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Preparations for UN world conference on racism enter final phase

Preparations for UN world conference on racism enter final phase

The committee preparing the United Nations world conference on racism - scheduled for September in South Africa - began today its final session in Geneva, where participants are trying to reach consensus on what to include in the global meeting's final declaration and programme of action.

During the two-week session, which is open to all UN Member States, the delegates will be considering the proposals that resulted from the preparatory process so far.

The draft programme of action to be considered by the world conference will focus on a wide range of issues, including sources of racism, victims of discrimination, measures of prevention, the provision of effective redress, and strategies to achieve full equality.

In her address to the meeting today, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson said that progress on drafting the final declaration had been slow but that there was still time to look for common ground. She urged the delegates not to get stuck on details. "The challenge which faces us over the next weeks is to identify these areas of consensus and rationalize them into agreed text," she said.

This second and final session of the Preparatory Committee comes in the wake of two recent preliminary meetings in Geneva that brought together States, along with intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations to discuss the elements that would go into the draft declaration and programme of action.

The preparatory process also included regional intergovernmental meetings held in Strasbourg, Santiago de Chile, Dakar and Tehran over the past year. In addition, expert seminars were also held in Geneva, Warsaw, Bangkok, Addis Ababa and Santiago de Chile, focusing on issues such as refugees and multi-ethnic States, remedies available to victims, protection of minorities, migrants and trafficking of persons, ethnic conflicts and economic and social measures for vulnerable groups.

Officially known as the World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance, the global gathering will be held from 31 August to 7 September in Durban.