UN racism conference should focus on today's ills, not past wrongs, Annan says

2 August 2001

The upcoming world conference on racism should focus on fighting the prejudice and other race related issues of today and avoid becoming bogged down with assigning blame for past wrongs, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan said today.

"It should be a forward-looking conference. It should be a conference that comes up with a declaration and a plan of action that helps us fight racism," Mr. Annan told reporters at UN Headquarters in New York in response to a question about the World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance, set to begin later this month in Durban, South Africa.

"If we get bogged down in bitter fights and recriminations, it's really not going to achieve the objective we set for ourselves."

Referring to the current negotiations of the preparatory committee on a draft document that, among other things, contains a reference that equates Zionism with racism, Mr. Annan said that "Member States are working very hard in Geneva to try and get the controversial language out."

While no one can condone the ills of the past such as slavery and other things, Mr. Annan said, "it has happened and it can't be condoned, but we have to move forward and really take steps. There is slavery today, there is racism today. What are we going to do about it?"


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