Top UN human rights official urges States to uphold pledges to fight racism

6 October 2008

The United Nations human rights chief today called on States to do more to uphold the promises they made seven years ago to tackle racism, xenophobia, discrimination and intolerance – global problems that still plague millions on a daily basis.

“I urge all Member States to travel that extra mile that makes historic change possible, and to focus on the concrete pledges undertaken in Durban that will help bring an end to all forms of discrimination,” High Commissioner for Human Rights Navanethem Pillay said, referring to the World Conference Against Racism held in South Africa in 2001.

She added that implementation of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action – the landmark documents agreed by Governments seven years ago – “still lags sorely and lamentably behind the solemn commitments that States pledged to fulfil seven years ago.”

Addressing a preparatory meeting in Geneva for next year’s review of the progress made since Durban, Ms. Pillay urged States to participate in the process “to ensure that victims of racism, inequality, injustice and intolerance are not left to believe that the international community is incapable of overcoming its differences in order to properly and fully address their plight.”

She recalled that, seven years ago, “the virulent anti-Semitic behaviour of a few non-governmental organizations [NGOs] on the sidelines” overshadowed the work of the Conference.

The ongoing review process, she stated, provided a much-needed opportunity to assess and accelerate progress on implementation of the Programme of Action, which would help end all forms of discrimination including anti-Semitism and Islamophobia.

At the same time, the review process is “burdened, understandably, with a fear that incidents expressing hatred and intolerance will be repeated.”

Ms. Pillay called on States to take a more forward-looking approach. “It would be tragic to allow this fear to compromise our efforts to find common ground and to hinder our ability to promote further effective action to eliminate hatred and intolerance of this very kind,” she stated.

 

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