THIRD COMMITTEE APPROVES FIVE-PART DRAFT RESOLUTION CALLING FOR ACTION TO COUNTER RACISM AND INTOLERANCE, AS IT CONCLUDES CURRENT SESSION

25 November 2002
GA/SHC/3732

THIRD COMMITTEE APPROVES FIVE-PART DRAFT RESOLUTION CALLING FOR ACTION TO COUNTER RACISM AND INTOLERANCE, AS IT CONCLUDES CURRENT SESSION

25/11/2002
Press ReleaseGA/SHC/3732

Fifty-seventh General Assembly

Third Committee

60th Meeting (PM)

THIRD COMMITTEE APPROVES FIVE-PART DRAFT RESOLUTION CALLING FOR ACTION

TO COUNTER RACISM AND INTOLERANCE, AS IT CONCLUDES CURRENT SESSION

Deeply concerned about persisting and growing racial discrimination, related intolerance and acts of violence, the General Assembly would reaffirm its commitment to a global drive for the total elimination of those phenomena, under the terms of a resolution approved today by a vote of 153 in favour to 2 against (United States, Israel), with three abstentions (Canada, Australia, Marshall Islands), as the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) concluded its 2002 session.  (See Annex.)

Acknowledging that no derogation from the prohibition of racial discrimination, genocide, the crime of apartheid and slavery was permitted, under relevant human rights instruments, the five-part text would have the Assembly draw States’ attention to four priority areas:  consideration of accession or ratification of the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination, with a view to universal ratification by 2005; comprehensive implementation of and follow-up to the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action; implementation of the Programme of Action for the Third Decade to Combat Racism; and consideration of action by the Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism.

Conscious of the fact that the history of humanity is replete with major atrocities as a result of gross violations of human rights and believing that lessons can be learned through remembering history to avert future tragedies, the Assembly would decide to proclaim 2004 as the International Year to Commemorate the Struggle against Slavery and its Abolition.  The Assembly would also emphasize that poverty, underdevelopment, marginalization, and economic disparities are closely associated with racism, racial discrimination and related intolerance and contribute to the persistence of racist attitudes and practices, which in turn generate more poverty.   

The text would further urge States to, among other things, adopt effective measures to combat criminal acts motivated by racism and xenophobia, to take measures so that such motivations are considered as an aggravating factor for the purposes of sentencing, to prevent such crimes from going unpunished and to ensure the rule of law.  The Assembly would also condemn the misuse of print, audio-visual and electronic media or new communication technologies to incite violence motivated by racial hatred and to condemn political platforms based on xenophobia or doctrines of racial superiority.

Before the Committee took action on the text, several delegations expressed serious concerns about references to the outcome of the Durban World Conference against Racism and its outcome, the Durban Declaration.  While they reaffirmed support for the fight against racism and related intolerance, some felt the

negotiations at Durban had been "inexcusably marred" by negative references to the Middle East.  The Conference had also been accompanied by demonstrations outside inciting racial hatred.

At the same time, others believed the Durban Declaration constituted a solid foundation for the fight against racism, and provided a new and balanced blueprint for action.  They urged that the controversies emerging from the Non-Governmental Forum and the demonstrations outside the Conference, which had incited racial hatred, must not be used to detract from the international community’s focus on the fight against racism. 

The Committee took note of the relevant chapters of the report of the Economic and Social Council (document A/57/3), and the Secretary-General's note transmitting the report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights on implementation and follow-up to the World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and related intolerance (document A/57/443).

Finally, the Committee approved its programme of work for the upcoming

2003-2004 substantive session (document A/57/75).

As the Committee concluded its work, Chairman Christian Wenaweser (Liechtenstein), thanked all delegations for their confidence and said he had done his best to live up to their expectations.  It had not been an easy session, but he felt that delegations had showed a great spirit of cooperation.  He also thanked the Bureau, the Vice-Chairpersons, and the Secretariat, and noted that there had been transparency and dialogue in the workings of the Committee. 

He stressed that he believed consensus was an important tool, even though it was sometimes impossible.  Referring to the occasionally drawn-out negotiations, he said it had not been responsible for the Committee to have spent more than five hours on one resolution, at a cost of more than $23,000.  In conclusion, he again thanked delegations and stressed that the Committee had indeed completed important work.  

Also speaking towards the conclusion of the meeting, thanking the Chairperson and the Bureau as well as reflecting on the session, were representatives of Ethiopia (on behalf of the African Group), Denmark (on behalf of the European Union), Lebanon (on behalf of the Arabic Group), San Marino (on behalf of the Western European and other States Group), Canada (on behalf of JUSCANZ), Venezuela (on behalf of the Group of 77), Argentina (on behalf of the Latin American Group), Indonesia (on behalf of the Asian Group), Jamaica (on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM)), and Albania (on behalf of the Eastern European Group).

The representatives of Benin and Suriname also spoke.

Background

Before the Committee there will be a draft resolution on the Fight against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and related intolerance and Comprehensive implementation of and follow-up to the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action (document A/C.3/57/L.34/Rev.1).  It would have the Assembly call upon all States resolutely to bring to justice the perpetrators of crimes motivated by racism and xenophobia, and call upon those that have not yet done so to consider including in their legislation racist and xenophobic motivation as an aggravating factor for the purposes of sentencing.  States would also be called upon to review and revise, where necessary, their immigration laws and policies and practices so that they were free from racial discrimination.

The Committee also had before it a text on the organization of work of the Third Committee and draft biennial programme of work of the Committee for 2003-2004 (document A/C.3/57/L.75).

Also before the Committee is the report of the Economic and Social Council for 2002 (document A/57/3) and its supplements, which deals with matters calling for action by or brought to the attention of the General Assembly.  It also mentions the special high-level meeting of the Council with the Bretton Woods institutions and the World Trade Organization.  Concerning the high-level segment of the Economic and Social Council, the report focuses on the contribution of human resources development, including in areas of health and education, to the process towards development, as well as the Ministerial declaration of the high-level segment submitted by the President of the Council.  The report covers the operational activities of the Economic and Social Council as well as its coordination, including its strengthening through building on recent achievements, so that it can fulfil the role ascribed to it in the Charter of the United Nations.

Action on Draft Resolution

The Committee had before it a draft resolution on the Fight against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and related intolerance and the Comprehensive implementation of and follow-up to the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action (document A/C.3/57/L.34/Rev.1).

A recorded vote was requested. 

In a general statement, the representative of Israel said Israel fully supported efforts aimed at eradicating racism.  Because Israel was against racism, the outcome of Durban could not be accepted.  His delegation would not be joining the consensus and would vote against the draft resolution.  Had there been a paragraph-by-paragraph vote, Israel would have voted against any reference to Durban being the basis for the fight against racism.  The highjacking of the Conference did a great disservice to those who would have benefited from efforts to eradicate racism.  For these reasons, his delegation along with that of the United States had been compelled to leave the Conference.  The conduct at the Conference had been offensive and something United Nations resolutions must avoid basing themselves on. 

The representative of South Africa said the outcome of the World Conference in Durban had one of its primary objectives racial equality and racial justice everywhere in the world.  The Conference put the victims of racism at the heart of the future work of the Committee, she said.  It was important that the General Assembly ensured the implementation and follow-up to the Durban Declaration at the national and international levels.  She also appreciated the patience and important work undertaken by the co-sponsors of the current draft resolution.  The Durban Declaration constituted a solid foundation for the fight against racism.  Finally, she stressed that the controversies that had come out of the Non-Governmental Forum and the demonstrations outside the Conference, which had incited racial hatred, must not be used to detract the international community’s focus on the fight against racism. 

Before the vote, the representative of the United States explained his vote and said that the United States was committed to the fight against racism, including anti-Semitism.  He had been disappointed that anti-Semitism had not been mentioned in the resolution as a contemporary form of racism.  The United States had withdrawn from the Durban Conference and had not agreed with the Declaration.  The Conference had also been accompanied by demonstrations outside inciting racial hatred.  The United States would vote against the adoption of this resolution, even though the United States fully supported the goals the Conference initially had been intended to fulfil. 

The representative of Denmark, on behalf of the European Union, said the European Union was committed to the fight against racism, at home and abroad.  Racism was a cause and manifestation of violence around the world.  The Durban Declaration provided a new and balanced blueprint for action against racism.  The European Union had already begun to take action at the national and regional commitment in this regard and believed that the Durban Declaration needed to have consensus support in order to have any effect.  The efforts made by all

co-sponsors to reach agreement were commended.  She regretted that it was not possible to adopt this draft resolution by consensus. 

The representative of Canada said that Canada would abstain in the vote since the text was vitally flawed in one area.  It focused on the Durban Conference, which had been unacceptably marred by references to the Middle East.  Canada disassociated itself from those paragraphs.  He noted that operative paragraph 50 to cooperate with the Special Rapporteur in his mandate, which must be the fight against contemporary forms of racism against Africans and their  descendants, Islamophobia and anti-Semitism. 

The representative of Australia said he was deeply disappointed that real outcomes had been prevented by politicization and division.  Australia was also concerned about the future mechanisms of this draft.  Any follow-up mechanisms must be consensual -- follow-up mechanisms going beyond this basis could not be accepted.  Efforts must be geared to constructively fighting against racism. 

In a recorded vote, the resolution was approved by a vote of 153 in favour to 2 against (United States, Israel), with 3 abstentions (Australia, Canada and Marshall Islands).  (See Annex.)

After the vote, the representative of Senegal said he regretted that it had been necessary for the international community to vote on a resolution on racism.  He felt that the Durban consensus should have been preserved, and that follow-up mechanisms to Durban that were non-consensual must be avoided.  New mechanisms must be the outcome of a consensus.  He added that the question of racism must not be seen only from a North-South, black-white dichotomy.  All forms of discrimination must be fought with the same vigour.  His delegation had voted in

favour, hoping that useful compromises would be found at the next human rights session in Geneva.

The Committee then took note of the Secretary-General’s transmission of the report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights on the implementation and follow-up to the World Conference against Racism (document A/57/443) and recommended that the General Assembly do the same.

(annex follows)

ANNEX

Vote on Fight against Racism

The draft resolution on the fight against racism and related intolerance (document A/C.3/57/L.34/Rev.1) was approved by a recorded vote of 153 in favour to 2 against, with 3 abstentions as follows:

In favour:  Afghanistan, Albania, Algeria, Andorra, Angola, Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Armenia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Bahamas, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Barbados, Belarus, Belgium, Belize, Benin, Bhutan, Bolivia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Botswana, Brazil, Brunei Darussalam, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cambodia, Cameroon, Cape Verde, Chile, China, Colombia, Congo, Costa Rica, Côte d’Ivoire, Croatia, Cuba, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Denmark, Djibouti, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, Eritrea, Estonia, Ethiopia, Finland, France, Gambia, Georgia, Germany, Ghana, Greece, Guatemala, Guyana, Haiti, Hungary, Iceland, India, Indonesia, Iran, Ireland, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kuwait, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Latvia, Lebanon, Lesotho, Libya, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Madagascar, Malawi, Malaysia, Maldives, Mali, Malta, Mauritania, Mauritius, Mexico, Monaco, Mongolia, Morocco, Mozambique, Myanmar, Namibia, Nepal, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Norway, Oman, Pakistan, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Phillipines, Poland, Portugal, Qatar, Republic of Korea, Republic of Moldova, Romania, Russian Federation, Rwanda, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Samoa, San Marino, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Suriname, Swaziland, Sweden, Switzerland, Syria, Thailand, The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Togo, Trinidad and Tobago, Tunisia, Turkey, Uganda, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, United Republic of Tanzania, Venezuela, Viet Nam, Yemen, Yugoslavia, Zambia, Zimbabwe.

Against:  Israel, United States.

Abstaining:  Australia, Canada, Marshall Islands.

Absent:  Central African Republic, Chad, Comoros, El Salvador, Equatorial Guinea, Fiji, Gabon, Grenada, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Honduras, Iraq, Kiribati, Kyrgyzstan, Liberia, Federated States of Micronesia, Nauru, Niger, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Sao Tome and Principe, Seychelles, Solomon Islands, Somalia, Tajikistan, Timor-Leste, Tonga, Turkmenistan, Tuvalu, Uruguay, Uzbekistan, Vanuatu.

* *** *

For information media. Not an official record.