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Robinson says UN anti-racism forum should help heal 'ragged edges of hatred'

Robinson says UN anti-racism forum should help heal 'ragged edges of hatred'

Mary Robinson
The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights today said the upcoming World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance must directly confront the extensive suffering caused by those scourges.

"If we are to seize the unique opportunity [the Conference] offers, we must find a conversation to let us talk about the extraordinary pain we have inflicted on one another on this planet," wrote High Commissioner Mary Robinson in a commentary for the Los Angeles Times. "Unless we can find a way to talk about the ragged edges of human hatred, we will return to a silence that is itself damaging."

Writing from her experience of extensive global contacts on the issue, Mrs. Robinson said she has found "a sense among many people that the death and suffering that resulted from slavery have never been adequately marked, much less mourned." She warned that failure to cope with past injustice would hamper any efforts at advancement. "It is nearly impossible to shape a new future if old wounds are still open."

The High Commissioner said those wounds could be healed if the global community adopts language "that solemnly recognizes the hurt and exploitation of the past."

At the same time, she underscored the daunting nature of the tasks facing the Conference, which is set to open on 31 August in Durban, South Africa. In addition to dealing with "traditional" forms of racism, the meeting will also consider victims who have not previously received much international attention, such as refugees, asylum seekers, migrants, Gypsies, trafficked persons, and those of African descent living in Latin America and the Caribbean.

A "deeper conversation about racism" will require an understanding of the inherent value of each person, stressed Mrs. Robinson, quoting Archbishop Desmond Tutu as saying, "Worth is intrinsic, not dependent on anything external, extrinsic. Thus there can be no superior or inferior race. We are all of equal worth, born equal in dignity and born free, and for this reason deserving of respect."

"Archbishop Tutu's words sum up the goal of the Durban Conference: a world where racism, intolerance and discrimination are spurned and differences and diversity are celebrated," said the High Commissioner.