil society and the private sectors.  New actors would need to be involved in the battle against discrimination, he stressed. 

HANNE FUGL ESKJAER (Denmark), on behalf of the European Union, said the fight against racism and its different manifestations was the responsibility and duty of all members of the international community.  The European Union attached great importance to the respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms together with democracy, good governance and the rule and law -- factors essential for the prevention and effective elimination of racism.  The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination was the core international instrument in this respect. 

The importance of the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination must also be underlined as a bridge between the international framework and the implementation on the national level, she said.  At the national level, effective legislation and administrative measures that ensured the implementation of the principle of non-discrimination and the respect for human rights, were crucial. 

Likewise, prevention must be enhanced through the improvement of education and training as well as the development of information and awareness raising on these matters.  Especially education of children at a young age was vital.  In this regard, she stressed that any doctrines of racial superiority were scientifically false, morally condemnable, socially unjust and dangerous, and must be rejected along with theories which attempted to determine the existence of separate human races.  The European Union had focused its efforts on integrating the fight against racism in all its policies, and more particularly in its employment policy.  Special effort to combat racism had also been made in its Common Foreign and Security Policy, especially concerning the enlargement process and assistance to development, as well as in all issues related to police and judicial cooperation in the criminal fields.

Concerning peoples' right of self-determination, she said this right remained relevant in today's international context and deserved further attention from the international community.  The European Union saw democracy and the rule of law as key factors in ensuring effective protection of the right of self-determination.  The rule of law and the process of democratization were essential in the exercise of peoples' right of self-determination.  The respect of the right of self-determination also required the holding of free, regular and fair elections within the framework of a democratic society.  States' obligations in the field of human rights included the right of peoples to self-determination.  A full and effective observance of this right entailed genuine respect for the freedom and dignity of the individual and fundamental human rights. 

MANKEUR NDIAYE (Senegal) said the Durban World Conference against Racism had laid the groundwork for future action to comprehensively address discrimination and prejudice.  That Conference had also placed special emphasis on the need to address the situation of Africans and persons of African descent, as well as migrants and their families.  Problems of racism were not only prevalent in northern countries.  In the South, prejudice and xenophobia often fueled and exacerbated conflicts in Africa and other world regions and must be combated with vigor.  Appropriate actions must be taken to combat racism against people of ethnic and religious minorities.  Fighting against racism should be seen as fighting for tolerance, and cultural and religious diversity. 

It was also necessary to raise awareness of law enforcement officers, border control officials and judiciaries, he said.  It was extremely important to improve education programmes to inculcate respect for cultural diversity in youth and adolescents, particularly through work at the community level, including the participation of civil society and religious groups.  All of that called for increased financial resources and enhanced international cooperation.  Senegal applauded the work underway in the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, particularly the creation of two working groups that would be tasked with methodical follow-up to the Durban Conference.  He also welcomed the creation of an anti-discrimination unit within that Office.

ELLEN BAARDVIK (Norway) said coordinated international efforts to combat racism were vital.  However, Norway believed the main battles against racism and racial discrimination had to be fought at the national, local and personal levels.  First and foremost, racism needed to be tackled on the ground -- in the local and national communities, where it persisted and unfortunately, in some cases, thrived.  The adoption and implementation of national legislation expressly aimed at combating racism and prohibiting racial discrimination was crucial in any serious attempt to combat racism.  National policy programmes and plans of action for the elimination of racism and racial discrimination were other core elements highlighted in Durban. 

It was also important to bear in mind that discrimination often was rooted in ignorance and misinformation, she said.  Lack of knowledge and hence lack of understanding and acceptance of other persons was at the very core of racism.  This was why Norway strongly believed in the inclusion of anti-discrimination and anti-racism components in educational curriculae and social programmes.  Norway considered this as an important long-term measure in efforts to reduce discrimination.  She emphasized that concrete action to combat racism at the national level must be given high priority.  Racism could not be eliminated without focused, serious and long-terms efforts by national authorities.  

LUIS ALFONSO DE ALBA (Mexico) agreed with other speakers today that the most important thing now was the full implementation of the Durban Declaration.  Respect for minorities and diverse cultural groups was a priority for all governments.  Combating racism in a comprehensive manner meant effectively addressing such issues as discriminatory policies, engrained cultural practices of segregation and xenophobia, as well as prejudicial economic polices.  Mexico had convened a regional conference last July in which participants highlighted many priority issues that would lead to a more effective implementation of the Durban follow-up.  Some of those issues had included the needs to develop national plans of action; for governments to create public polices to combat racism; and to re-double efforts to elaborate a draft declaration on indigenous people before 2004, the end of the International Decade for the World’s Indigenous People. 

He said Mexico had instituted a number of policies on its own, such as adopting legislation that would protect vulnerable groups.  Mexico’s Constitution prohibited discrimination for any reason that would violate human dignity or undermine the rights and freedoms of individuals.  Mexico had also established the Citizen’s Study Commission against Discrimination, which had convened a meeting in 2001 to consider the most serious cases of discrimination.  The body deliberated the complaints brought forward, and its work had led to a draft law on discrimination.  Mexico had also begun the elaboration of a draft convention that would provide special protection for persons with disabilities from various forms of discrimination they faced.  He hoped those efforts would inform work at the international level to address that important issue.

AMR ROSHDY (Egypt) said the right to self-determination was among the rights emphasized most by a wide range of international covenants and treaties.  The obvious reason for this was that the right to self-determination was of particularly importance because its realization was an essential condition for the effective guarantee and observance of individual human rights and for the promotion and strengthening of those rights.  The people of Palestine had suffered for more than 50 years under the brutal Israeli occupation that followed a selective approach in the implementation of international covenants and treaties and perceived them merely as means of fulfilling self-interest.  The daily suffering of the people of Palestine and the continuation of the deprivation of their inherent right to self-determination gave a clear and simple message that humanity was not yet civilized. 

It was beyond comprehension that the international community could live with the daily and pre-meditated killing and displacement of Palestinian children, women and older people, he said.  As long as occupation continued, the suffering of the Palestinian people would continue.  Egypt stressed, anew, the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination and to struggle against occupation.  That right of the Palestinian people was as legitimate as the right of European people to resist foreign occupation 60 years ago.  

FARHAD MAMDOUHI (Iran) said racism and racial discrimination were a scourge that threatened the foundations of all societies and led to poverty, underdevelopment, marginalization, social exclusion and economic disparities.  He said the decision to establish an intergovernmental working group to follow-up the effective implementation of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action was an appropriate mechanism to formulate and recommend action-oriented and detailed ways to combat and eradicate racism and racial discrimination.  In this context, he stressed that the plight of people of African descent all over the world deserved urgent attention.  He welcomed the decision of the Commission on Human Rights to establish a working group on people of African descent.   

Iran had participated in the World Conference against Racism with the firm commitment to the success of this event and done its utmost to achieve the Conference goals and implement its action oriented outcome.  This commitment stemmed from Iran's value system, rich culture and long civilization.  Iran was fully committed to the implementation of its commitments and would continue to play its active role in combating racism and racial discrimination both at national and international levels.  In this regard, Iran had prepared its sixteenth periodic report to the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, which contained the measures taken by the Government to implement the Convention as well as the Durban Declaration and the Programme of Action.

Mr. ABULGASIM (Sudan) said the reports before the Committee had highlighted the increase in the dangerous phenomenon of racism and discrimination, especially as practiced against immigrants and national or ethnic minorities.  Sudan believed it was necessary to alert the entire international community to the spread of such prejudicial behaviours.  It was necessary to promote international cooperation in awareness-raising of the need for respect for diversity and tolerance.  Sudan supported the outcome of the Durban Conference and considered the Durban Declaration the framework through which the international community should work together to combat racism.  Global actors must ensure adequate financial support for anti-discrimination programmes.

It was necessary to pay particular attention to instances of racism following the events of 11 September.  He called upon all to step up work towards finding a solution to the problem of increased cases of defamation of religion and to ensure that tolerance for all communities was guaranteed.  New information technologies had proved a convenient tool to spread hatred and racist propaganda. It was necessary to develop legislation, particularly at the national level, to halt such activities and punish perpetrators.

Sudan would reaffirm its opinion of the right of all nations and peoples to exercise self-determination, particularly those nations still suffering under the yoke of colonialism.  That right must not be seen as a way to interfere in the integrity of States, which often exacerbated conflicts and threatened international peace and security. 

His delegation invited the international community to closely examine what was occurring in Palestinian territories under Israeli occupation.  All should work to ensure the implementation of all relevant United Nations resolutions in that regard.  On the issue of mercenaries, Sudan agreed with the relevant reports before the Committee that noted that such individuals continually committed terrorism and other criminal acts that could lead to the destabilization of States.  He urged the international community to move urgently toward addressing that issue.

LUIS ALBERTO AMOROS NUNEZ (Cuba) said that Durban had dealt with crimes against humankind including slavery and colonialism.  Concrete action against these practices had been taken, and the international community had asserted the principles of universality in dealing with human rights issues.  It had been recognized that discrimination and xenophobia resulted from the consequences of slavery, as well as colonialism.  Despite the considerable progress that had been made, much remained to be done to fully restore the dignity of victims of discrimination.  Cuba called on States concerned to reverse the lasting repercussion of such practices.  The principal objectives in the battle against racism had not been achieved, particularly in developed countries.

Immigrants had become the scapegoat of all the evils that affected developed countries, he said.  Nationalist groups and institutional discrimination often verbally, psychologically and physically targeted immigrants.  The success of nationalist parties in certain developed countries was a concern to the international community at large, he said.  Discrimination and racism had long-reaching effects.  In the United States, Afro-Americans represented three-fifths of all prisoners even though they represented only 13 per cent of the population.  Furthermore, the average income of white families was nearly twice that of Afro-American families.  Given the increase in racism and discrimination, Cuba called upon all bodies, States and institutions to implement the commitments made in Durban. 

Mr. YAGOB (Libya) said the international community must be tireless in its efforts to implement the outcome of the Durban Conference against Racism.  Efforts to combat that scourge were particularly urgent in light of the racist and discriminatory backlash against Muslims and Arabs following the tragic events of 11 September.  Indeed it appeared that security forces and law enforcement officials, among others, in certain regions now practiced racism and xenophobia regularly.  It was necessary to comprehensively address that trend as well as the increased spread of hate speech and prejudice through modern communications technologies.

The United Nations must continue its efforts to help those countries facing occupation, particularly the Palestinian people, he said.  The international community must ensure that all peoples were able to exercise the right to self-determination.  Another hindrance to the exercise of self-determination was continued interference of mercenaries, who often worked to weaken the territorial integrity and destabilize political unity in many States.  Those activities were often in the form of recruiting or training of mercenaries and were often at the root of armed conflicts.  This was of course contrary to the principles of territorial integrity, and often affected those nations which were most actively striving to achieve social, political and economic independence.  He added that mercenaries often promoted the plundering of natural resources in many countries and often carried out terrorist activities.  Libya reiterated its categorical condemnation of such practices and would urge the international community to undertake every effort to eradicate the scourge of terrorism.

CATHERINE OTITI (Uganda) said her delegation would have wanted to respond to the report on the use of mercenaries, however, in the absence of the Special Rapporteur a dialogue had been impossible.  She placed it on record that Uganda categorically disagreed with the report of the Special Rapporteur on the use of mercenaries, since it was misplaced and lacked both facts and credible references.  Even though the Ugandan delegation had raised this issue several times, the Special Rapporteur seemed not to have paid attention, or he would have acquired the correct facts about the situation.  Having suffered from the use of mercenaries, Uganda was surprised that the Special Rapporteur had failed to even adhere to the definition of the use of mercenaries.  She concluded that if Special Rapporteurs found it convenient to absent themselves from dialogue, there could be no exchange, and they failed to undertake their mandate in an effective manner.

Introduction of Drafts

The Committee also had before it a draft text on the situation of and assistance to Palestinian children (document A/C.3/57/L.23), which would have the Assembly stress the need for Palestinian children to live a normal life free from foreign occupation, destruction and fear in their own State.  It would have the Assembly therefore demand that Israel, the occupying Power, respect relevant provisions of the Convention on the Rights of the Child and comply fully with the provisions of the fourth Geneva Convention in order to ensure the well-being and protection of Palestinian children and their families.

In her introduction of the draft, the representative of Egypt emphasized the situation of Palestinian children as a result of Israeli incursions.  She added that representatives of the Non-Aligned Movement as well as the Observer of Palestine had bowed to the concerns of other delegations and had not submitted the text to the Assembly special session on children, held last May.  It was now time to submit the draft to the appropriate body, the Third Committee.  She hoped the text would be adopted by consensus.

ADRIANA PULIDO (Venezuela), on behalf of the “Group of 77”and China, said a year had passed since Heads of State had assumed the responsibility to battle all forms of racism and racial discrimination.  Durban had been a landmark in the fight against racism, and it had been recognized that the Durban document was a sound basis for action against racism.  An equally important step towards the implementation of the Durban Declaration had been a resolution of the Commission on Human Rights entitled “Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance”, which contained specific provisions that would contribute further to the implementation of the Durban outcomes.

One such specific provision related to the establishment of an intergovernmental working Group mandated with the task of formulating recommendation on the effective implementation of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action and to prepare complementary international standards to strengthen and update international instruments against racism.  There was no doubt that the success of the Durban Programme of Action required both political will and adequate funding at the national, regional and international levels, as well as international cooperation.  In this context, the Commission on Human Rights had decided to establish a voluntary fund to provide additional resources for implementation. 

In the Group's statement earlier in the year, it had alluded to the importance of the collective understanding of the phenomenon of racism and racial discrimination.  She repeated that this collective understanding and appreciation of the origins and contributing factors to racism must enable the international community to adopt its institutional frameworks for the elimination of racism, including in its contemporary forms.  At the global level it was essential for the international community to devote itself to the promotion of a culture of peace and harmony based on the equal dignity and worth of all human beings. 

SIPHO G.NENE (South Africa), on behalf of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), said his region was one where the worst forms of racism and racial discrimination had been experienced.  The institutionalized system of apartheid in some of the countries had had destabilizing effects that had been felt throughout the region.  Given the political history of the region, which had resulted in internally displaced people, Governments of the region were grappling with these problems, and high among them was sensitivity to the scourge of racism and the need to enhance racial harmony.  The region therefore placed particular emphasis on the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action, which represented a solid foundation for mobilization against all forms of racism. 

Currently, the region was examining collective efforts to enhance the ability to confront the scourges of racism.  These would play a complementary role to national efforts.  Recently, the Anti-Discrimination Unit at the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights had organized a regional seminar in Nairobi aimed at the follow-up to and implementation of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action in which SADC countries had actively participated. 

It was the region's hope that the General Assembly would endorse the initiatives undertaken by the Commission on Human Rights and the Economic and Social Council which guided the implementation phase of the Durban Conference.  The region reiterated the importance of collective actions by the international community to fight racism.  Participation by all regions in the recently established working groups on the implementation of the Durban Declaration and the Programme of Action was important.  Regions that had not yet nominated their representatives to the working group concerning people of African descent were urged to do so as soon as possible.

ALBERTO D’ALOTTO (Argentina) said the Durban Declaration included as a matter of priority, plans for States to develop and implement national strategies for the eradication of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and other forms of intolerance.  In that regard, in October of last year, Argentina had signed an agreement aiming to elaborate the Argentine Plan for the Elimination of Discrimination.  Proposals to elaborate a National Plan of Action had quickly followed in December at a regional ministerial meeting.  At that meeting, government representatives as well as members of civil society were present. 

After wide-ranging debate on the substance of the Plan, it was decided that all would work toward the final adoption of the Plan in June 2003, using the outcome of the Durban World Conference against Racism as a guideline.  An inter-Ministerial Committee would coordinate implementation efforts.  The Government had also undertaken to train municipal officials so they could participate in the management of the Plan.  He said the ideal of Durban should be carried out on the international level with the understanding that discriminatory practices had been and continued to be practiced, and therefore must be combated vigorously.

MUNIR AKRAM (Pakistan) said the Durban World Conference against Racism had renewed the international community’s commitment to combat discrimination and intolerance.  Global actors had confronted past division and discrimination to design a cooperative and peaceful future.  It had been hoped that the Conference would address the plight of millions affected by racism in its various forms but instead, conditions had not improved and had perhaps even deteriorated in many cases.  Pakistan agreed with the reports before the Committee that combating racism required determination, conviction and perseverance.  The reports had also highlighted the rise of discrimination against religious and ethnic minorities and had underscored the plight of migrants -- who frequently became the scapegoats for the problems in their host countries.  Migrants were segregated and subjected to abuse by law enforcement and immigration authorities.

He said defamation of Islam and discrimination against Muslims represented was one of the most heinous of contemporary forms of racial intolerance.  It was unfortunate that the world media, under the guise of defending free speech, had allowed such defamation and blasphemy to be carried out against the Muslim religion.  Moreover, the silence from the United Nations and its human rights organs had been deafening.  Consequently, bigotry against the West had also been on the rise.  The people of the world must not succumb to the conspiracies of those that wished to promote a clash of cultures, he said.

It was also necessary to address various age old discriminatory practices, most prominently the caste system practiced by Pakistan’s Eastern neighbour. He emphasized that omission of the caste system from the outcome of the Durban Conference, even though that system of “multiple apartheid” affected millions of Dalits and other Hindus -- was a gaping hole in the international community’s collective endeavor to confront discrimination in a holistic manner. 

He added that Hindu fundamentalism was certainly on the rise. Since 1947, there had been some 3,000 riots in India a year. Last year, some 2,000 Muslims had been mercilessly killed by mobs in Gujarat. Entire neighbourhoods were put to the torch, and women and children had been killed in what Human Rights Watch had characterized as a massacre.  Meanwhile, no one had been held accountable for that act of genocide and there had been a complete “cover-up” by New Delhi. Those that had participated in the Muslim slaughter should be put to trial by an international tribunal on charges of genocide, and broad violations of human rights.  The world could no longer remain a silent spectator while India’s “Hindu fanatics” continued to wage their war of hate and violence.

Right of Reply

A representative of Israel, exercising his right of reply, said he was taking the floor to respond to Egypt's statement earlier in the day.  Egypt was a neighbouring country with which Israel had had a peace treaty since 1979 and to which it had returned all of the Sinai.  Egypt's statement, however, was yet another verbal accusation -- pouring oil in the fire rather then supporting a culture of peace.  In fact, Egypt's statement condoned terrorism.  Any delegate that drew a distinction between terrorism and the 'so-called' resistance endorsed terrorism and encouraged the perpetrators to continue.  Israel respected the right to self-determination; however, Israel required equal recognition of its own right to self-determination. 

A representative of Egypt, exercising her right to reply, said the Israeli delegate had said there was a need for dialogue and a culture of peace.  Egypt had called for peace with Israel in order to put an end a decades-long war.  Based on that principle, it was clear that in order to achieve peace in the region, Israel had to take the steps necessary -- to give the Palestinian people their right to self-determination.  The occupation of the lands of other people was certainly against democracy and a culture of peace.  She stressed that Egypt condemned terrorism in all its forms; however, the right to resistance was a legitimate right and must not be lumped together with terrorism.

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For information media. Not an official record.