Flouting International Law, Racism Pervades All Countries, Third Committee Hears at Start of Debate

GA/SHC/4115
3 November 2014
Sixty-ninth session, 37th & 38th Meetings (AM & PM)

Flouting International Law, Racism Pervades All Countries, Third Committee Hears at Start of Debate

‘Afrophobia’, Impunity, New Trends Prevail, Experts Warn as Delegates Raise Concerns over Private Mercenaries, Legacy of Slavery

Emerging trends, racism and a lack of accountability for racist acts continued to occur worldwide despite protection guarantees rooted in international laws, the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) heard today during its consideration of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, and the right to self-determination.

A growing global concern was the use of private military and security companies by the United Nations, said Patricia Arias, Chair-Rapporteur of the Working Group on the use of mercenaries as a means of violating human rights and impeding the exercise of the right of peoples to self-determination.  Since outsourcing security services to private firms posed a number of challenges, such as accountability in transnational operations, possible conflicts of interest and human rights violations, she asked the Organization to conduct thorough assessments and screening before contracts were signed and called for an international binding instrument to regulate those companies worldwide.

During the day-long debate and interactive dialogues with high-level experts, more than 50 speakers shared highlights of their efforts to stamp out racism alongside grim reports of the pervasive nature of related intolerance, rising numbers of incidents on hate speech and the lingering legacy of slavery.  “People of African descent have been historically and continue to be victims of ‘Afrophobia’,” said Mireille Fanon-Mendes-France, Chair of the Working Group on People of African Descent.

Despite the diversity of situations of people of African descent, common human rights concerns included structural racism that had contributed to poverty, poor living conditions and low levels of political participation, she said.  A concrete example aimed at recognizing the shared history of slavery was the role of Black Peter, St. Nicholas’s servant, in the traditions of the Netherlands, she said, sharing her experience during an annual country visit.  Several traditions and behaviours that seemed “normal”, because societies had internalized them, had negatively affected people of African descent, she added.  Welcoming the International Decade for People of African Descent with great optimism, she saw it as an opportunity to recognize and implement the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action, which aimed to fight racism and racial discrimination.

A number of speakers provided updates of their accomplishments in an area that had left a bitter legacy that had lingered into the twenty-first century.  A representative of Belize, speaking on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), said people of African descent had suffered from extreme human rights violations and their forced and uncompensated labour had built the economies of much of the developed world.  A regional reparations commission had, therefore, been established with a goal of constructively engaging former slave-holding countries toward reconciliation and reparatory justice.

Echoing that sentiment was Bolivia’s representative, speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, who said the legacy of slavery was at the heart of profound social and economic inequality that had continued to affect people of African descent.  Therefore, it was important to recognize the social and economic dimension of the injustices of the past, he implored.

Racism had also prevailed in the world of sports, said Mutuma Ruteere, Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance.  Bananas were thrown at players of African descent during European football matches in national leagues and at regional competitions, he said, as he presented his annual report, which focused on racism and racial discrimination in sports.  Regrettably, he added, modern sports continued to be afflicted by incidents and patterns of racial violence, insults and intolerance on the field as well as inside and outside arenas.

“Sports can be used as a positive symbol for social acceptance by conveying the image of multi-ethnic teams representing one nation and competing for a common goal,” he said.  He then called on States to go further and take measures to harness the unique potential of sports to debunk racial superiority discourses, mobilize people and convey messages about equality and non-discrimination.

Also addressing the Committee were Ben Majekodunmi, Chief of the Inter-Governmental and Outreach Section of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights in New York, and Jose Fransisco Cali Tsay, Chair of the Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination.

Participating in today’s interactive dialogues were representatives of Morocco, Brazil, Slovenia, South Africa, Rwanda, Israel, Armenia, Nigeria, Armenia and Cuba, as well as the European Union Delegation.

Delivering statements during the general debate were delegates from Swaziland (on behalf of the Southern African Development Community), United States, Russian Federation, Cuba, Nigeria, Israel, China, Morocco, Brazil, Senegal, United Arab Emirates, Iceland, Pakistan, Algeria, South Africa, Egypt, Iraq, Malaysia, Qatar, Thailand, Ecuador, Bolivia (national capacity), Sudan, Iran, India and Azerbaijan, as well as the European Union Delegation.

Exercising the right of reply, representatives of Estonia, Latvia, Israel, Morocco, Pakistan, India and Senegal also spoke.

The Third Committee will meet again at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, 4 November, to conclude its general discussion on racism and self-determination.

Background

The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) met this morning to discuss the elimination of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, as well as the right of peoples to self-determination.

On the first issue delegates had the following documents before them: Report of the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination on its eighty-third and eighty-fourth sessions (document A/69/18); report of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights transmitting the progress report of the High Commissioner for Human Rights on the realignment of work and name of the Anti-Discrimination Unit (document A/69/186); Report of the Chair of the Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent (document A/69/318); and report of the Secretary-General on the Financial situation of the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (document A/69/328) and on the status of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (document A/69/329).

Delegates also had before them notes by the Secretary-General transmitting the report of the Special Rapporteur on Contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance (document A/69/334) and the report of the Special Rapporteur on Combatting racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance and the comprehensive implementation of the follow-up to the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action (document A/69/340).  It also would take up the report of the Secretary-General on the global efforts for the total elimination of 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/69/354).

For the second topic, Committee members had before them a note by the Secretary-General transmitting the report of the Working Group on the Use of mercenaries as a means of violating human rights and impeding the exercise of the right of peoples to self-determination (document A/69/338) and a report of the Secretary-General on the right of peoples to self-determination (document A/69/342).

Interactive Debate

BEN MAJEKODUNMI, Chief of the Inter-Governmental and Outreach Section, Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights in New York presented several reports related to the elimination of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, as well as to the right of peoples to self-determination.  On the Secretary-General’s report on the status of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (document A/69/329), he said that as of August 2014, the instrument had been ratified or acceded to by 177 States parties.  He also called on Member States to develop and implement national plans to eliminate all forms of racial discrimination.  He said the report on the right of peoples to self-determination (document A/69/342) summarized relevant information as contained in the report of the Secretary-General to the Security Council on the situation concerning the Western Sahara.

In the ensuing interactive dialogue, a representative of Morocco said he was surprised to find a section dedicated to the issue of the Moroccan Sahara in the report A/69/342, as it specifically and deliberately looked at political aspects.  As the Third Committee’s mandate was to discuss humanitarian and human rights issues, he rejected its inclusion.

A representative of Brazil reiterated the importance attached to the International Decade of People of African Descent, asking how the Office planned to assist the implementation of the decade.

Mr. MAJEKODUNMI said he had taken due note of the points raised by the Moroccan delegation, reiterating the relevance of the report with the Third Committee’s mandate and inviting the delegation for bilateral discussions on the issue.  On the involvement of the Office with the implementation of the International Decade of People of African Descent, he said it played the primary role of coordinator of the activities related to the decade.

JOSE FRANSISCO CALI TSAY, Chair of the Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, said that he was presenting his report against a background of new and old conflicts.  While the horrifying images of suffering people that were transmitted by the media were alarming, the “silent marginalization” of millions, including migrant domestic workers, refugees and asylum-seekers, continued to take place beyond the purview of public scrutiny.

Since its eighty-first session in 2012, he added, the Committee had reviewed a total of 40 State party reports and adopted decisions on 4 communications.  There continued to be an overwhelming number of States parties that failed to abide by reporting obligations under the Convention.  He thanked the General Assembly for supporting the Committee’s work through resolution 68/268, which offered various ways for States as well as the Committee to improve their efficiency and effectiveness.

Turning to the Committee’s working methods, he added that the additional meeting time granted to the Committee would enable it to deal with any backlog and consider incoming reports in a timely fashion.  During its eighty-fifth session in August, the Committee had decided to adopt a simplified reporting procedure, which would be offered to States parties whose periodic reports were more than five years overdue.

During the ensuing interactive dialogue, questions were asked about working methods and achievements.  Delegates also asked about the International Decade for People of African Descent and distinctions between hate speech and freedom of expression.

Mr. TSAY said that the extra meeting time had been well used to address a significant backlog of reports.  The submitted reports were examined in a more timely a manner than before.  One of the significant achievements was its analysis of the Convention’s various provisions and the drafting of general recommendations.

Regarding implementation, general recommendations should be viewed as interpretations of the Convention’s articles and, therefore, States parties were obliged to implement them.  The recommendations were a product of a number of thematic discussions that States parties and members of civil society were invited to and had evolved out of discussions with multiple stakeholders, he said.

Committee members had been working on the International Day of Persons of African Descent and had played a special role in establishing the International Decade for People of African Descent, he said.  They were also collaborating with the Working Group on Persons of African Descent.

Regarding the distinction between free speech and hate speech, he said that fighting racist hate speech was part of basic human rights work.  There was no doubt that violent hate speech clearly violated the rights of others.  The Committee’s general recommendation no. 5 outlined what freedom of expression was and how far it could go.  Article 4 of the Convention, in conjunction with articles 5, 6 and 7, were crucial to that debate, he said.

The delegates of Slovenia, Brazil, South Africa and Rwanda participated in the debate.

MUTUMA RUTEERE, Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, presented reports on racism and racial discrimination in sports (document A/69/340) and on combating the glorification of Nazism and other practices that contribute to fuelling contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance (document A/69/334).

The first report covered the legal, policy and regulatory frameworks and measures taken at international, regional and national levels and made recommendations on how to tackle that resilient and complex problem.  “Sports can be used as a positive symbol for social acceptance by conveying the image of multi-ethnic teams representing one nation and competing for a common goal,” he said.  Regrettably, modern sports continued to be afflicted by incidents and patterns of racial violence, insults and intolerance on the field as well as inside and outside arenas.  The most common were in the form of racist abuse aimed at players and supporters and the display of racist banners and flags.  In Europe, he said, there had been many cases of bananas thrown at players of African descent during football matches in national leagues and at regional competitions.

The report also addressed the issue of equal access by ethnic minorities to sports, including sports that were historically known as “white” or “elite”, such as cycling, tennis, golf, equestrian events and swimming.  Wealth played an important role in restricting access to certain sports and those in which participation required higher incomes tend to reflect less diversity, mentioning Tiger Woods as an example of that.  He expressed concern over the need to eradicate racism from sports, which required collective action by international organizations, international sports federations, national Governments, national sports federations and civil society. He also called on states to go further and take measures to harness the unique potential of sports to debunk racial superiority discourses, mobilize people and convey messages about equality and non-discrimination.

In the report on combating glorification of Nazism and other such practices, he reiterated that the human rights and democratic challenges posed by extremist political parties, movements and groups were universal and no country was immune.  Any commemorative celebration of the Nazi regime and its crimes against humanity, whether official or non-official, should be denounced and prohibited by States, he added.  He reiterated his condemnation of any denial or attempt to deny the Holocaust and of all forms of religious intolerance, incitement, harassment or violence against persons or communities on the basis of ethnic origin or religious belief.

During the ensuing debate, delegates asked about measures to tackle discrimination within vulnerable groups and ways the international community could address hate speeches, especially delivered by political parties.  Other questions related to means to protect the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community from violence perpetuated by extremist groups, on tools and policies to uproot racism in the post-2015 era, as well as steps taken by the Special Rapporteur to address racial discrimination in Armenia’s neighbouring countries.  Several delegates asked about ways to motivate sports players to combat racism and about disseminating a general idea of human rights while combatting impunity.

Mr. RUTEERE said that to tackle challenges posed by hate speeches, States needed to develop legislative and policy mechanisms in accordance with international laws, as well as strengthen the voices of communities that were victims of those speeches in order to counter inflammatory statements.  There was a need to pay attention to multidimensional patterns of discrimination affecting LGBT communities and to develop appropriate policies and responses.  On measures to root out racism beyond 2015, he highlighted the role played by extreme poverty in the increasing the vulnerability to ethic and racial discrimination.  As most groups that were victims of racial discrimination also lived in poverty, he added, addressing those root issues would positively influence the fight to stamp out racism.  On issues facing Armenia, he underscored that racial discrimination was a priority in his mandate.  Speaking of the role of non-governmental organization (NGOs) and intergovernmental agencies, he said they were an important source of information as well as potential partners in implementing his mandate.

Delegations participating in the interactive dialogue were Brazil, Israel, Armenia, Morocco, Nigeria, South Africa, as well as the European Union Delegation.

MIREILLE FANON-MENDES-FRANCE, Chair of the Working Group on People of African Descent, said that despite guarantees in international laws, the prevalence of racism and lack of accountability for acts of racial discrimination continued.  Respect for the human rights of people of African descent could only be assured when there were effective legislative remedies.  People of African descent had been historically and continued to be victims of “Afrophobia”.  The failure to provide equal education opportunities to youth of African descent resulted in marginalization, leaving them vulnerable to social profiling and over-representation in the criminal justice system.

Urging States to adopt national actions plans to combat racism against people of African descent, she said the Working Group made two official country visits annually.  Thanking cooperating Member States that had shown a willingness to address the problems of racism, she said in 2014 the Working Group had visited the Netherlands and would visit Sweden.  The group had also communicated with Member States through letters and other communications regarding individual cases.  Welcoming the International Decade for People of African Descent with great optimism, she said that despite the diversity of the situation of people of African descent, there were several common human rights concerns, including structural racism that was contributing to poverty, poor living conditions and low levels of political participation.  She also noted the intersectionality of multiple forms of discrimination on women, children and migrants of African descent.  The decade was an opportunity to prioritize the fight against racism, State by State, she said, calling for initiatives to realize the rights of people of African descent in the Millennium Development Goals.

In the interactive dialogue that followed, delegates highlighted steps that had been taken in their countries to improve the human rights situation of people of African descent and asked questions about judicial remedies and legal frameworks for protecting those rights.

Responding, Ms. FANON-MENDES-FRANCE said that many efforts were underway to recognize the shared history of slavery, including a United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) initiative to trace the route of slave trade.  Another specific example was that the Working Group had questioned the role of Black Peter, St. Nicholas’s servant, in the traditions of the Netherlands.  The Mayor of Amsterdam was reviewing the issue after it had been pointed out that Black Peter was the result of slavery.  Several traditions and behaviours that seemed “normal” because societies had internalized them negatively had affected people of African descent, she said.  The decade was indeed an opportunity to recognize and implement the Durban Declaration and Plan of Action.  “The ten years in front of us will enable us to achieve what was sought in 2001 at the Durban conference,” she said, adding that an International Forum on People of African Descent would enable the Working Group to meet with multiple stakeholders annually.

Also participating were representatives of Brazil, South Africa, Morocco and Nigeria, as well as the European Union Delegation.

PATRICIA ARIAS, Chair-Rapporteur of the Working Group on the use of mercenaries as a means of violating human rights and impeding the exercise of the right of peoples to self-determination, said the annual report considered the use of private security companies by the United Nations, in light of challenges that outsourcing security posed to the Organization and to the local populations.  The proliferation of conflict, and the fact that local populations had become more vulnerable to human rights violations and the effects of a rising number of humanitarian crises, she continued, had led to an increase in Member States’ requests for the United Nations to carry out programmes in high-risk environments.

Due to a strategic shift in security management and Member States’ diminishing capabilities to provide security for United Nations personnel and assets, the Organization’s reliance on the use of private security companies had increased in recent years.  The presence of private security companies operating in conflict zones had raised serious challenges, including accountability in transnational operations.  The United Nations did not use private contractors to perform military services, but to conduct risk assessments, security training, logistical support and demining operations.

In an environment where such companies often changed names and places of registration and where individual contractors that had been dismissed for misconduct by one company could be employed by another, it was essential to have a well-functioning screening and vetting system in place.  That system must ensure that recruits had a record of compliance with the values of the United Nations and with human rights norms.  She called on the Organization to conduct thorough assessment and screening before contracts were signed to avoid possible conflicts of interest and human rights violations, among others.  In addition, given the transnational nature of many private military and security companies’ activities and the flexible corporate structures in that industry, she called for an international binding instrument to regulate those companies worldwide.

In the interactive dialogue that followed, representatives stated that the activities of private military and security companies were not necessarily unlawful.  Some asked about the Working Group’s mandate and about whether it was beneficial for the United Nations to sign the Montreux Document on Private Military and Security Companies.  One delegate asked how did the use of those companies impact local population’s right to self-determination.

Responding, Ms. ARIAS said that the Working Group welcomed the Montreux Document because it contained a long list of good practices that would ensure compliance with international humanitarian laws.  The Group was especially concerned about the Organization’s use of such companies and the processes by which they were being used, she said, underlining that what the United Nations did in that regard was a point of reference for Member States.  Not enough had been done to ensure that international laws were being followed when such companies were used.  Risks to human rights were greater in the use of such companies when they were illegal as opposed to when they had legal status.  There were also risks when such companies participated in peacekeeping efforts.  The Montreux Document referred to events that had occurred in armed conflict.  The Organization’s use of private military and security companies occurred in a variety of situations leading to a greater range of violations.  However, it would be beneficial for the United Nations to sign the Montreux Document as it would send a positive signal to Member States.

Further, she said a number of studies had indicated that the use of those companies impacted human rights and it was vital to ensure greater controls.  Most countries had not regulated the military activities of such companies, so there were no mechanisms for accountability or reparations.  Lack of verification mechanisms meant that companies did not always follow the international code of conduct for private security companies.  That would, in turn, compromise the legitimacy of the United Nations.

Participating in the dialogue today were representatives of Cuba and the European Union’s delegation.

Statements

SACHA SERGIO LLORENTTY SOLÍZ (Bolivia), speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, said that the International Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination and the outcomes of the 2001 World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance were the fundamental legal frameworks for the effective elimination of those wrongful practices.  The group rejected racial profiling and negative stereotyping against persons based on their religion or belief.  The situation of migrants that became victims of exploitation and xenophobia was also a matter of great concern.

The persistence of racism, he added, was related to conquests, colonialism, the Holocaust and slavery.  The legacy of slavery, in particular, was at the heart of situations of profound social and economic inequality, which continued to affect people of African descent.  Therefore, it was important to recognize the social and economic dimension of the injustices of the past.  Further, education was a significant means of creating awareness at all levels of society, particularly among young people.  The “Group of 77” would table a resolution on global efforts for the total elimination of racism and the comprehensive implementation of the follow-up to the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action.

LOIS MICHELE YOUNG (Belize), speaking on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), said the report of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) stated that no country could claim to be free from various forms of discrimination.  She agreed with the need for stronger political will to reverse hostile racist and xenophobic attitudes and violence.  Turning to the report on people of African descent, she called for a comprehensive plan of action for the International Decade for People of African Descent, with a focus on reparatory justice.  A permanent memorial to the victims of slavery and the transatlantic slave trade at the United Nations would be erected, she added, as a reminder of the survival of the ancestors of those victims, but also as a symbol of the ongoing need to address the lasting legacies of slavery, such as racism and discrimination.

The history of the Caribbean region as a whole reflected the legacy of injustice perpetuated against Africans and their descendants who suffered untold violations of fundamental human rights as the victims of the transatlantic slave trade, she added.  People of African descent had suffered extreme violations, she said, and their forced and uncompensated labour built the economies of much of the developed world.  A regional reparations commission had been established, she continued, with the aim of constructively engaging former slave-holding countries toward reconciliation and reparatory justice.  The region had already taken steps, such as developing a Caribbean reparatory justice programme that encompassed a full formal apology, reparations, an indigenous peoples’ development programme and other efforts, including the development of cultural institutions, support for public health and literacy education.  Other initiatives included the creation of an African knowledge programme, psychological rehabilitation, technology transfer and debt cancellation.  The Caribbean Community also supported the continued process of self-determination for the remaining small island non-self-governing territories in the region, recommending the Third Committee to give due attention to that issue.

VULINDLELA SIMPHIWE KUNENE (Swaziland), speaking on behalf of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), said it was critical to reiterate the importance of the role that the Durban Declaration and the Programme of Action had in the forthcoming period.  People of African descent in the diaspora continued to live in conditions of extreme poverty, which had been exacerbated by the recent economic and financial crisis.  The Community believed that the International Decade for People of African Descent would contribute to the restoration of dignity of victims of historical injustices.  Thus, the main goal was to promote respect, protection and fulfilment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms, as recognized by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  In that regard, SADC States welcomed the work of the Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance.

All SADC Member States believed that all forms of intolerance were a scourge that required concerted efforts of the international community.  Further, he noted that there must be a unity among nations to eliminate extremism and place emphasis on a respect and acceptance of differences.  Accordingly, the Community was pleased by the fact that the promotion and protection of human rights of people of African descent was becoming an increasing priority for the United Nations.

EVA CHARLOTTA SCHLYTER, of the European Union Delegation, reiterated the group’s commitment to fight racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, which remained a priority in its human rights agenda.  The main objective, she continued, was to ensure that all Member States tackled all forms of hatred and extremism by building respect for differences and unity in the face of such threats.  Further, she noted that the European Union was no exception in light of the victimization of the Roma community and immigrants.  Accordingly, all Member States were required to introduce laws to fight racism and xenophobia by penalizing intentional public incitement to violence or hatred on the basis of race, religion, descent, national or ethnic origin.

Agreeing with the Special Rapporteur that eliminating racism in sports remained a challenge, she recommended that all stakeholders supported existing initiatives on the subject matter.  Racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance were concerns for all and the international community must be united, she stressed.  In that regard, the Union welcomed the work of civil society organizations worldwide.  Concluding, she said, a world free from discrimination and prejudice was achievable through, among other things, the implementation of commitments made.

JILL DERDERIAN (United States) stated that her country was working hard domestically and internationally to combat racism, racial discrimination and intolerance.  As a State party under the Convention, the United States had implemented a robust framework of laws, programmes and enforcement at the federal, state, territorial, tribal and other levels.  Recent events in Ferguson, Missouri were a reminder of the vital importance of having a continued commitment on that matter.  Citing President Barack Obama’s words when he addressed the General Assembly, she said “we address our differences in the open space of democracy with respect for the rule of law”.  The “My Brother’s Keeper” initiative was launched earlier this year to combat opportunity gaps faced by young men of colour, she said, and her country was also supporting anti-racism programmes around the world, including the United States-Colombia programme for racial equality.

GRIGORY LUKHYANYSEV (Russian Federation) said that decisive action was necessary for combatting racism, which should have been consigned to history.  Next year, the international community would be celebrating the seventieth anniversary of the Second World War and the fiftieth anniversary of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination.  The glorification of Nazism and neo-Nazism was unacceptable.  Humanity had paid too high a price to calmly watch the same evil raise its head again, he said, noting that city streets in the centre of Europe were witnessing Nazi marches.  Another serious issue was the shameful practice of arbitrarily revoking citizenship.  Stateless persons were deprived of the ability to exercise any rights, he said, calling on the international community to accelerate progress toward eliminating all forms of racism, including modern ones.

HOMERO ACOSTA ÁLVAREZ (Cuba) said the full implementation of the International Decade for People of African Descent, declared at the World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance continued to be a pending matter for achieving equal rights among all human beings.  Welcoming the efforts of the Working Group on People of African Descent, he urged all Member States to work together and adopt a new international framework.  Like every year, he noted, his delegation was preparing a draft resolution, for which he called upon Member States to support its self-determination initiative.  He concluded by expressing his country’s support for the inalienable right of the Palestinian people to self-determination, and a commitment to combat all forms of unilateral actions, such as the embargo imposed on Cuba by the United States.

AMINA SMAILA (Nigeria) said the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action remained the most comprehensive blueprint for addressing issues of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance.  Despite significant achievements in implementing them, overall success had been undermined by developments unforeseen at its adoption and a lack of will.  Accordingly, Nigeria appreciated the Intergovernmental Working Group on the Effective Implementation of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action.  Further, she said, racism and racial discrimination were taking on new forms in many parts of the world, including racial profiling, stereotyping and hate crimes.  To that end, her country was determined to play a leading role in combatting racism in all its forms.  It was also important to foster cooperation between all stakeholders such as national human rights institutions, NGOs and States.

YONI ISH-HURWITZ (Israel) said that racism, anti-Semitism and homophobia were illnesses born out of intolerance.  The United Nations had emerged from the scorched battlefields of the Second World War with the promise that history should not repeat itself, he said, calling attention to the memory of the six million Jews who were murdered in the Holocaust.  “Never again”, he emphasized.  Yet, according to reports from the World Zionist Organization, anti-Semitism was at its highest levels since the 1930s.  Israel was a vibrant, pluralistic and inclusive society.  That could be seen in classrooms where children were taught tolerance, in factories where Jews and Arabs worked side by side and on sports teams where Jews, Muslims and Christians shared a uniform.  Israel would not stand quietly as racism threatened to poison the hearts and minds of another generation.

LIANG HENG (China) said that even as the wounds inflicted by racism ran deep, the resurgence of racism and xenophobia could be witnessed around the world.  Her country advocated dialogue and had a zero-tolerance policy for racism at the national and international levels.  The right to self-determination was a sacred right for all peoples, she added, and China had always supported the Palestinian people in their demand for statehood.  The international community must work tirelessly for the achievement of a just and comprehensive solution in the Middle East.  At the same time, the right to self-determination must be exercised without distortion and it must not be used as an excuse to split up a sovereign State.

OMAR RABI (Morocco) said there had been a significant increase in racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance all around the world.  Emphasizing the double standards of certain countries, he reminded the Committee that self-determination and building a world in which everyone could live in harmony were the ideals rooted in the United Nations Charter.  Despite progress, he said, the world was now seeing new forms of self-determination.  Reminding delegates that the international law guaranteed the creation of nation States for the sake of international peace and security, he said the international community must cultivate peace and confidence in democratic and modern self-determination.

ERIKA ALMEIDA WATANABE PATRIOTA (Brazil) said her country was home to the largest population of people of African descendent, a majority of which still lived on the outskirts of cities.  To address the issue of equality, the Government had implemented affirmative action efforts, such as increasing quotas in universities and the civil service for people of African descent.  Together, with social programmes and increased social protection, she continued, Brazil had been promoting the human rights of groups that had been subjected to vulnerabilities in order to build a more just and egalitarian society.  Accordingly, Brazil had committed to effectively implement the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action, and the Outcome Document of the 2009 Review Conference.  Also, in a joint effort with the United Nations, the Government and the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) had engaged in the “Say no to Racism” campaign.  Concluding, she called upon Member States to tackle the issue of discrimination associated with social status, colour, sexual orientation and gender identity.

IBRAHIMA SYLLA (Senegal), said that the two questions before the Committee today were both extremely important international concerns.  The Palestinian people’s struggle for full accession to the international community was being hindered by the occupying Power.  The building of a separation wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territories was a flagrant violation of international law.  The pursuit of settlements in the West Bank, Jerusalem and the Syrian Golan Heights threatened the two-State solution.  Further, the discriminatory policies pursued by some States that saw foreigners as threats had led to exploitative policies targeting migrants.  “We should not lose sight of the fact that migration was a major pillar of human development,” he said.  Concluding, he reaffirmed the will of his Government to work towards a free and independent Palestine and a world liberated from the scourge of racism.

SAEED AL-SHAMSI (United Arab Emirates) said that the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination was a prime tool for creating a world of peace and justice.  His country had acceded to the Convention and had brought its national legislation in line with it.  Condemning the discriminatory practices and violence perpetrated by terrorist groups, he called on the international community to bring them to justice.  It was vital to respect the United Nations Charter, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other related international instruments that focused on self-determination.  The Palestinian people were still deprived of that right because of Israel’s occupation.  The United Arab Emirates was committed to helping the Palestinian people rebuild Gaza, he concluded, and called on the international community to condemn and put an end to Israel’s expansionist policies.

NIKULAS PETER JOHN HANNIGAN (Iceland) urged all States to become parties to the Convention on the Elimination on All Forms of Racial Discrimination.  He shared the concerns of Mr. Ruteere regarding the prevalence of racist acts, notably against players of African descent at sporting events worldwide.  Sports should be fully used to combat manifestations of racial discrimination, xenophobia and intolerance.  He condemned the rise in hate speech in discourse, media and online against race, gender and the LGBT community.  Iceland was staunchly committed to fighting discrimination and its Constitution prohibited it.  He was particularly concerned about how to combat online hate speech, which had led to a sense of impunity and further fuelled the fires of hatred.  He reiterated Iceland’s support for the inalienable right of the Palestinian people to self-determination and the application of the State of Palestine for full membership to the United Nations.

DIYAR KHAN (Pakistan) said the right to self-determination must be exercised in an environment free from coercion or duress, as electoral processes held in situations of foreign occupation or alien domination did not reflect people’s true wishes.  Self-determination did not lapse with the passage of time.  Nor could it be “set aside” by charges of terrorism.  State terrorism and the use of mercenaries to supress the right to self-determination also deserved attention.  He regretted that the people of Jammu and Kashmir had been deprived of their right to self-determination, saying that Pakistan had consistently opposed all forms of racism and xenophobia.  He urged States to put in place effective legal and administrative remedies for combating behaviour such as faith-based discrimination and inciting violence through hate speech.

BAKHTA MANSOURI (Algeria) said despite the progress made in challenging racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, those phenomena had not been eradicated yet.  Racial discrimination was at the heart of human rights violations because it concerned the fundamental principle of respect for human dignity and social justice, she continued.  Thus, urgent action was needed to fight against hatred and intolerance against different groups.  Turning to self-determination, she said her country had recognized national self-determination as a cardinal point of its foreign policy.  Accordingly, the violation of the right to self-determination was a violation of human rights as a whole, as well as a form of discrimination, she concluded.

AMANDA MKHWANAZI (South Africa) said racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance had negative impacts on the full enjoyment of social, economic and cultural rights.  In that regard, she called upon all stakeholders to demonstrate further political will to eliminate such practices, while reaffirming South Africa’s commitment to the 2001 World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance and the adoption of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action.  Concluding, she welcomed the positive response from the OHCHR for dealing with issues of racism, and called upon all Member States to combat the evil scourge of racism internationally.

OSAMA MAHMOUD (Egypt) said that despite commendable progress, it was saddening to witness new forms of racism in the contemporary world.  Democracy was incompatible with racism and the proliferation of racist and extremist movements in democratic societies was alarming.  Often, such movements had a political agenda that contradicted the spirit of peace and tolerance.  Combating terrorism and unjustified discrimination against some ethnic or religious minorities were matters of concern.  It was imperative to formulate international policies to combat new racist campaigns.  Enlightened education and partnerships with civil society were crucial to combat that.  Turning to self-determination, he added that the fact that the Palestinian people did not have the right to establish their own State was a stark example of “mission unaccomplished”.  Despite reports and resolutions, Israel continued to occupy Arab territories by force.

YAHYA AL-OBAIDI (Iraq), said that Article 14 of the Iraqi Constitution of 2005 stated that all Iraqis were equal before law regardless of race, religion, belief or other factors.  Iraq had also taken many measures to protect minorities, dedicated eight seats in the Parliament to those groups.  The tenets of the Christian faith as well as the Syriac and Turkmen languages were taught in Christian-majority schools.  In the regions controlled by the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant/Sham (ISIL/ISIS), minorities were suffering from persecution on a daily basis.  Despite those grave challenges, the Government of his country would continue to preserve the diversity and plurality of the Iraqi people.  It was determined to continue to fight terrorist groups and liberate the areas that were under the control of ISIL.

Mr. KASSIM (Malaysia) welcomed the Secretary-General’s report, which highlighted the implications of Israeli settlements on the civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights of the Palestinian people throughout the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem.  Malaysia had always believed in a two-State solution, based on the 1967 borders, he said, condemning Israel’s unlawful annexation and demographic manipulations.  As members of the international community, he reminded all States to “never accept injustice”.  Accordingly, the only way forward was to ensure that Palestinians were afforded their basic rights as human beings, including their right to an independent State.  Thus, he called upon the Member States to shoulder the responsibility of eliminating Israel’s persistent violations of international law and the United Nations resolutions.

AMEENA AL-MALKI (Qatar) said that despite global policies to address racism, there were many people who were still suffering from such practices.  Reiterating her country’s commitment to promoting equality and peace, she called on all Member States to eliminate racial discrimination and intolerance.  For its part, Qatar had enshrined human rights protection in its Constitution, encouraging the abandonment of all forms of violence.  On the right to self-determination, her delegation called for an independent State of Palestine, in line with the inalienable right to self-determination.

KIRADIT SACHDEV (Thailand) said that being a multi-ethnic society had been the source and inspiration behind the vibrancy of his country’s economic, social and cultural life.  The Government had a clear stance on promoting and supporting good relations among its citizens as well as people of other nationalities, he continued.  Accordingly, the country remained committed to obligations under the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination.  Further, he emphasized that the Government had implemented concrete measures to promote understanding and unity among its peoples based on human security.  Noting that civil society played a strong role in fighting for the elimination of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, he said that Thailand would continue to advocate interfaith and intercultural dialogues to foster an environment of mutual understanding and tolerance and a sustainable peaceful society.

XAVIER LASSO MENDOZA (Ecuador) said that his country had developed domestic policies that aimed at unprecedented social investment in health, housing and education.  “We are trying to change the old racist, exclusionary system inherited from colonial times,” he said.  Affirmative action measures had been adopted, with one example being that 27 young Afro-Ecuadorians had been selected through an open merit-based competition for the diplomatic track.  Making ethnic groups visible in national surveys had enabled the country to create policies that targeted their welfare.  Welcoming the Decade of People of African Descent, he said it would enable all Member States to strengthen their national, regional and international frameworks and put them in line with Durban Declaration and Programme of Action.  Turning to the right to self-determination, he added that his Government reiterated its solidarity with the Palestinian people.

INGRID SABJA (Bolivia), speaking in her national capacity, said that her country had established a state policy for those who had been historically marginalized by colonial powers and to deal with the racist attitudes that had persisted for centuries.  Further, Bolivia had ratified the Durban Declaration and had brought the country’s legislation in line with its principles.  The national committee against racism was responsible for policies to eliminate racial discrimination.  The right of people to self-determination was a sine qua non for all other rights, she added, and the Palestinian people had an absolute right to that.  Bolivia urged the international community to cooperate to reach a just, peaceful and lasting solution for the plight of the Palestinian people.

BAHERELDEEN GAMARELDEEN (Sudan) reiterated his country’s commitment to promoting and protecting all human rights, noting that his country’s national legislation guaranteed all human rights, based on tolerance and acceptance of others.  On the criticism made by the European Union, he said all States had challenges in the promotion and protection of human rights.  Accordingly, he called upon the European Union to improve its human rights situation and improve cooperation with the OHCHR, Human Rights Council and all Member States.  Concluding, he reaffirmed Sudan’s support for an independent Palestinian State with Jerusalem as its capital.

MOHAMMAD GHAEBI (Iran) recalled that one year ago his country had called for “a world against violence and violent terrorism” in General Assembly resolution 68/127.  Few people could have forecast the fire that raged today.  A lack of an accurate understanding of how the current conditions came about combined with incorrect approaches towards it had intensified the world’s difficulties in addressing extremist movements.  Racism, terrorism and extremism grew in poverty, unemployment, discrimination, humiliation and injustice.  To combat it, States should not allow the distortion of divine teachings to justify brutality.  It was deplorable that murderous groups had called themselves “Islamic” and that the Western media had repeated those claims, which had only intensified the manifestations of “Islamophobia”, as shown in the seventh annual report on the Organization of Islamic Cooperation.  Iran’s approach toward ethnic groups and religious minorities was based on using the multilingual and multi-ethnic fabric of the country to establish a stable and peaceful society.

MAYANK JOSHI (India) said that his country was a multi-religious, multi-ethnic and multilingual society, fully committed to the goal of eliminating all forms of discrimination.  The Indian Constitution had enshrined the principle of equality and expressly prohibited discrimination on account of race, place of birth, religion, caste, creed or sex.  India had long played a lead role in the historic struggle for decolonization, he added.  Today, Palestine remained the unfinished task in the realization of the right of peoples to self-determination.  It was imperative that there was an early negotiated resolution, resulting in a sovereign, independent, viable and united State of Palestine, living within secure and recognized borders, side by side and at peace with Israel.  Further, his delegation stressed that Pakistan’s unsolicited comments pertaining to Jammu and Kashmir were factually incorrect.  Free, fair and open elections were regularly held in that territory at all levels.

HUSNIYYA MAMMADOVA (Azerbaijan) stated that her country had guaranteed equal rights to everyone, irrespective of race, political conviction or occupation.  Throughout the centuries, Azerbaijan had been home to many minorities who lived peacefully with Azerbaijani people.  Xenophobia was non-existent in her country.  Everyone living in the country had the right to appeal to the country’s Ombudsman who continued to hold awareness campaigns on human rights.  Azerbaijan was a secular country.  The promotion of religious tolerance and inter-cultural dialogue were indispensable elements of the Government’s efforts to ensure peace and harmony in the country.  Azerbaijan was a model of tolerance for other countries.

Right of Reply

Exercising the right of reply, a representative of Estonia said that every person living in her country received equal treatment.  The Government encouraged persons living undocumented in Estonia to apply for Estonian citizenship.  Also, she noted that basic education was compulsory, including in the Russian language.

Also exercising the right of reply, a representative of Latvia condemned all forms of totalitarian ideology, anti-Semitism, racism, Nazism and other forms of intolerance.  On the issue of minority schools, she asked why there was no Ukrainian minority school in the Russian Federation despite the existence of two million Ukrainians in that country.  Concluding, her delegation was concerned about the neo-Nazi violence and racial discrimination in the Russian Federation.

Also exercising the right of reply, a representative of Israel asked Member States supporting Palestine whether they were also supporting the terror attacks by the Palestinian Authority against his country.  Reminding all countries, he noted that Hamas wanted the destruction of Israel rather than peace.  Turning to the issue of self-determination, he underlined that it would come only with the process of negotiation.  There were more important problems, such as Islamic extremism, he said.

Also speaking in exercise of the right of reply, a representative of Morocco said the Moroccan Sahara was not under the Third Committee’s mandate.  Furthermore, it was useless to deviate from the parameters set out by the Security Council, which included negotiations for a just and mutually acceptable solution.  The Moroccan proposal for autonomy in the Sahara was fully in line with the parameters set out in the Security Council and was the basis for negotiations.

Also exercising the right of reply, a representative of Pakistan said that the Indian delegation had alleged that Jammu and Kashmir was part of India.  How could that be when the United Nations Security Council had adopted several resolutions declaring Jammu and Kashmir a disputed territory?  Regarding elections in Jammu and Kashmir, he added that those elections had been rejected by the United Nations and the Kashmiri people.  Resolutions had clarified that no electoral exercise conducted by the Indian authorities could be a substitute for a free plebiscite held by the United Nations.

Also speaking in the exercise of the right of reply, a representative of India said that the elections in Jammu and Kashmir had been held under the scrutiny of international media, which had not faulted those elections.

Exercising the right of reply, a representative of Senegal said that her country’s statement was based on the reports of the Secretary-General on the occupied Palestinian territories.

Taking the floor for a second time, the representative of Pakistan said the elections held under foreign occupation could not be a substitute to impartial elections.

Also taking the floor for a second time, the representative of India noted that the references of Pakistani delegation were out of context.

For information media. Not an official record.