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Annan: civil society must hold governments to agreements on anti-racism measures

Annan: civil society must hold governments to agreements on anti-racism measures

Civil society must work actively with governments in following up on the agreements that will be made at the upcoming United Nations anti-racism conference to ensure that the meeting's outcomes were implemented, Secretary-General Kofi Annan said today in Durban, South Africa.

In an address to the Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) Forum, an event held in conjunction with the World Conference against Racism, which formally opens tomorrow, Mr. Annan said the important thing for the civil society groups was not the degree of formal recognition they receive in the conference hall, "but what you do when you get back home."

Acknowledging that some groups felt their concerns would not be properly represented in the conference itself, the Secretary-General urged them to channel their anger and frustration into the creation of a worldwide antiracist movement. "Texts adopted in conference halls will not change anything, unless people like you work with governments to follow them up, and to ensure that they are implemented," he said.

Mr. Annan encouraged civil society to set benchmarks by which to measure whether governments were living up to their word and to speak out against stereotyping wherever it occurred. "And you must shine a spotlight into the dark corners where racism lurks, in every society," he said.

The Secretary-General also suggested that civil society could work together to produce an annual report on the struggle against racism, to which different groups in each country would contribute. "I mean a report that highlights not only violations but also success stories, so that practices which have worked against racism and intolerance in one country can be tried in others, too," he said.

The world community's greatest hope of change was in the rise of a new generation, free from the fears and prejudices of the old, the Secretary-General said. The biggest responsibility, therefore, fell on parents and teachers, and on those who write textbooks, or plan school curricula.

"They must see to it that children are taught to take pride and pleasure in diversity, and not to recoil whenever they see someone whose habits or appearance are different from their own," he said.

This evening the Secretary-General was scheduled to begin a series of bilateral meetings with various heads of state and other leaders, including President Gnassingb Eyadema of Togo, Yasser Arafat, President of the Palestinian Authority; Pascoal Manuel Mocumbi, Prime Minister of Mozambique; and President Abdelaziz Bouteflika of Algeria.