Racism, Xenophobia Increasing Globally, Experts Tell Third Committee, amid Calls for Laws to Combat Hate Speech, Concerns over Freedom of Expression

GA/SHC/4182
1 November 2016
Seventy-first Session, 39th & 40th Meetings (AM & PM)

Racism, Xenophobia Increasing Globally, Experts Tell Third Committee, amid Calls for Laws to Combat Hate Speech, Concerns over Freedom of Expression

Fifteen years since the adoption of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action, racism and xenophobia were on the rise worldwide, four independent experts told the Third Committee today as delegates opened discussions on ending prejudice and derogatory perceptions of superiority dating to the colonial era and the transatlantic slave trade.

That resurgence was visible in public discourse, the media and political rhetoric, delegates reported, and especially against migrants, refugees, people of African descent and others.  “We still live in a world where we witness politicians and leaders using hateful and divisive rhetoric to divide instead of unite societies,” said Anastasia Crickley, Chair of the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.

Race-based police brutality and retaliatory killings, waves of hate crimes against minorities, and discrimination and violence towards migrants and refugees were all signs of pervasive racism, she continued.  She urged greater political will to implement the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination and called upon the 15 States that had not ratified it to do so.

Those concerns were echoed by Mutuma Ruteere, Special Rapporteur on Contemporary Forms of Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance, who urged States to adopt legislation to combat racism and update anti-racism laws in light of the increasingly open expression of hate speech and incitement to violence.  That recommendation was rejected by the representatives of the United States and the European Union, who in the ensuing dialogue suggested that less severe approaches would be more appropriate.

Ricardo Sunga III, Chair of the Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent, defended that recommendation, explaining that freedom of speech ended with hate speech and stereotyping.  Connecting historical and contemporary forms of racism and highlighting the multigenerational effect of the transatlantic slave trade, he called for public acknowledgement of past injustices and reparations.  The Caribbean Community’s ten-point plan to obtain reparatory justice for the region’s indigenous and African descendent communities offered a globally relevant model for how that could be done.

In the afternoon’s general debate, delegates expressed disappointment with the slow implementation of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action, outcomes of the 2001 World Conference against racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance.  In particular, those speaking on behalf of the Caribbean Community and the “Group of 77” developing countries and China voiced concern that the Group of Independent Eminent Experts, tasked with overseeing implementation, still had vacant posts.

In addition, the Forum on People of African Descent, which was to have been launched in 2015, had not been formed, several delegates said, a delay that Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights Andrew Gilmour explained had been due to one Member State’s insistence that the word “diaspora” be added to the Forum’s title.

Also addressing the Committee today was Gabor Rona, Member of the Working Group on the Use of Mercenaries, who expressed concern about impunity for human rights violations committed by private military and security companies and called for a legally binding international instrument to hold them accountable.  Self-regulatory initiatives, such as the Montreux Document and the International Code of Conduct for Private Security Providers, were insufficient.

Other speakers today were representatives of Thailand (on behalf of the “Group of 77 developing countries” and China), Botswana (on behalf of the African Group), Dominican Republic (on behalf of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States), Trinidad and Tobago (on behalf of the Caribbean Community), United States, Egypt, South Africa (on behalf of the Southern African Development Community), Colombia, Cuba, Russian Federation, Brazil, Israel, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, Liechtenstein, Georgia, Iraq, Turkey, Malaysia and Fiji, as well as observers for the European Union and the Holy See.

At the outset of the meeting, Assistant Secretary-General Gilmour introduced four reports of the Secretary-General and highlighted several recommendations, including one proposing the adoption of affirmative action policies to address conditions contributing to racial discrimination.

The Third Committee will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, 2 November, to continue its discussion on racism.  It was expected to hold a dialogue with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

Background

The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) met this morning to discuss the elimination of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance.

For their discussions, delegates had before them a number of reports by:  the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination on its eighty-seventh, eighty-eight and eighty-ninth sessions (document A/71/18); the Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent (document A/71/297); the Special Rapporteur on Contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance (document A/71/325, A/71/301); and 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/71/318).

They also had before them several reports by the Secretary-General, titled:  “The programme of activities for the implementation of the International Decade for People of African Descent” (document A/71/290); “A global call for concrete action 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/71/399);  “Status of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (document A/71/327); and “Right of peoples to self-determination” (document A/71/326). 

Also before the Committee was a Secretariat note (document A/71/288) on the Group of independent eminent experts on the implementation of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action, as well as a 5 October letter (document A/C.3/71/3) from the Permanent Representative of Kyrgyzstan transmitting a decision by the Council of Heads of State of the Commonwealth of Independent States concerning the Declaration on the seventieth anniversary of the completion of the Nuremberg Tribunal’s work.

Dialogue on Elimination of Discrimination, Xenophobia, Intolerance

ANDREW GILMOUR, Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights, presented four reports, the first of which was the Secretary-General’s report entitled “Status of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination” (document A/71/327), which encouraged those States that had not yet done so to ratify the Convention.

He said the Secretary-General’s report on “Programme of activities for the implementation of the International Decade for People of African Descent” (document A/71/290) found that the second year of the Decade recognized the contribution to society by people of African descent.  It noted with concern the resurgence of xenophobia by politicians in some parts of world, as well as incitement to hatred.  The Working Group of Experts had visited the United States and Italy, finding in the former an alarming use of police brutality.  In Italy, there was great concern at racially motivated hate speech and failure to provide adequate remedies.  States should take positive measures and the Secretary-General called for attention to situation of women and girls of African descent facing discrimination.

The third report, titled “A global call for concrete action 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/71/399), contained an overview of activities by the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Secretary-General’s recommendation that urgent measures be taken to overcome xenophobic attitudes.  A related Secretariat note drew the General Assembly’s attention to a 2015 note to the Human Rights Council on the latest developments regarding a Group of independent eminent experts on the implementation of the Durban Declaration. 

Finally, he introduced the Secretary-General’s report titled “Right of peoples to self-determination” (document A/71/326) which summarized discussions on that right, and the framework of main human rights bodies and mechanisms.  As the General Assembly had called for effective measures to be taken, the report emphasized States’ obligation to promote the right to self-determination in conformity with the United Nations Charter.

When the floor was opened, the representative of South Africa asked the Assistant Secretary-General to share the views of the Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent on how to overcome past legacies, negative stereotyping and hate speech used by politicians and on social media in the context of the migration crisis.  Cameroon’s delegate asked what could be done to ensure that the Forum on People of African Descent was instituted quickly.

Mr. GILMOUR replied that that Forum was supposed to have started in 2015 and agreed that the delay was a serious concern.  That delay was due to political differences among Member States, and in particular one Member State that wanted to add the word “diaspora” to the title.

RICARDO SUNGA III, Chair of the Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent, introducing the group’s report (document A/71/297), expressed deep concern over growing racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia, Afrophobia, and related intolerance in many parts of the world, and the lack of accountability for those acts.  People of African descent historically had been — and continued to be — victims of rights violations, often faced marginalization and structural racism, and in many countries, were targeted by the criminal justice system.  He urged States to adopt national plans against racial discrimination.

                        

He drew attention to “alarming levels of police brutality and excessive use of lethal force by law enforcement officials with impunity against people of African descent”, as well as discriminate use of incarceration, often involving segregation or solitary confinement.  Negative stereotyping was used in all regions and must end.  The Forum for People of African Descent should be established without further delay, he said, noting that the Group was ready to assist stakeholders in implementing the International Decade for People of African Descent.  It was important to draw connections between historical and contemporary forms of racism, including the multigenerational effect of the transatlantic slave trade.  He welcomed the Caribbean Community’s ten-point plan to obtain reparatory justice for the region’s indigenous and African descendent communities.  Its elements were globally relevant.  The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development’s principle of leaving no one behind could be viewed in line with the call for reparatory justice for past historical injustices.

In the ensuing interactive dialogue, representatives of the United States and the European Union expressed support for the Working Group, but disagreed with the recommendation to criminalize racial stereotyping and hate speech.  Questions centred on whether the Working Group Chair had recommendations aside from sanctions, and the suggestion that States and public leaders instead condemn racism when it occurred and encourage a more inclusive society.

Mr. SUNGA III said freedom of speech did not include hate speech and stereotyping.  The new National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington D.C. and the observatory in Ottawa, Canada were important starting points for addressing the legacy of racism, but greater efforts were needed.  He agreed with South Africa’s representative that the links between the past and the present could not be ignored and called for public acknowledgement of past injustices and a conversation on reparatory justice, even if it made officials uncomfortable.

The Forum for People of African Descent should be established without delay and build upon existing agreements.  Responding to a question from Iran’s delegate on the whether there was disaggregated data on crimes perpetrated against Muslim women of African descent, he said the rights of Muslim women should be taken into account.

      Also participating in the discussion were representatives of Morocco and Mexico.

GABOR RONA, Member of the Working Group on the Use of Mercenaries, presenting the Group’s latest report (A/71/318), focused on the evolving role of foreign fighters and mercenaries.  He elaborated on the historical evolution of the role of mercenaries and foreign fighters and their motivations, recruitment and regulation, as well as their impact on human rights, noting that while there was a legal definition of mercenaries in a number of international conventions, there was no international legal definition of a foreign fighter.  However, Security Council resolutions had addressed the issue of foreign terrorist fighters and associated terrorism with foreign fighters.

Outlining developments in domestic legal regulations which had seen an increasing number of restrictions and measures to counter the recruitment of foreign fighters — including the confiscation of passports and removal of citizenship — he said the motivations for mercenaries ranged from profit-seeking to ideology.  There were concerns over the use of private military and security companies, which he said provided States with a seemingly less controversial form of intervention.  Concerns over impunity for human rights violations committed by such private actors had led to self-regulatory initiatives, such as the Montreux Document and the International Code of Conduct for Private Security Providers.  While he commended those efforts, they were insufficient and more comprehensive mechanisms must be found.  He called for a legally binding international instrument to regulate those companies, which would require States to ensure those companies were held accountable.

When the floor opened, the European Union’s representative said confusion about the Working Group’s mandate undermined its work, and asked how the Group planned to take its mandate forward.  Iran’s representative observed that there were well-documented links between Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh) and some countries.  Iraq’s representative asked for best practices in work to stop the inflow of foreign fighters to countries affected by terrorism, and Chile’s representative agreed with the Working Group’s assertion of the need to revisit the concept of mercenaries.

 

Mr. RONA, to questions on best practices, said States, largely pursuant to Security Council dictates, had gone forth with a combination of measures that were punitive and preventative.  Punitive measures were easier to take than preventive ones, and addressing root causes was more difficult than passing laws.  Punitive measures alone were not just ineffective, they were counterproductive, and States would be well-served by taking up the more difficult questions of structural injustices that had led people to resort to terrorism.  He underlined that not all individuals fighting in foreign wars were terrorists, recalling that the Spanish Civil War had involved significant input by foreign fighters.  Distinguishing between foreign fighters and foreign terrorist fighters should include a focus on root causes rather than punitive measures.

He rejected the claim that there was confusion in the Working Group’s mandate, saying that it was to monitor mercenary activity in all its manifestations, its impact on human rights, and in particular, the right of persons to self-determination.  Such allegations had been heard repeatedly, but it was clear the Human Rights Council was aware that the historical notion of mercenaries had transformed in the twentieth century.  The overall problem the Working Group addressed was the question of non-State actors injecting themselves into armed conflicts and affecting the human rights of people on the ground, particularly the right to self-determination.  There was no confusion about its mandate or the importance of dealing in a comprehensive manner with the subject matter.  He suggested that those believing there was confusion review the mandate terminology as granted by the Human Rights Council.

ANASTASIA CRICKLEY, Chair of the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, said that although much progress had been made since the adoption of the International Convention against all forms of racial discrimination in 1965, the world still saw leaders using hateful rhetoric to divide societies, police brutality, retaliatory killings, waves of hate crimes and discrimination and violence toward migrants.  Since its eighty-fifth session in August 2014, the Committee had reviewed 41 State-party reports, adopted decisions on five communications and considered 17 reports of States parties under follow-up procedures, while continuing to engage in dialogue with those parties.  In addition, it had adopted a decision on Burundi in August 2016, and issued 13 letters under its Early Warning and Urgent Action procedure, but observed a “lack of concrete measures taken to ensure their effective implementation”.

Noting that 35 States were more than 10 years overdue with their initial or periodic reports, she said a process of simplified reports and dialogue to assist them to fulfil their obligations was ongoing, and encouraged parties to avail themselves of technical cooperation offered by the Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights (OHCHR).  Extra meeting time allotted to the Committee had reduced the report backlog but had strained resources.  She encouraged the General Assembly to act on recommendations to ameliorate that problem.  The Committee continued to promote the Convention through a range of activities, including celebrations of anniversaries and days of general discussion.  It also interacted with other bodies on migrant welfare, torture, persons with disabilities and other issues.  With a view towards universal ratification of the Convention, she called for support in enlisting States that had not yet done so to accede to it, as well as for the withdrawal of reservations held by States parties.  She finally encouraged more States parties to declare their acceptance of the individual complaints procedure. 

When the floor was opened for questions, delegates asked about progress and challenges in implementing the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action and about how to increase reporting by States parties.

Ms. CRICKLEY said she shared the concern raised by many delegates about reprisals.  The San José Guidelines were important for building confidence in those who might be subjected to reprisals.  To a question from the European Union’s delegate about the effectiveness of early warning procedures, she said she had documented cases of their effectiveness.  She urged the 15 countries which had not ratified it to do so, noting that States parties could also encourage new countries to make their reports to the Committee and ensure that the 177 countries that had ratified the Convention actually implemented it — a task that required political will.

Education about race was important, she emphasized, rejecting arguments that racism and discrimination were well-known problems.  “All you have to do is look at what has happened in this country in the past two years,” she said, and went on to mention rising xenophobia in the United Kingdom and other parts of Europe in the wake of the migration crisis.   She also pointed to a direct connection between hate speech and incitement to hatred.

     

Finally, she stressed the need for political will to engage with the Convention and for State parties not reporting to be encouraged to do so.  In her view, the provisions of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action could be implemented by the Convention.  To Ireland’s delegate, she said she would welcome the opportunity to report before the Third Committee every year as opposed to the current schedule of once every two years.

Also participating in the discussion were representatives of Morocco, Belgium, Mexico, United Kingdom, Denmark, Spain, Russian Federation and China.

MUTUMA RUTEERE, Special Rapporteur on Contemporary Forms of Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance, presented two reports on the conduct of his mandate (documents A/71/301 and A/71/325).  The former, he said, spotlighted the value of putting in place national action plans and specialized bodies for equality, which were essential in addressing the root causes of, and shaping policies aimed at combating, discrimination, racism and xenophobia.  Also encouraging the creation of such bodies at the international and regional levels, he cited as examples the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance and the Inter-American Convention against Racism, Racial Discrimination and Related Forms of Intolerance.

Noting that the number of complaints received and inquiries conducted by national specialized bodies on grounds of racial and ethnic discrimination remained low, he underscored the need to acknowledge the issue of underreporting as one element limiting the contribution such bodies could make in the fight against discrimination.  Other elements included a lack of resources or data, as well as poor visibility among the public.  Turning to responses sent by 11 Member States on efforts to combat the glorification of Nazism, neo-Nazism and other practices fuelling contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination and xenophobia, he stressed that the human rights and democratic challenges posed by extremist political parties, movements and groups were universal and no country was immune to them.  States should adopt legislation to combat racism and update anti-racism laws in light of the increasingly open expression of hate speech and incitement to violence, he said.

Delegates asked about balancing the freedom of expression and combatting xenophobia, best practices and the role of national equality bodies.  They also wondered what more could be done to fully implement the Durban Plan of Action.  Addressing the rise of xenophobia in social media and the rise of radical parties, some asked for suggestions on how to counter that trend.

Mr. RUTEERE responded that balance between the freedom of expression and combating xenophobia must comply with international human rights law.  While he shared the concern about limiting freedom of speech, inaction could be dangerous as well, he said, and States could take a series of measures that were unrelated to criminal law.  On the visibility of national equality bodies, he said a lack of resources and their location in urban areas often limited their impact.  Further, racism had become more invisible, especially in social media, making collaboration among States, national human rights institutions and civil society all the more crucial.  Hotlines and other reporting means could foster a better response, as could national action plans.  In that context, he reiterated the importance of collecting disaggregated data without singling out certain ethnicities.  Data was most useful when it came from different sources.

Participating in the interactive dialogue were representatives of Mexico, South Africa, Indonesia, United Kingdom, Morocco, Switzerland, Russian Federation and Denmark, as well as the European Union.

VIRACHAI PLASAI (Thailand), speaking for the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, said the International Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination, the outcomes of the 2001 World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance and the 2009 Durban Review Conference remained the fundamental frameworks for eliminating racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance.  The progress achieved since the adoption of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action 15 years ago was not enough.  Resolute political will at the national, regional and international levels was indispensable.  The Group of Independent Eminent Experts must carry out its role in rallying political will and it was urgent to fill existing vacancies by the end of March 2017.  He voiced concern about the incitement of hatred, intolerance, racial profiling and negative stereotyping based on religion, belief, language or culture.  The situation of migrants who frequently became victims also was disturbing and he reaffirmed the critical role of education in that context.

Noting the absence of complementary standards to fill gaps in the Convention, he emphasized the need to provide those mechanisms with sustained resources by reactivating the Trust Fund for the Programme for the Decade for Action to Combat Racism and Racial Discrimination.  The persistence of racism and racial discrimination was related to past atrocities of conquest, colonialism, the Holocaust and slavery, which had deepened social and economic inequality and continued to impact people of African descent today.  It was important that efforts to end racism provided for reparation or redress.  The Group welcomed the unveiling of “The Ark of Return, the Permanent Memorial to Honour the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade” on 25 March 2015, which would remind future generations that such inhumane treatment in that tragic chapter of history should never occur again.

CHARLES THEMBANI NTWAAGAE (Botswana), speaking on behalf of the African States and associating himself with the Group of 77 and China, said the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action were the most comprehensive global framework to combat racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance.  He welcomed progress made in line with the Declaration’s obligations.  He added that colonialism, apartheid and political injustice had led to racism and related intolerance, and that Africans and people of African descent — as well as Asian ethnicities — continued to be victims of those scourges.  Governments should ensure that all persons had access to effective remedies and enjoyed the right to seek such reparation.  The African Group would table a General Assembly resolution on slavery, the slave trade, colonialism, reparations and restitution.

He said it was imperative to convene another international conference to assess achievements after 15 years of implementing the Declaration, requesting the Secretary-General to provide an update on the revitalization of the Trust Fund for implementation of the International Decade for People of African Descent.  While recognizing the positive contribution of exercising the freedom of expression, he expressed concern at how new information technologies were being used to propagate racism, racial hatred, xenophobia, racial discrimination and related intolerance, which perpetuated such slavery as child pornography and trafficking in persons.  Internet providers should develop and abide by codes of conduct to prevent trafficking of women and girls.

FRANCISCO ANTONIO CORTORREAL (Dominican Republic), on behalf of the Community of Latin American States (CELAC), underscored the diversity of his region, which had played a positive role in countries’ development.  He rejected all forms of racism and xenophobia, especially against migrants, calling for implementation of all agreed goals within the framework of the Decade for People of African Descent.  Achieving the Durban Agenda, in collaboration with regional human rights bodies, would contribute to the realization of all human rights.

He went on to urge that particular attention focus on the situation of people of African descent and other vulnerable groups.  He underscored the value of affirmative action in closing gaps in education and employment and called for further action at the international level to advance their rights, including though high-level events.

PENNELOPE ALTHEA BECKLES (Trinidad and Tobago), speaking on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and associating herself with the Group of 77 and CELAC, underscored her support for the Special Rapporteur’s conclusions and recommendations.  Encouraging Member States to implement them as a demonstration of political will, she expressed concern about the legitimization of racism and xenophobia in the media and, in some cases, by politicians.  “The resurgence of hate groups and extremist political groups which thrive on messages of racism, xenophobia and discrimination under the guise of patriotism and nationalism is worrying,” she said, stressing that, while States must respect the rights to freedom of expression, conscience, free association and assembly, they should also work to implement the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action and ensure that discrimination, racism and xenophobia did not take root.

Encouraging States to continue to revise their legislation and adopt public policies to address the needs of people of African descent and other groups, she noted with regret the recent resignation and withdrawal of two members of the Group of Independent Experts on the Implementation of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action.  She went on to reiterate her support for the convening of the Forum for People of African Descent as part of the International Decade, which had been mandated in Assembly resolution 69/16, and for the “Ark of Return” memorial which had been erected at United Nations Headquarters last year.  “The Memorial is a symbol of what took place but also of the potential we have to overcome the vestiges of Slavery, which was fuelled by racism,” she concluded.

Ms. WACKER, of the European Union, described the bloc’s legal frameworks that aimed to ensure accountability of perpetrators who spread hate speech and commit hate crimes.  However, legislation on its own was not enough.  It was essential to engage both Government and civil society on actions that “make a real difference on the ground”.  A new High-Level Group of the European Commission sought to prevent and combat specific forms of intolerance to support policy.  Its first thematic discussion examined ways to fight antisemitism and anti-Muslim hatred.  A European Union dialogue was also initiated to remove illegal hate speech on the Internet where necessary and building counter narratives.

He said the European Union focused its financing on the exchange of best practices for preventing racism and empowering victims.  In 2016 alone, it had made €6 million available to grassroots organizations that fostered tolerance.  At the United Nations, the bloc’s approach focused on national implementation of commitments and it would continue to call for the universal ratification of the Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.  Voicing support for streamlined reporting processes, he said the European Union had consistently argued for the efficient use of time and resources in the Durban follow-up mechanisms, as well as proactive engagement in activities for the Decade for People of African Descent.

KYLA BROOKE (United States), recalling the pervasiveness of racism and xenophobia, urged all parties to reject it and speak out whenever it occurred.  Describing national measures taken to counter xenophobia, she stressed the importance of providing training to police forces and policy-makers alike.  Further, public education on the value of diversity and the responsible, full enjoyment of freedom of expression was also needed.

MOHAMED MOUSSA (Egypt), associating himself with the Group of 77 and China and with the African Group, said the human rights system was under increasing pressure from a resurgence of xenophobia, intolerance, racism, and discrimination.  The treatment of refugees in many countries was troubling, as were attempts to conflate combating terrorism with unjustified discrimination against groups on religious grounds.  The international community should make concerted efforts to prohibit the dissemination of racist and xenophobic ideas through the media and education.  The right to self-determination was enshrined in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the United Nations Charter.  The plight of Palestinians was an inevitable consequence of Israel’s occupation. 

NOZIPHO MXAKATO-DISEKO (South Africa), speaking on behalf of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), aligned with Group of 77 and China and the African Group, noted that the region had experienced harsh racism.  She reiterated the Community’s unwavering commitment to eliminate xenophobia and intolerance, adding that the implementation of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action was crucial.  Expressing concern about contemporary racism, she said it impelled the international community to address its challenges.

She urged States to work toward universal ratification of the Convention and remove reservations to Article 4, underscoring the Community’s belief in the spirit of the Declaration’s paragraph 199, recognizing the existence of contemporary racism.  Those complementary standards were necessary to address xenophobia and incitement to hatred.  Just over one year since the launch of the International Decade for People of African Descent, she lamented the slow progress in its implementation.  SADC looked forward to the adoption of a resolution on the elimination of racism and racial discrimination and the implementation of and follow-up to the Durban Declaration, which was to be tabled.

MIGUEL CAMILO RUIZ BLANCO (Colombia) underlined his country’s commitment to enforcing the human rights of all Colombians and to guaranteeing the fundamental rights.  In 2014, Colombia had signed the Inter-American Declaration against Racism, and was committed to moving forward in implementing the International Decade.  Colombia rejected xenophobia and discrimination because diversity contributed to social cohesiveness.

Ms. THOMAS (Cuba), endorsing the statement of the Group of 77 and CELAC, said discrimination persisted in more sophisticated forms than in the past, which required guidance for law enforcement on preventing attacks based on race and ethnicity to be put in place.  “Impunity must end,” she said, expressing concern about the situation of people of African descent.  She reiterated the importance of promoting the right to self-determination — calling on States to support Cuba’s efforts in that regard — and a fair solution in the Middle East.

GRIGORY LUKYANTSEV (Russian Federation) said racial discrimination required concerted international efforts.  The migration crisis had fostered racism and discrimination, including in developed countries, and he called for the full implementation of relevant international instruments.  Old and new forms of racism and xenophobia must be combatted, he said, pressing States to strongly speak out against such worrying trends.  He also expressed concern about stateless persons and their human rights, urging that a solution be found. 

CARLOS SERGIO SOBRAL DUARTE (Brazil), endorsing the statement by CELAC, said there had been an increase in national specialized bodies and national action plans devoted to the elimination of racism.  In Brazil, preparations for the Durban conference had allowed for an intense political dialogue, and the country had taken a number of measures to implement that Programme of Action, including teaching Afro-Brazilian history in elementary and middle school and increasing social spending.  Turning to international matters, he said vulnerable people had suffered most from a surge in xenophobia, discrimination and racism, singling out people of African descent, migrants, refugees and other minorities in that context.

DAVID ROET (Israel) said that diversity should not just be tolerated, but also celebrated.  Having known anti-Semitism for thousands of years, in too many places, Jews were once again afraid to be identified as Jews outside their homes and communities.  “Anti-Semitism does not need a reason, it needs only an excuse,” he said.  It did not exist because of what Jews said or believed, or what the State of Israel did.  The rising tide of anti-Semitism required United Nations leadership, yet there were those in the Organization who stayed silent for fear of antagonizing a certain group of countries.  Anti-Semitism, like all forms of intolerance, never stopped with its intended target, but spread hatred to everything it touched, whether it was directed against refugees and migrants, people of colour or other religious minorities.  “Let us reject bigotry, uphold human rights, and build bridges across communities,” he said.

BERNARDITO CLEOPAS AUZA, observer of the Holy See, said much of the progress made on eliminating racism and xenophobia was at serious risk of being eroded.  The spread of extremist political parties, movements and groups in many parts of the world posed threats to the realization of peaceful, just and inclusive societies.  The resurgence of racist and xenophobic violence in the public sphere appeared driven by fear of one’s responsibility to care for those in need of compassion and solidarity, he said, adding that deaths among refugees and migrants crossing the Mediterranean had reached a record high.  Human dignity was not negotiable or determined by national laws.  The human rights of every individual were inviolable, without distinction, he said, calling on the human family to reaffirm its common determination to fight all forms of discrimination and intolerance.

INDAH NURIA SAVITRI (Indonesia), associating herself with the Group of 77, said the spread of extremist political parties was alarming and had led to increasing numbers of race-based violence and hate speeches.  The human rights and democratic challenges they posed were universal.  Her country continued to strengthen its national mechanisms to promote and protect all citizens from acts of discrimination.  Its law on the elimination of racial and ethnic discrimination included the extended protection of all persons from acts violating the Indonesian constitution or the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  Under the same law, the country’s National Human Rights Commission had been mandated to monitor existing policies, laws and by-laws that could potentially contravene its obligations to the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.

FAHAD S. S. ALHARBI (Saudi Arabia) said challenges related to racism and xenophobia had led to conflict and terrorism in many countries, stressing that the international community could not stand by without intervening.  He rejected the occupation of Palestinian territories and voiced support for the Palestinians’ right to self-determination.  He also called for more support to Palestinian refugees and urged that a solution for the region be found, expressing hope that the new Secretary-General would prioritize a solution for the Middle East.

CLAUDIO NARDI (Liechtenstein) said various forms of racism and xenophobia had had a detrimental effect on the enjoyment of all other human rights.  The Government had explored new approaches to realizing the right to self-determination, which could promote the advancement of human rights and conflict prevention.  A broader perspective could be useful in realizing the potential of self-determination, he said, pointing to the potential for self-administration, self-governance and peaceful coexistence. 

TAMTA KUPRADZE (Georgia) expressed regret that despite international efforts, many continued to suffer from racism and xenophobia.  Therefore, the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action must be reactivated.  National plans were crucial to combating racism, racial discrimination and related intolerance.  Georgia’s anti-discrimination law aimed to ensure equal enjoyment of rights, while specialized police units were tasked with investigating hate crimes.  She voiced concern about ethnically targeted abuses against Georgians in Russian occupied Abkhazia, where they were deprived of education in their mother tongue and access to health care. 

Mr. AL-HUSSAINI (Iraq) reviewed a number of national laws that protected the human rights of Iraqi citizens.  In particular, the Government had spared no effort to respect and protect religious places, a principle established under the Constitution.  The country also had laws to protect the rights of all persons to worship and assemble in connection with a belief.

MURAT UĞURLUOĞLU (Turkey) described his country’s human rights policy as “human rights for all with no discrimination”, stressing that it had initiated legislative and administrative measures in the fields of education and law enforcement to combat discrimination.  Further, the ombudsman and other national human rights institutions had been important partners in combatting xenophobia and discrimination.  He expressed concern about a rise in attacks on religious and ethnic groups and migrants, including members of the Turkish community living in Europe, urging redoubled efforts to protect them.

NEOW CHOO SEONG (Malaysia) reiterated his country’s commitment to realizing all human rights and combatting all forms of racism, xenophobia and discrimination.  He called on the international community to find a peaceful solution for the Middle East, expressing concern that no progress had been made in advancing a two-State solution.  He also voiced concern about attacks on Palestinians, reiterating that Malaysia would continue its efforts to promote the right to self-determination with its partners.

Ms. CHAND (Fiji) said racism and xenophobia had divided the nation since it became a British colony in 1874, and institutionalized racism had instilled attitudes of mistrust, resentment and suspicion in all communities.  Reviewing national measures against racism, such as a 2013 constitutional reform which had defined all citizens by national identity rather than ethnicity, she noted that in Fiji, the indigenous were in the majority.  She cautioned that the rights of the majority must not be used to suppress those of minorities, adding that when it was assumed all members of an ethnically defined community were disadvantaged only because of their ethnicity, that assumption created a privileged class.  The international community must move beyond the politics of race.

For information media. Not an official record.