Press Releases

    RD/916
    3 August 2001

    LEADING INTERNATIONAL FIGURES MEET IN GENEVA IN SUPPORT OF WORLD CONFERENCE ON RACISM

    NEW YORK, 2 August (UN Headquarters) -- Nine leading international figures will gather in Geneva on Friday 3 August 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 by High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson in June to help advance the aims of the World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance to be held in Durban, South Africa, from 31 August to 7 September. They are:

    • Martti Ahtisaari, former President of Finland;
    • Emeka Anyaoku, former Secretary-General of the Commonwealth;
    • Gareth Evans, former Foreign Minister of Australia;
    • 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;
    • Federico Mayor, former Director General of UNESCO, and
    • Dr. Nafis Sadik, former Executive Director of the United Nations Population Fund and Special Representative of the Secretary General to the World Conference.

    In Geneva, the members of the Group -– whose patron is Nelson Mandela -- will hold a roundtable discussion as ongoing negotiations in preparation for the World Conference to reach the critical stage. They will meet at the Palais des Nations from 1:15 p.m. to 3 p.m. before attending the preparatory talks. They will also hold a news conference from 3:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.

    Speaking to delegates taking part in the negotiations, 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. They can give us moral leadership and inspiration", she said.

    "The members of this remarkable group have spoken out consistently, loudly and clearly for tolerance, for valuing diversity and for the virtue of learning from the past to build a better future", Mrs. Robinson said when announcing the establishment of the Eminent Persons Group in June.

    Full Membership of Eminent Persons Group

    Patron: Nelson Mandela, former President of South Africa

    Members:

    Martti Ahtisaari, former President of Finland

    Emeka Anyaoku, former Secretary-General of the Commonwealth

    Oscar Arias, former President of Costa Rica and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate

    Patricio Aylwin Azócar, former President of Chile

    Soheib Bencheikh El Hocine, Grand Mufti of Marseilles

    Jimmy Carter, former President of the United States

    HRH Prince El Hassan, Jordan

    Cardinal Roger Etchegaray Gareth Evans, former Foreign Minister of Australia

    Vigdis Finnbogadottir, former President of Iceland

    Mikhail Gorbachev, former President of the Soviet Union

    I.K. Gujral, former Prime Minister of India

    Dr. Najima Heptulla, President of the Inter-Parliamentary Union

    Coretta Scott King (widow of Martin Luther King)

    Kuett Ketumile Masire, former President of Botswana

    David Lange, former Prime Minister of New Zealand

    Federico Mayor, former Director-General of UNESCO

    Rigoberta Menchu, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate

    Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth

    Dr. Nafis Sadik, former Executive Director, United Nations Population Fund and
    Special Representative of the Secretary-General for the World Conference against Racism

    Mario Soares, former President of Portugal

    Elie Wiesel, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, Holocaust survivor



    ***

    For further information, please contact:

    Jose Diaz, tel: +41 22 917 9242
    e-mail: jdiaz.hchr@unog.ch;

    or

    Myriam Dessables, tel: +41 22 917 7225
    e-mail: dessables@un.org.