Press Releases

     
    For information only - not an official document.
      UNIS/GA/1714
        20 October 2000
     Spread of New Forms of Racism, Including Internet Dissemination of Hatred,
    Assailed in Third Committee’s Continuing Debate on Racism
     
     

    NEW YORK, 19 October (UN Headquarters) -- Internet providers must restrict access to sites within their own countries to prevent the dissemination of hatred, the representative of Monaco told the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) this morning, as the Committee continued considering issues related to racism and self-determination. 

    Continuing, he said that the contemporary forms of racism did not always present themselves openly, as apartheid once had.  They could assume subtle forms, particularly in Western countries, where skinheads, fascists and rightist groups were sprouting up.  Mechanisms to eradicate daily manifestations of racism must be strengthened.  Restricting access to the Internet would require streamlined legislation, which would have to be enforced both by the international community and by national authorities.

    Argentina's representative also said that racial hatred was spreading over the Internet because there were no international safeguards.  The disturbing extreme-right violence and ethnocentrism in certain parts of the world must be countered.  Popular opinion in support of the World Conference against Racism should be mobilized as a priority.  A regional meeting would be held in Santiago, Chile, he said.

    The representative of Egypt cited the documentation in the report of the Special Rapporteur on racism as particularly alarming with regard to the role of Western Internet sites in extremism and xenophobia.  Most disturbing were the charges that immigrants caused unemployment and cultural disunity.

     The Deputy Director of the International Labour Organization (ILO) noted a downside to modern mass communications when they were vehicles for fostering racist hate and violence, for propelling racist groups into positions of political influence, and for fomenting religious intolerance and trafficking in vulnerable people.  Legal provisions alone would not end racial and ethnic discrimination, however.  Social, economic and cultural power must be redistributed and equal opportunities ensured. 

     Also making statements this morning were the representatives of Indonesia, Liechtenstein, Cuba, China, Sudan, Antigua and Barbuda, speaking on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), Ethiopia, Croatia, Slovakia, Ukraine, Syria and San Marino.

     The observer of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies also spoke. 

     The Committee will meet again at 3 p.m. to continue its consideration of issues related to the elimination of racism and racial discrimination, along with the right of peoples to self-determination.  It will also take up programme planning issues by considering the medium-term plan for the period 2002-2005.  

    Committee Work Programme

     The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) met this morning to continue considering issues related to racism and to self-determination.  (For background, see Press Release GA/SHC/3596 of 18 October.)

    Statements

     MARIANO SIMON PADROS (Argentina) said the extreme-right violence and ethnocentrism in certain parts of the world were disturbing.  Racial hatred was spreading over the Internet because there were no international safeguards.  Popular opinion in favour of the World Conference against Racism should be mobilized as a priority.  A regional meeting would be held in Santiago, Chile, he said.

    The Declaration against racism had been incorporated into Argentina's legislature.  Discrimination was outlawed and was combated by public information programmes and counseling centres for those who had been subjected to discrimination.  The Internet was also used to counter the hatred it was spreading.  Argentina would take numerous initiatives in preparation for the World Conference through a national preparatory programme to be launched this year.  Universities would be holding meetings.  Education and awareness programmes would be a major focus.  Those two aspects of the fight against racism should be highlighted at the World Conference, because xenophobia and prejudice were major obstacles to peace and development.

     AHMED DARWISH (Egypt) said his country supported the strengthening of human rights for all, without regard to language, race or ethnicity.  Respect for all nations was an imperative.  Diversity was a good source of enrichment for humanity, and should be seen in that light rather than as an incitement to destructive behaviour.  The United Nations was the organization that embraced all cultures and was the forum for equal rights and parity, for the eradication of aggression and the building of an effective dialogue.  Of particular concern was the documentation in the report of the Special Rapporteur on racism with regard to the extremism and xenophobia being spread on certain Western Internet sites.  Most disturbing were the charges that immigrants caused unemployment and cultural disunity.  Special efforts should be made to protect migrant workers and their families.  Special protection should also be afforded to those marginalized by racial discrimination, which resulted from medieval thinking that objected to the strengthening of international peace.

     He said the right of self-determination, which was fully supported by the United Nations, was not just a collective right but a fundamental part of the international regime.  It was enshrined in the human rights covenants, which acknowledged that without the right of self-determination, there would be no human rights.  The development of the Arab struggle for peace, and United Nations resolutions, should be the reference point for achieving peace in the Middle East.  Since peace was the basis of stability, the Palestinian peace process should be made effective –- because the lack of a stable peace for Palestine was an obstacle to peace and justice for the entire region.  He intended to present a draft text on the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination, he said.

     MAKARIM WIBISONO (Indonesia) said that while there was no illusion that racial discrimination and racism could be eliminated quickly, he nevertheless considered the World Conference to be a “signal event” that would not only bring attention to common concerns but also generate momentum for substantive actions.  His delegation looked forward to the drawing up of a declaration and a plan of action that would offer clear indications of what the international community planned to achieve.  Further, he suggested that the draft declaration should recognize the global scope of the problem and the need for a concerted global response.  The importance of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination should also be highlighted at the Conference.  He drew the Committee’s attention to an expert seminar on racism, refugees and multi-ethnic States that had been held in Geneva last year.  An important observation made at that meeting was that legal provisions were not in and of themselves sufficient for solving problems of racial and ethnic discrimination.

    He said that questions of racism were complex, and demanded comprehensive solutions that addressed social, economic and cultural aspects along with legal frameworks.  For its part, Indonesia had signed and ratified the Convention last year.  A team of legal experts was conducting an ongoing review of national laws and regulations with a view to removing discriminatory aspects.  While that process would take time, Indonesia was committed to eliminating any and all discriminatory aspects from its legislation.  At the same time, it was also continuing to address the socio-economic undercurrents of ethnic and religious unrest.  He was confident that through a process of dialogue and education those problems would be resolved.  The exploitation of ethnic differences in Indonesia might at first seem to be developing in a “worrying” manner, he said.  While this was a concern for the Government, he suggested that existing problems were not essentially racial or ethnic, but fundamentally social and economic.  He believed, then, that the root problems needed to be addressed if the problem itself was to be solved.  Poverty and ignorance were incubators of divisiveness, and the recent economic crisis had enabled the exploitation of differences in certain parts of the country.  As a multi-ethnic and multi-religious country, Indonesia would not accept such behaviour and would condemn it at all levels.

    CLAUDIA FRITSCHE (Liechtenstein) said that while self-determination represented one of the fundamental principles of the United Nations Charter and other international covenants, there were those who chose to recognize its significance only in the realm of decolonization.  Others chose to dismiss it altogether as a principle of the past.  Her delegation believed that self-determination was no less relevant today than it was 55 years ago when the United Nations was founded.  She believed that position was reinforced by recent international events highlighting the fundamental importance of the topic.  The thrust of her own country’s initiatives was the notion that the right to self-determination of communities could be fulfilled through variable and progressive patterns of self-administration, beginning with limited and basic self-government.

    At the heart of resistance to and misconceptions about the idea of self-determination lay the perceived conflict between that principle and the principle of territorial sovereignty.  It was important to realize that recognizing rights of State sovereignty did not neutralize recognition of the right to self-determination.  Self-determination was not synonymous with independence or secession.  The principle indeed encompassed a full spectrum of possibilities which had the potential to avoid violent outcomes.  In the matter of intra-State conflict, she said that the recognition of the right to self-determination of all communities should be recognized and exercised, in the form of self-governance within the framework of the territorial integrity of States.  That way, the outbreak of violence could perhaps be avoided before the worst damage was done.  By re-evaluating self-determination and employing a proactive approach, the violent disintegration of States could be avoided. 

     RODOLFO REYES RODRIGUEZ (Cuba) said that as the World Conference on Racism got nearer, racism got worse.  The most alarming forms were in the Western world.  In Europe, extremism and exclusionism were both gaining, with some groups receiving money from their governments' budgets.  Unequal distribution within and among countries exacerbated problems created by racism and discrimination against racial minorities and ethnic groups.  In Western societies, migrants had become scapegoats.  Police forces were becoming more aggressive.  Networks such as the Internet were being used to spread ideas of racial superiority and hatred.

    He said the most critical situation of mass violations and institutionalized racism existed in the United States.  The Diallo murder in New York, among many others, indicated the level of the problems.  For example, Pennsylvania's blacks amounted 9 per cent of the State's population, yet 62 per cent of those on death row were black.  The World Conference could be a landmark for reparations that would apply to both victims and descendants of slavery, which was a crime against humanity.

     YU WENZHE (China) said racism existed both within countries and among them.  The unjust international political and economic order led to discrimination and inequality among nations.  The World Conference should contribute to a just and equitable new order, and in that way create the conditions for eradicating racism.

     The right to self-determination was a sacred principle, he continued.  It meant people had the right to choose their own political and social system, their own economic model and path to development.  They also had the right to oppose foreign aggression, interference and control.  They could safeguard their State sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity.  When the powerful bullied the small and resorted to political pressure, economic sanctions and armed invasion, it was a flagrant trampling of the right of self-determination and should be condemned by the international community.  However, some people with evil intentions openly advocated the splitting of sovereign nations under the pretext of self-determination.  Those actions were the antithesis of promoting human rights.  They should be condemned and opposed by all people.

     The situation in the Middle East was at a critical juncture, he concluded.  The violent conflicts of recent days were disturbing.  The use of heavy weapons and the creation of casualties were to be condemned.  The parties concerned should use the greatest restraint, and cease all talk and actions not conducive to peace negotiations.  They should follow the United Nations resolutions and the principle of land for peace.  In a spirit of mutual trust and understanding, they should patiently persevere in negotiations and abide by agreements already reached.

    ELFATIH MOHAMED AHMED ERWA (Sudan) said that recent years had witnessed a sharp increase in violent acts of racism or racial discrimination, mainly against ethnic minorities and refugees in various parts of the world.  He called on the international community to exert every effort to ensure that the values of tolerance and dialogue between peoples and religions be strengthened.  Terrorism directed against foreigners, attacks against ideologies, belief in one's towards superiority and ethnic cleansing were dangerous phenomena.  Their elimination could only be accomplished through the consolidation of international mechanisms.  However, the growing incidence of cyber-racism -- Internet Web sites disseminating poisonous messages of hatred and intolerance -- and the absence of international regulation would prove to be a further challenge.  In light of speedily evolving technology, it was imperative that appropriate legislation at national and international levels be adopted quickly to put a stop to such practices.  With all that in mind, his delegation was closely watching preparations for the Conference.  He hoped the event would be a step in the direction of consolidated international efforts, and that clear recommendations and an all-encompassing plan of action would emerge from it.

    Turning to the right to self-determination, he said that important principle should not be understood as granting States the right to intervene in the domestic affairs of other States, or infringe on territorial integrity.  Indeed, self-determination was a necessary right for people living under the yoke of colonialism and foreign occupation.  He alluded to the unfortunate events in the  occupied Palestinian territory, where racism was being exercised in its worst form.  He noted that the occupation had not spared children, whose young minds had known only the struggle of their parents who strove every day to live with dignity.  Recent events there had only strengthened his delegation’s conviction of the need for implementation of the relevant United Nations resolutions to grant the people of that territory the right to self-determination.  On the use of mercenaries as tools to promote racism, he said that his delegation had noted the inadequacy of the legal definition of mercenaries. It was hoped that the world community would work actively to refine its definition, so that perpetrators of those acts would not go unpunished. 

    DEBORAH-MAE LOVELL (Antigua and Barbuda), speaking on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), said that despite the best efforts of the United Nations, the ugly spectre of racism still boldly stalked the earth.  Sometimes the beast was recognizable, or dressed in contemporary garb.  At other times, its guise was more subtle.  However, whatever costume racism wore, it was always unfashionable and always out of style.  It was imperative for the international community to root out the beast of racism, in any disguise, and confine it to the dustbin of history.  In that regard, the upcoming World Conference would provide the perfect opportunity for creating a new world vision for the fight against racism in the new millennium.   The CARICOM vigorously supported the objectives of the Conference.  She noted, however, that the Conference would be considered a success only if it helped the victims of racism.  She encouraged the international community to give generously to the voluntary fund for the World Conference.

    She went on to say that CARICOM was deeply disturbed by the phenomenon of “cyber-racism”.  Her delegation believed that scientific and technological advances should be used to improve the welfare of mankind, not to kindle racial discrimination or spread a culture of intolerance and fear.  Her delegation had noted the “relentless” efforts of the Special Rapporteur on racial discrimination. She said that his work had given voice to members of the international family who were normally voiceless.

     FESSEHA TESSEMA (Ethiopia) said the root causes of racism, xenophobia and intolerance were many, varied and changing in their manifestations.  National legislations criminalizing racial discrimination were inadequately enforced.  To address the complex phenomenon, the problem needed to be acknowledged and then remedial measures instituted at both national and international levels.  Unfortunately, racism had not received the priority attention it required.  The Third Decade's Programme of Action had been inadequately funded.  The World Conference would be the forum to remedy the situation, formulate concrete recommendations to enhance the effectiveness of existing machineries, and adopt additional measures.

     Although racism was no longer part of any country's official doctrine, he continued, it still existed in its crude forms and called for effective measures.  The unabated racist messages of the Eritrean regime, directed at Ethiopians living in Eritrea, were systematic violations of human rights that, in some cases, reached the magnitude of crimes against humanity and genocide.  The atrocities against Ethiopians had intensified since 1998, he said.  Enumerating those atrocities, he appealed for intervention by the international community. 

     DUBRAVKA SIMONOVIC (Croatia) said greater emphasis must be placed on preventive measures against the enduring but ever-changing forms of racism.  The World Conference would be the opportunity for taking stock of the challenges.  It should trigger a worldwide campaign for preventing and eradicating racism.  Its declaration and plan of action should contain a comprehensive set of measures and initiatives.  It should also contain innovative and implementable strategies that were time-bound for both the short and long term.

     Living up to the promises of world leaders at the Millennium Summit to uphold the principles of human dignity, equality and equity for all peoples had far-reaching implications.  It meant no one could turn his back on the world's vulnerable, the refugees and displaced persons, the immigrants and migrant workers, the trafficked persons and women and children.  Preparations for the World Conference had already produced results in stimulating national and regional efforts to fight racism.  The concrete and constructive outcomes of the Strasbourg Conference last week would contribute directly to the World Conference.  Her country would host a United Nations expert meeting next month in Zagreb on gender and racial discrimination.

     Outlining her country's legislative and national initiatives, she said the promotion of racial and ethnic tolerance must also remain high on the international agenda.  Drawing people's attention to the issue of racism was an important way of overcoming lifelong biases and intolerance.  It would lead to all peoples living together in peaceful, democratic, multi-ethnic and all-inclusive societies.

     JURAJ PRIPUTEN (Slovakia), associating his statement with that of the European Union, said that the elimination of all forms of racial discrimination was one of the major challenges facing the international community today.  That task would not be easy, particularly given the rapidity with which forms of racism were changing.  The world community should not give up its efforts, however.  International treaties and conventions would be crucial tools to aid those efforts –- and, in that regard, it was disturbing that only 20 per cent of States parties to the Convention on the elimination of racism had brought complaints to the attention of the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.  He hoped that the World Conference would provide the impetus for other States to come forward.  That Conference would be an effective platform for exchanging ideas and experiences among Member States, as well as a contribution towards a better millennium.

     He went on to say that Slovakia had supported all preparatory work for the world event, including the Strasbourg Conference convened by the Council of Europe last week.  The President of his own country had presided over a national Conference against Racism in May.  That meeting had resulted in an evaluation of the present situation in the country, identification of problems, and recommendations to address them.  He noted that the situation of the Roma minority was a sensitive issue for Central and Eastern Europe.  Slovakia had a considerable Roma population, and the Government had taken necessary steps in order to improve their situation.  In 1999, the Government had adopted a national strategy for the solution of the problems of the Roma minority.  Appropriations had also been made in the national budget to support Roma-oriented projects.  While those and other initiatives had been a step forward, he recognized that there was a long way to go to address that complex issue.

     MYKOLA MELENEVSKY (Ukraine) said that the idea of racial discrimination was in diametric opposition to everything the international community stood for.  Actions against racial discrimination in all its forms and promotion of mutual respect and understanding should be among the most urgent issues of the United Nations agenda.  His delegation was convinced that the need for establishing early warning procedures to improve the capacity of the Organization to prevent conflicts arising from racial or ethnic tensions was vital.  The help of the Commission on Human Rights would be critical in that regard.  He added that the complex causes of racial discrimination ranged from a lack of education and information to sensitive issues such as social and economic disparities.  National governments, therefore, bore the primary responsibility for the elimination of all forms of discrimination.  The Convention on the elimination of racism and the work of the Committee on the elimination of racism both continued to be important tools in that sphere.  Bearing in mind the high probability of conflict on the grounds of racism and ethnic discrimination, it was especially important for States to adhere to the recommendations of the Committee.

     The complex principle of self-determination had both internal and external dimensions as it affected the vital interests of nations, national minorities and States.  Ukraine recognized the right of self-determination as an inalienable right of the peoples of all nations.  He believed that a clear distinction should be made between the perception of the right to self-determination for people whose status was determined by a colonial past or for people living in occupied territories, and those national minorities living in territories of modern States as a result of natural historical progress.  The right to self-determination did not automatically imply the right to territorial secession.  It should be exercised with strict adherence to the protection of human rights and rights of national minorities, adherence to the principles of democracy and recognition of the inviolability of State borders.  Ukraine accepted the well known formula of “effective realization of the right to self-determination through autonomy” as a possible solution to that complex issue.

     JACQUES BOISSON (Monaco) said contemporary forms of racism did not always present themselves openly as apartheid had.  They could assume subtle forms, particularly in Western countries.  The World Conference was occurring at a very opportune time, since manifestations of racial violence had been increasing in certain countries.  Skinheads, fascists and rightist groups of all kinds were sprouting up.  Mechanisms must be strengthened for eradicating those daily manifestations of racism.

     Legal measures should be instituted against disseminating hatred over the Internet, he said.  Internet providers should restrict access to Internet sites within their countries, which would require streamlining of legislation.  Racial discrimination in all its aspects should be condemned.  Economic discrimination should be legislated against, as should the excluding of minorities from the active life of a society.  Such laws and measures, however, would have to be enforced both by the international community and by national authorities.  His country had co-sponsored the Convention on eliminating racism.  It had ratified and acceded to the instrument, which needed to be implemented by all States as a priority.  The World Conference should be the focal point for all States to sign it.

    In conclusion, he said racism and intolerance had complex causes rooted in economic, political, cultural, sociological and historical factors.  Since the scourge affected societies at a very deep level, its eradication should be fuelled by a strong mobilization of public opinion through education and awareness.

     RANIA HAJ ALI (Syria) said that although the United Nations had made progress in countering racism, contemporary forms were still appearing in many societies and directed against certain categories of persons, Arabs among them.  In the Middle East, Israel's policy was infringing on the Palestinians' right to self-determination and to freedom from foreign occupation and domination.  The Palestinian people's right to self-determination had been affirmed, but Israel's use of words, symbols and images rooted in religion were a source of instability.  

    She said the non-aligned movement represented countries that had made major sacrifices to recover from the colonial forces that had held sway for many centuries.  United Nations efforts had been of limited success because of Israel's policy of expansionism.  For many years, the Palestinian people had been hoping to return to their territory.  Israel, however, flouted all international laws and pursued its policy of changing the fabric of the Arab societies by sending convoys of settlers from lands that had expelled them.  Television had shown the kind of State terrorism Israel carried out in its murder of Palestinian civilians and slaughter of children.

     Religious myths and aberrations were being used to destabilize the Middle East, she reiterated.  Israel must withdraw from Palestinian lands and must allow the setting up of a Palestinian state.  It must stop its practice of blackmailing its neighbours with threats directed against the entire world.  In her own country, respect for human rights was very firmly rooted, based in numerous conventions the Government had signed.  Prejudice or preferential treatment did not exist.  Instead, the goal was to achieve equality among all citizens on all levels, including the economic and social levels.

     ELENA MOLARONI (San Marino) said that in the twenty-first century there should really be no need for a world conference on racism.  Those problems should already have been overcome.  Unfortunately, swift action on the part of governments to combat the scourge was needed more today than ever before.  Racism was, primarily, a fear of the unknown.  That fear could lead to discrimination and, in extreme cases, to racial or ethnic cleansing.  Most of the time, however, racist behaviour derived from social pressures, assumptions and misconceptions, as well as a lack of curiosity.  That was truly unfortunate, because civilizations needed cultural diversity in order to progress.  In that regard, San Marino believed that collecting and analysing data on racism, educating youth about ethnic diversity, creating public awareness of the benefits of a tolerant and peaceful society, and the initiation of relevant legislative action were the basic steps any society should take to eliminate racial discrimination. 

     KIRSTI POHJANKUKKA, Special Adviser of the observer office of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, said that all her organization’s activities had one purpose:  to help those who suffered, without discrimination.  That idea was deeply rooted in the organization’s fundamental principles, which included humanity, impartiality, neutrality and voluntary service.  Indeed, those very principles often carried the complimentary task of eliminating ethnic barriers.  Young people had proved particularly effective in promoting tolerance.  The Red Cross youth network had felt the strong need to contribute to the worldwide fight against discrimination, and a global youth leadership training programme had been launched with the cooperation of the Council of Europe.  The organization had developed “stop the violence” campaigns and other programmes aimed at combating racism around the globe.

     She went on to say that the Red Cross/Red Crescent still felt the need to do more.  In a world with increasing tensions that resulted in violence, there was a need to work in partnership in order to encourage respect for humanity.  The International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent, held last November, adopted a plan of action for 2000-2003 which expressed a commitment to developing strategic partnerships and new ways to meet the needs of vulnerable people to reduce violence and discrimination.  Also, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies had enhanced its commitment to the fight against racism in its Strategy 2010, adopted last year.  At the core of that Strategy was the promotion of fundamental principles of humanitarian values.

    GARETH HOWELL, Deputy Director of the International Labour Organization (ILO), noted the downside of modern mass communications when they became vehicles for fostering racist hate and violence, for propelling racist groups into positions of political influence, and for fomenting religious intolerance and trafficking in vulnerable people.  The impact of racial discrimination on employment was evident in contemporary forms of slavery, child labour, trafficking in people, and the special challenges facing women, older persons, youth, migrants, indigenous peoples, refugees and vulnerable groups of all kinds.  Concrete measures were needed to overcome discrimination in the job market and at work, first to prevent expansion of racism and then to protect victims.

     He said the ILO had strengthened its "migration for employment" programme because of the accelerating pace of migration throughout the world.  At the request of governments, it supported the efforts of migrant-sending and migrant-receiving countries to cope with the movement of workers across national boundaries.  The ILO also advised on issues such as recruitment, protection and the return of migrant workers and their families.  It protected migrants from discrimination and advised in formulating national migrant policies and programmes.  Finally, the ILO helped promote new national frameworks for preventing discrimination against migrant workers.

     Refugees were in urgent need of a swift international response to their problems as a most vulnerable group, he concluded.  And while technical cooperation could assist Member States wishing to ratify conventions or apply them effectively, legal provision alone would not end racial and ethnic discrimination.  Efforts had to centre on redistributing social, economic and cultural power, on promoting social justice and on ensuring equal opportunities and participation for all.  

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