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Top UN rights official says civic groups must engage society in anti-racism work

Top UN rights official says civic groups must engage society in anti-racism work

Mary Robinson
The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights today urged a forum of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) meeting in advance of the World Conference against Racism to engage every sector of society in the ongoing struggle against discrimination - even reaching out to those with whom they may disagree.

"We won't make any progress unless we can find ways of working together in new and innovative ways," High Commissioner Mary Robinson told the NGO Forum in Durban, South Africa.

According to Mrs. Robinson, one of the most positive aspects of the World Conference that opens on 31 August has been the "clear evidence of an emerging alliance between governments and civil society on follow-up to this Conference."

"I have said on many occasions that the World Conference is not an end but in fact the beginning of a worldwide movement for diversity and non-discrimination," she said. "That is why I place such emphasis on how we go forward from Durban."

The High Commissioner also encouraged the NGO representatives to continue to be "the voices of victims and the watchdog of government performance," noting that they had a key role to play in monitoring how governments implement the commitments they will enter into in Durban.

Referring to the NGO Forum's draft declaration, Mrs. Robinson asked the participants to "help repair the loss of human dignity and self-respect that has resulted from past mistakes [and] to create a climate of reconciliation and forgiveness in order to heal humanity's deepest wounds." She also urged them to promote a shift in consciousness and attitude in order to build a world based on universal values and awareness of "our common identity as members of the one human family."

The World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance is set to run from 31 August to 7 September in Durban.