(Durban, 8 September 2001) - The World Conference Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance ended in Durban, South Africa, today with a condemnation of those scourges and a call for action by the international community to eradicate them wherever they may be found.

After intensive and often difficult deliberations on a number of issues, the Conference adopted a Declaration and Programme of Action that commits Member States to undertake a wide range of measures to combat racism and discrimination at the international, regional and national levels. However, a number of delegations made known their reservations or disassociations on certain issues, including those relating to the Middle East and to the legacy of the past.

On the Middle East, the Conference called for the end of violence and the swift resumption of peace negotiations; respect for international human rights and humanitarian law; and respect for the principle of self-determination and the end of all suffering, thus allowing Israel and the Palestinians to resume the peace process, and to develop and prosper in security and freedom.

Expressing concern about the plight of the Palestinian people under foreign occupation, the Conference, in its Declaration, recognized the inalienable right of the Palestinian people to self-determination and to the establishment of an independent state. It also recognized the right to security for all States in the region, including Israel, and called upon all States to support the peace process and bring it to an early conclusion.

On the question of slavery, the Conference agreed on text that acknowledges and profoundly regrets the massive human sufferings and the tragic plight of millions of men, women and children as a result of slavery, slave trade, transatlantic slave trade, apartheid, colonialism and genocide. Acknowledging that these were appalling tragedies in the history of humanity, the Conference further acknowledged that slavery and the slave trade are a crime against humanity and should always have been so, especially the transatlantic slave trade.

Inviting the international community to honour the memory of the victims of these tragedies, the Conference also noted that some States have taken the initiative of regretting or expressing remorse or presenting apologies, and called on all those who have not yet contributed to restoring the dignity of the victims to find appropriate ways to do so.

Concerning compensation and reparations by so-called "concerned States" for slavery, the slave trade and other historical injustices, the Conference recognizes that those historical injustices have undeniably contributed to poverty, underdevelopment, marginalization, social exclusion, economic disparities, instability and insecurity that affect many people in different parts of the world, particularly in developing countries. The Conference recognized the need to develop programmes for the social and economic development of those societies and the diaspora within the framework of a new partnership based on the spirit of solidarity and mutual respect in the following areas: debt relief, poverty eradication, building or strengthening democratic institutions, promotion of foreign direct investment and market access.

The Conference, recognizing the efforts of African leaders to address the challenges of poverty, calls on developed countries, as well as the United Nations system, to support the New African Initiative and other innovative mechanisms, such as the World Solidarity Fund for the Eradication of Poverty.

On the question of victims of racism, another issue that had been difficult to resolve, the Conference agreed on a generic text which stated that "the victims of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance are individuals or groups of individuals who are or who have been affected by or subjected to or targets of those scourges".

Regarding the grounds for discrimination, the Conference recognized that racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance occur on the grounds of race, colour, descent or national or ethnic origins, and that the victims can suffer multiple or aggravated forms of discrimination based on other or related grounds, including language, sex, religion, political or other opinion, social origin, property, birth or other status.

In her closing remarks, the President of the Conference, Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, said that Durban had agreed a fresh start and a new road-map for the fight against racism. Endorsing the point that the Conference had set explicit goals and action for combating discrimination, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mary Robinson, who acted as Secretary-General of the Conference, said that the main message she would like to leave the delegates with was that Durban must be a beginning and not an end. "There must be follow-up", she said.

Participating in the World Conference were 2,300 representatives from 163 countries, including 16 heads of State, 58 foreign ministers and 44 ministers. Nearly 4,000 representatives of NGOs and over 1,100 media representatives were accredited.

(Durban, 6 September 2001) - Working Group adopts common definition on victims of discrimination at the World Conference against racism.

Second to last day of the Conference and the draft outcome documents, the Declaration and Programme of Action are nearing completion in the two negotiating Working Groups.

(Durban, 5 September 2001) - Two days before the end of the Conference, progress is reported in both working groups negotiating the draft declaration and programme of action with about two thirds of the paragraphs already dealt with.

On difficult issues consultations continued throughout the day but no final agreement is yet reported.

At a special event on racism and indigenous peoples, the Secretary-General of the World Conference, Mary Robinson, stressed that the overriding issue was that the Conference should be a positive experience for all indigenous peoples and that they should leave Durban with a reaffirmation of their individual and collective rights.

(Durban, 4 September 2001) - Secretary-General of the World Conference against Racism, Mary Robinson, urges delegates to show constructive spirit to ensure that the Durban Conference meets the aspirations of victims.

Conference President Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma stresses that the Durban gathering is important for millions of people across the world who face racism, xenophobia, and intolerance on a daily basis, adding that it is important for all to bear that in mind. "Nothing is beyond discussion", she adds, "that is the beginning of a tolerant society - one that can sit down and negotiate. One that can listen to another point of view, even if you don't agree with it.

New draft text on Middle East being prepared under the Conference President's Chairmanship.

World Conference Secretary-General, Mary Robinson, announces at a press conference that she has been informed that by the United States that it had not withdrawn from the Conference, that it would continue to participate in the Conference, but that it had withdrawn the delegates who had come from Washington, D.C. (link to press conference)

As of 3:00 pm Monday 3 September 2001 almost 18,000 passes have been to participants at the World Conference against Racism

(Durban, 3 September 2001) - UN Secretary-General, Kofi Annan urges all countries at the World Conference against Racism to "stay the course", saying "progress can be made as delegates strive to harmonize their divergent positions in the search for a consensus text to come out of the Conference."

The Conference cannot afford other defections, says the Secretary-General, adding that he is disappointed at the decision by Israel and the United States of America to withdraw their delegations from the intense negotiations.

Mary Robinson, Secretary-General of the World Conference against Racism and United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, calls for "intensified efforts for a ringing endorsement of tolerance for human dignity" following the announcement of the withdrawal of the United States of America and Israel from the World Conference. She said she regretted the decision by the United States and Israel to withdraw from the Durban meeting, but urged other delegations to persist in their endeavours.

Mary Robinson signed the Pledge against Racism, already signed by more than one million people around the world, and met student artists at an International Youth Art Exhibition at the Conference site.

(Durban, 2 September 2001) -

General Committee sets up facilitation mechanism for sensitive issues

The General Committee, which is the Committee responsible for establishing work procedures for the Conference, agreed today on a mechanism to facilitate discussion on the three sensitive issues on the agenda.

On the issue of grounds for discrimination and victims, Mexico will be the facilitator as was the case during the Preparatory Committee meeting in Geneva.

The issue related to the legacy of the past, slavery, colonialism will be in the hands of Brazil and Kenya, and the Middle East will be handled by Norway.

South Africa, in its capacity of host country and President of the Conference will deal with all of them and will work very closely with the facilitators.

Election of Conference Officers

The World Conference has now elected all its officers, including the Chairmen of the two working groups of the Drafting Committee. Bonaventure M. Bowa (Zambia) was elected Chairman of Working Group II, dealing with the Programme of Action. Marc Bossuyt (Belgium) was elected Chairman of Working Group I, dealing with the Declaration. That Working Group had been working under Ali Khorram (Iran), Chairman of the Drafting Committee.

For the complete list of the World Conference Officers click here.

(Durban, 1 September 2001) - Secretary-General Kofi Annan said he believed the World Conference against Racism has given the world an opportunity to face the issues of racism and discrimination squarely, in a press Conference in Durban today. He added that the delegations were making genuine and serious efforts to find compromise language on two sensitive issues threatening consensus: the Middle East and compensation for slavery.

17, 000 participants are officially registered at the World Conference against Racism as of 31 August 2001. Among them 1230 media, 3416 NGOS, and 2218 delegates

This morning the plenary opened with a video statement by Nelson Mandela, former South African President.

Heads of States from Latvia, Algeria, Nigeria, Senegal, Cape Verde, Togo, Cuba, Republic of Congo, and Uganda addressed the plenary followed by the President of the Palestinian Authority.

The Working Group on the Draft Programme of Action continued its deliberations, and the Working Group on the Draft Declaration began.

(Durban, 31 August 2001) - United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan opened the World Conference against Racism.

The Secretary-General told the Conference that it must meet the expectations of peoples around the world by agreeing on a call for action that would send a signal of hope to those struggling against racism. It was essential, he said, to banish from the new century the hatred and prejudice that disfigured previous ones

High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson urged the Conference to focus on the fundamental aims of the Conference and to agree on new strategies needed to combat racism. Stressing the task still ahead, the President of the General Assembly, Harri Holkeri urged delegates to work hard to make the outcome of the Conference a landmark.

President Thabo Mbeki of South Africa, welcoming delegates to the Conference, stressed that the fight against racism must tackle the legacy of slavery.

The Foreign Minister of South Africa, Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, was elected President of the Conference. It is customary at world conferences for a representative of the host country to be elected in this capacity

A dance programme performed by the Ballet Theatre Afrikan preceded the opening of the Conference. The programme was a fusion of indigenous, traditional and contemporary form of dance.

At the beginning of the opening ceremony, a minute's silence was observed in memory of Govan Mbeki, the father of the President of South Africa. He died yesterday, aged 91.

More than 5,000 people attended this morning's ceremonies.

In the afternoon heads of State and government participated in a round-table discussion chaired by President Mbeki. Participating were the President of Algeria, the Chair of Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina, President of Cape Verde, President of Republic of Congo, President of Cuba, President of the Democratic Republic of Congo, President of Latvia, Prime Minister of Mozambique, President of Nigeria, President of Rwanda, President of Senegal, President of Togo, President of Uganda, President of Zambia and the President of the Palestinian Authority.

The round table focused on three broad themes: recalling past instances or practices of racism; examining the sources, causes, forms and contemporary manifestations of racism; and looking to the future -- placing emphasis on the need to draw lessons and to identify concrete and achievable goals.

(Durban, 30 August 2001) - The World Conference against Racism presented an extraordinary opportunity to focus on human dignity as well as rights, Mary Robinson tells a press conference in Durban today.
(Durban, 29 August 2001) - This morning in Durban, the flags of the United Nations and South Africa were raised simultaneously in a ceremony marking the hand-over of the site of the World Conference against Racism to the United Nations. The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and Secretary-General of the World Conference against Racism, Mrs. Mary Robinson, the Minister for Foreign Affairs of South Africa, Mrs. Nkosazana C. Dlamini-Zuma participated in this event. Following the flag raising, the High Commissioner and the Foreign Minister planted a symbolic tree to "remember all victims of racism" as noted by the South African Minister for Water Affairs and Forestry, Mr. Ronald Kasrils. The tree, which is the national tree of South Africa is a yellow-wood tree, the national tree of South Africa. It is a protected species native to South Africa. A yellow wood tree can grow as high as 40 meters with a girth of 8 meters. It can live for 100 years. A commemorative inscription reads "Plant a tree to heal a nation".