Press Releases

    GA/SHC/3680
    29 January 2002

    EFFORTS TO IMPLEMENT ANTI-RACISM STRATEGY MUST
    FOCUS ON EDUCATION, THIRD COMMITTEE TOLD

    NEW YORK, 28 January (UN Headquarters) -- The fact that the subject of racism and racial discrimination should still occupy so much time was a sad commentary on civilization’s progress, the representative of Bangladesh told the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) this afternoon, as it continued its consideration of the report of the World Conference on Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance, held in Durban, South Africa, from 31 August to 8 September 2001.

    Painful as it was, he said, the Durban process had enabled delegations to take a collective view on past and present for charting a future course of action. Much work remained to be done. The ghosts of racism could still be seen lurking amidst suspicion and misperception of "the other". Efforts in implementing an anti-racism strategy must focus on education, effective national measures, fighting impunity and international cooperation. New information and communication technologies, that were misused to spread hate and xenophobia and reinforce stereotypes, should be addressed.

    The representative of Zimbabwe said history had proved that racism and racial discrimination posed great danger to the political, economic and social stability of States, as well as an equal threat to world peace and security. There was a conflict between moral compulsion and material interests, and, sadly, materialism had always seemed to win out. He was pleased that the Durban Conference had condemned slavery and the slave trade as crimes against humanity and recognized the need for compensation to be paid victims of those practices. He was concerned, however, that, against the tide of global momentum to combat the evils of racism in all its forms, there were still discordant voices being raised.

    During the past few years, the world community had heard vehement and spirited defence of colonialism and racial privilege, accompanied by vilification of those attempting to place moral compulsion against material interest, he continued. In his country, the support for 4,500 white settlers at the expense of 13 million people in the name of preserving stolen property desecrated any commitment to the promotion of human rights, justice and the rule of law. Defenders of racial privilege had condemned the Government of Zimbabwe for instituting a land reform programme which had, as its ultimate goal, redressing the historical injustice in the distribution of the country’s lands.

    The representatives of Algeria, Iraq and the United States also spoke, as did the Permanent Observer for the Holy See. The representative of Cuba exercised his right of reply.

    The Third Committee will meet again Thursday, 31 January, at 11 a.m. in Conference Room 4.

    Background

    The General Assembly's Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) met this afternoon to consider the elimination of racism and racial discrimination.

    For more background information, see Press Release GA/SHC/3679 of this morning.

    The Third Committee also received a note verbale, dated 14 September 2001, from the Permanent Mission of Kazakhstan to the United Nations, transmitting the text of the Declaration of heads of government of member States of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russian Federation, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan) in connection with the terrorist acts carried out in the United States on 11 September 2001 and the statement on the outcome of the first meeting of the heads of government of member States of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (document A/56/364).

    It also received a letter, dated 21 November 2001, from the Ambassador of Iran to the United Nations addressed to the Secretary-General, transmitting the Declaration adopted by the twenty-fifth Annual Meeting of Ministers for Foreign Affairs of the "Group of 77" developing countries, held at United Nations Headquarters on 16 November 2001 (document A/56/647).

    A letter was also received from the Permanent Representative of Qatar to the Secretary-General, dated 26 November 2001, transmitting a statement of the Emir of Qatar at the opening of the thirtieth ordinary session of the Al-Shoura Council of Qatar on 19 November 2001 (document A/56/649-S/2001/1111).

    Finally, the Committee received a letter from the Permanent Mission of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea addressed to the Secretary-General of 3 December 2001, concerning a statement on 30 November 2001 by the Spokesman of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Japan's "unprecedented suppression of the General Association of Korean Residents in Japan (Chongryon).

    Statements

    J.B. JOKONYA (Zimbabwe), associating his delegation’s statement with that made earlier on behalf of the South African Development Community (SADC), said he sincerely hoped the problems that had led to the late publication of the report of the Durban World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance would not impede efforts to establish a follow-up mechanism. An effective mechanism would be crucial not only to right the wrongs of the past, but to also create a world free of racism and related intolerance.

    History had proved, he continued, that racism and racial discrimination posed great danger to the political, economic and social stability of States, as well as an equal threat to world peace and security. Years of suffering had taught that there was a conflict between moral compulsion and material interests, and sadly, materialism had always seemed to win out. It would take a lot for courage, leadership and political will to redress that issue in order to give solace to victims of various racist and discriminatory policies and practices throughout the world.

    Wounds inflicted over generations would admit no instant cure, he said, and it was important to remember that those wounds needed to be examined before a healing process could begin. Zimbabwe was pleased that the Conference had begun such a process of examination by condemning slavery and the slave trade as crimes against humanity, and recognizing the need for compensation to be paid victims of those practices. He was concerned, however, that against the tide of global momentum to combat the evils of racism in all its forms, there were still discordant voices being raised.

    He said those voices appeared somewhat accommodating. During the past few years, the world community had heard vehement and spirited defence of colonialism and racial privilege, accompanied by vilification of those attempting to place moral compulsion against material interest. Indeed, Western support for a racial minority at the expense of the majority posed a problem for the quality of Western values and principles. That notion hurt the indigenous people of Zimbabwe and made a mockery of the much-vaunted Western values and ethics of human rights.

    In his country, the support for 4,500 white settlers at the expense of 13 million people in the name of preserving stolen property desecrated any commitment -– if there had ever been any –- to the promotion of human rights, justice and the rule of law. Above all, that was a recipe for conflict that threatened national stability, he said. Defenders of racial privilege had condemned the Government of Zimbabwe for instituting a land reform programme which had, as its ultimate goal, redressing the historical injustice in the distribution of the country’s lands.

    The message for influential segments of the international community had been clear, he continued: "Leave the majority black Zimbabweans in their penury and perpetual deprivation because that is their historical lot." Any attempt by the Government to correct that injustice was a violation of the rule of law in the eyes of defenders of minority rights. African exclusion from the economy was acceptable in the interest of property rights.

    He stressed that the land reform programme, which had been the subject of so much misinformation, was essentially an attempt at equitable distribution of national resources, which ensured that Zimbabweans who wanted to till the land, regardless of colour or any other perceived differences, would be given the opportunity to do so. He urged the international community to forge ahead in unison in the quest to find solutions to the challenges posed by all forms of racism.

    ABDELOUAHAB OSMANE (Algeria) said the Durban Conference had been an important event for humanity, providing an opportunity to examine progress made in the fight against racism, to study how to better guarantee respect for current norms, and especially to say something for the first time about the past injustices of colonialism and slave trade.

    His country, represented in Durban by its head of State, saw the Conference, despite the debates and the passion it had generated, as an important milestone in the long and difficult enterprise towards human reconciliation, he said. At the Conference, his country had pleaded for a new humanism, based on generosity, solidarity, equality and justice, free from prejudice and stereotyping. Even if racism in its traditional form had diminished since the victory of apartheid, it still showed itself in serious manifestations.

    Diversity, which should be celebrated, had become a reason for rejection and discrimination, and was a pretext for all sorts of nationalistic excesses, he said. That was a major challenge to the United Nations and mankind. Implementation of the Declaration and Programme of Action was part of the effort to totally eliminate racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance.

    RENATO R. MARTINO, Permanent Observer for the Holy See, said no one could deny that the family of nations needed a concerted programme of action to address racism. He wondered why that family of nations found it so difficult to address the question of racism during the Conference, to address a complex of contemporary issues that posed a threat to the maintenance of harmonious international relations. The fight against racism was urgent. Too often, uncritical societies had stood by as new signs of racism raised their head.

    He said a programme to fight racism, using the many positive elements of the Durban documents, must begin at the level of national legislation and practice, accompanied by education. Government agencies must never justify racial profiling, and the mass media must be alert to avoid any type of stereotyping of persons on a racial basis. The Declaration requested that measures be taken to ensure that members of ethnic, religious or linguistic minorities should not be denied the right to practice their religion. It had recognized with deep concern the emergence of hostile acts and violence against certain communities because of their religious beliefs and their racial and ethnic origin that limited their right to freely practice their belief.

    True religious belief was incompatible with racist attitude and practices, he said. Through their common belief in the dignity of every individual and in the unity of the human family, believers of all faiths could bring strong leadership in fostering understanding and reconciliation among peoples. In a world in which religion was often exploited as a means to deepen existing divisions, it was encouraging to note the growing number of initiatives towards dialogue among religions. The fight against racism required a personal change of heart. It required that "healing of memories", that forgiveness for which Pope John Paul II called in his recent Message for the World Day of Peace, when he said: "No peace without justice, no justice without forgiveness: I shall not tire of repeating this warning to those who, for one reason or another, nourish feelings of hatred, a desire for revenge or the will to destroy."

    IFTEKHAR AHMED CHOWDHURY (Bangladesh) said that the fact that racism still occupied so much of the delegates’ time was a sad commentary on civilization’s progress. Painful as it was, the Durban process had enabled delegation to take a collective view on past and present for charting a future course of action. Much work remained to be done. The ghosts of racism could still be seen lurking amidst suspicion and misperception of "the other". New manifestations of intolerance towards vulnerable groups, immigrants, refugees and migrant workers could be seen.

    He said efforts in implementing an anti-racism strategy must focus on education, first of all. Peace and human rights education should be expanded to all levels to inculcate a culture of peace. Governments should also focus on effective national measures. Special efforts must be made on behalf of groups that were particularly vulnerable. Fighting impunity was a third focus. All countries must come together to uphold justice, including by establishing appropriate monitoring and providing training to its officials. International cooperation was a fourth point of focus. Cooperation must be inclusive of such areas as the new information and communication technologies that were misused to spread hate and xenophobia and reinforce stereotypes.

    The Constitution of Bangladesh forbade discrimination on grounds of race, religion, caste, sex or birthplace, and guaranteed equality before law and of opportunity for all citizens, he said. His country had supported the fight against racism and intolerance on the international level. It was party to all major human rights conventions, including the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. It had unequivocally rejected the policies and practices of the occupying Power in the Middle East. Eviction from land, arbitrary blockade, indiscriminate and excessive use of force against civilians and State-sponsored assassination were clear violations of international law and human rights.

    AHMED K. AHMED (Iraq) said that despite international efforts and agreements to fight against racism and related intolerance, dangerous challenges such as ethnic cleansing and notions of religious and racial superiority continued to persist. It was imperative that all members of the international community combat all manifestations of racial discrimination and xenophobia in order to ensure that people of the world were treated with dignity and respect.

    Still, the future should not neglect the past and the present, he continued. It was, therefore, necessary to examine the poverty and misery faced by many peoples of the world today. The people of Iraq continued to suffer due to continued economic sanctions and military aggression. Indeed, the people of Iraq continued to suffer human rights violations and other ill-treatment on a regular basis. He added that the years of harsh policies imposed by an occupying Power had also had severe and negative effects on the Palestinian people.

    The people of Africa had suffered tremendously as a result of colonization, he said. The continent was now practically bereft of natural resources, and it was up to the international community to ensure that these and other wrongs were redressed. Global actors should work to ensure a future in which people would be totally free of racism and racial discrimination, including policies of economic embargoes and military aggression.

    SICHAN SIV (United States) said his country believed it was its duty to work towards elimination of racism at home and abroad. That was a historic commitment for the United States, rooted in its own experience. Although the United States was built upon principles of liberty and equality, it had not been exempt from the historical context. Indigenous people had been destroyed, and slavery had been an accepted practice in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. It had taken the Civil War to end slavery, but it had not ended racism itself.

    Giving an overview of the history of the fight for equal rights in his country, he said the United States had been engaged in a constant struggle to protect the civil rights of its citizens. Despite its remarkable success, the struggle was a work in progress, however. In practice, measures intended to promote equality had often been resisted, sometimes by violent means. Underlining America’s success in creating a diverse society, he added that more needed to be done. As a party to the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, the United States had reported on the situation in his country.

    He said his country’s determination to overcome disparities among its population would not diminish because of the war against terrorism. In the aftermath of 11 September, the American people of all races had come together to protect their human rights and values. The Administration was making sure that nobody was persecuted or targeted because of his creed or origin.

    The scope of his country's commitment to combating racial and ethnic strife was not only evident at home but also abroad, he said, giving several examples of activities on the international level in that regard. The National Endowment for Democracy was working to help black Cubans achieve a peaceful transition to democracy. Other areas of activity were in Latin America, Cambodia and Afghanistan.

    The United States remained committed to the elimination of racism everywhere, through free and open debate, he said. History was immutable. The past must be acknowledged. Although the United States would not endorse the outcome documents, its commitment to the Conference’s goals was unequivocal.

    Right of Reply

    Exercising his right of reply, the representative of Cuba said a reference had been made to a federal North American agency working with groups existing in his country to combat racism. History had demonstrated that the phenomenon did not exist within his country. It was important, however, that those countries that did have serious internal problems with racism work to eliminate them instead of trying to blame others for problems that they did not have.

    He went on to say that international mechanisms existed to combat racism and racial discrimination and called on all States, particularly the delegation which had spoken earlier, to try to work more on international operations. For example, such States could have participated in Durban as an expression of their commitment to combat racism, but they did not because, apparently, no such commitment truly existed.

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