Leading international figures will meet in Geneva to back anti-racism forum

Leading international figures will meet in Geneva to back anti-racism forum

As a prelude to the United Nations world conference on racism, nine leading international figures are scheduled to meet tomorrow in Geneva to give their moral and intellectual backing to efforts to forge an international consensus in the struggle for racial harmony and tolerance.

The nine are part of the Eminent Persons Group set up in June by UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson to help in advancing the aims of the World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance to be held from 31 August to 7 September in Durban, South Africa.

Group members include Martti Ahtisaari, former President of Finland; Emeka Anyaoku, former Secretary-General of the Commonwealth; Gareth Evans, former Foreign Minister of Australia and Dr. Najma Heptulla, President of the Inter-Parliamentary Union.

Cardinal Roger Etchegaray, former President of the Pontifical Council of Justice and Peace of the Vatican; Soheib Bencheikh El Hocine, Grand Mufti of Marseilles; David Lange, former Prime Minister of New Zealand are among the other participants.

Federico Mayor, former Director General of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and Dr. Nafis Sadik, former Executive Director of the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) and current Special Representative of Secretary General Kofi Annan to the World Conference, will also take part in the event.

The members of the Group will hold a roundtable discussion as ongoing negotiations in preparation for the World Conference reach a critical stage. Addressing participants of the preparatory talks, Mrs. Robinson, who is also the Secretary-General of the World Conference, urged them to take advantage of the wisdom of the Eminent Persons Group.

"The insights and experience of the Eminent Persons Group can strengthen efforts to generate a sense of common purpose," she said. "They can give us moral leadership and inspiration."