Press Releases

     

    GA/SHC/3756
    3 November 2003

    STATES MUST INTENSIFY NATIONAL EFFORTS TO COUNTER
    RACISM, RACIAL DISCRIMINATION, THIRD COMMITTEE TOLD,
    AS DISCUSSION ON THOSE ISSUES CONCLUDES

    NEW YORK, 31 October (UN Headquarters) -- States must intensify their efforts at the national level to effectively combat racism and racial discrimination, delegates told the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian, Cultural) today, as it concluded its consideration of the elimination of racism and racial discrimination, including, the implementation of, and follow-up to, the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action, as well as the right of peoples to self-determination.

    The battle against racism could not be won by the policing of behaviour and attitudes within Member States by the United Nations, but had to be fought within societies in each nation to change thought processes and attitudes, said the representative of India.  To this effect, she added, States must strengthen efforts towards the promulgation and implementation of stringent national laws, as well as the creation of independent national institutions with powers to address manifestations of racism.

    The representative of Turkey stressed effective legal protection at the national level as indispensable, in the fight against racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance.  It was incumbent upon every State to do its utmost to advance the culture of tolerance and non-discrimination, he continued, noting his delegation’s concerns about migrant workers, students, refugees and other groups of different religious, ethnic or cultural backgrounds, who were being targeted by racist groups.

    States must develop strategies aimed at understanding the roots of racism, xenophobia, and related intolerance, along with supporting all international instruments to combat those scourges, said the representative of Lebanon.  He added that his delegation was concerned about the adoption of legislation by several States that infringed upon human rights, in order to fight terrorism.  Hatred against Islam and racial violence against Muslims and Arabs were a cause for grave concern, as was the use of the Internet to propagate this hatred and encourage such violence.

    Over the last week, delegations have raised concerns about both old and new forms of racism and racial discrimination.  Particular attention has been paid to the use of the Internet in spreading racial hatred and propaganda.  Delegations also highlighted the need to address the increase in Islamophobia and stressed that racial discrimination must not be part of any State’s anti-terrorist measures.  Many also stressed the need to strengthen legislation to protect people from racism and racial discrimination.  Speakers said that education and the teaching of tolerance were required in order to address the root causes of racism and create an environment of cultural diversity.

    Concerns were also raised about the right of peoples to self-determination and the ongoing struggles of certain groups to realize this right.  Other delegations stressed the importance of preserving territorial and political integrity, while recognizing the right of all peoples to self-determination.

    Also speaking this morning were representatives of Cuba, Pakistan, Thailand, Liechtenstein, Eritrea and Tunisia.

    The observer of Palestine also spoke.

    Exercising the right of reply were the representatives of Côte D’Ivoire, Pakistan, Israel, Lebanon and the observer of Palestine.

    The Committee will reconvene on Monday, 3 November, at 10 a.m. to begin its consideration of the report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and questions relating to refugees, returnees and displaced persons.

     

    Background

    The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian, Cultural) is expected to conclude its consideration of the elimination of racism and racial discrimination, including, the implementation of, and follow-up to, the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action, as well as rights of peoples to self-determination.

    For further background information, please see Press Release GA/SHC/3751 of 24 October.

    Statements

    MIRTA GRANDA (Cuba) said the right of peoples to self-determination enshrined in the United Nations Charter was one of the fundamental pillars of international law.  However, the objective of abolishing colonialism had not yet been achieved, as there was still interference of some States in the internal affairs of other States.  The international community must not allow unilateral policies to dominate international relations.

    She said her delegation especially condemned the continued illegal occupation of Arab territories, in particular in Palestine.  For five decades, the United Nations had recognized the sovereign right of Palestinians to self-determination, and that right continued to be denied to them.  Her delegation, furthermore, deplored the continued occupation of part of Cuba’s territory against the will of its people by the naval base in Guantanamo Bay.  The people of Puerto Rico also continued to be denied their right to self-determination and independence.

    She said the use of mercenaries to destabilize States and in terrorist activities and other organized crime activities, was of concern.  The Cuban people had been victims of mercenary activities against their sovereignty, and many of these acts were financed and supported with impunity by the United States.  Cuba rejected mercenary practices because they violated essential principles of international law.  Their links to other crime, and in particular terrorism, must be eliminated.

    MUKTA D. TOMAR (India) said the battle against racism could not be won by policing of behaviour and attitudes within Member States, by the United Nations.  On the contrary, the battle had to be fought within societies in each nation to change thought processes and attitudes.  To this effect, action by States for the promulgation of stringent national laws, their strict implementation and the setting up of independent national institutions with powers to address manifestations of racism, needed to be heightened.

    She expressed concern about some of the ideas expressed in the report of the Special Rapporteur on the fight against racism.  He had spoken about the adoption by countries of legislation that violated human rights on the pretext of combating terrorism.  She stressed that there were countries where thousands of lives had been lost on account of terrorist attacks.  In these countries, there was no pretext of combating terrorism.  Combating terrorism was, unfortunately, a reality for many countries.

    She also thanked the Special Rapporteur on the question of the use of mercenaries for his report, stressing that the universal and omnipresent nature of the mercenary menace.  India had played a leading role in the historic struggle for decolonization and had been at the forefront of the movement to secure the rights of peoples to self-determination, so that those under alien subjugation, domination and exploitation could freely determine their own political status and pursue their economic, social and cultural development.  In this connection, she expressed India’s unwavering support and solidarity for the people of Palestine and their inalienable right to self-determination.

    HAKAN TEKIN (Turkey) said the persistence of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance all over the world, was of concern.  Migrant workers and their families were increasingly being perceived as a new threat against the stability and the identity of the countries in which they lived.  Students, refugees and other groups from different religious, ethnic or cultural backgrounds were being targeted by racist groups.  The recent increase in anti-Semitism and Islamophobia and violence aimed at Jewish, Muslim and Arab communities were another cause of grave concern.

    He said the follow-up to the Durban Conference should be based on strengthening and implementing the legal instruments at national, regional and international levels.  Providing effective legal protection at the national level was indispensable in the fight against racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance.  It was incumbent upon every State to do its utmost to advance the culture of tolerance and non-discrimination.

    MUNIR AKRAM (Pakistan) said that in 1947, Pakistan and India had gained independence from British rule on the basis of the right of self-determination.  Unfortunately, this exercise remained incomplete since India occupied the State of Jammu and Kashmir, denying self-determination to its people.  The latest Kashmiri struggle for freedom had been underway for over 13 years, with an Indian occupation army of 700,000 troops maintaining hold of Kashmir.  More than 80,000 Kashmiris had been killed, and thousands remained incarcerated.  Torture and rape had been systematically used by Indian forces, as weapons of war.  Pakistan supported the Kashmiri struggle for self-determination morally, politically and democratically.

    On 23 September 2003, the President of Pakistan had proposed an action plan to address Kashmir and promote peace between Pakistan and India, he said.  The action plan consisted of a sustained dialogue between the two countries on a just solution to the situation in Kashmir; the observance of complete ceasefire along the Line of Control; a general cessation of violence within Kashmir; the deployment of a viable United Nations mechanism to monitor the Line of Control; and an agreement on measures to ensure mutual nuclear restraint for sustainable security in South Asia.

    Unfortunately, India had not responded positively to these proposals, he said.  The United Nations had a special responsibility, following from the resolutions of the Security Council, to promote a just and peaceful solution for Jammu and Kashmir, in accordance with the wishes of its people.  This was the key for durable peace and security in South Asia.

    URAWADEE SRIPHIROMYA (Thailand) said the complexities of globalization had given rise to new challenges, including an increase in intolerance, racism, racial discrimination and racist violence.  The contemporary manifestations of these scourges through information technology must not be tolerated, and an effective international response was urgently required to curb this disturbing trend.

    She said her country’s constitution guaranteed equal rights for all its citizens, regardless of race, language, sex, age, physical condition, religion, or social and economic standing.  Her Government had a clear policy aimed at creating a harmonious society, where people of all backgrounds could live in peace and security.  It considered education of utmost importance in laying a solid basis for tolerance and understanding, among people from all walks of life, in each and every community.

    The Thai Government had also introduced a regularization programme for illegal workers, and had adopted measures to ensure equal protection and non-discrimination against migrants, including fair wages, access to health-care services and educational opportunities for their children, she concluded.

    PIO SCHURTI (Liechtenstein) said that following its participation in the World Conference against Racism, Liechtenstein had established a working group to elaborate and implement the national action plan to prevent and eliminate racism and xenophobia.  The plan was based on the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action and drew heavily on the feedback Liechtenstein had received from the Committee on the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination and the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance.  Currently, the working group was focusing on awareness-raising measures.  Information campaigns were being conducted to sensitize young people to racism, intolerance and xenophobia, as well to, the pertinent international documents and legal instruments.

    Over 34 per cent of Liechtenstein’s resident population was composed of nationals from 80 different countries, he said.  People had long been accustomed to living and working side-by-side with people from many different backgrounds.  In such a situation, integration was key.  The overall rural character of Liechtenstein and the absence of major settlements had helped to prevent forms of segregation of immigrant groups in specific neighbourhoods.  There were no political parties with xenophobic agendas and no anti-Semitic or racist movements in Liechtenstein.  Mutual respect and tolerance were a prerequisite for a truly multicultural society.  Awareness-raising, integration and other proactive measures to prevent racist activities could take the international community a long way towards this goal.

    ANTOINE CHEDID (Lebanon) said that in the wake of the Durban Conference, it was critical to support all international instruments to combat racism and racial discrimination, and to develop a strategy aimed at understanding the roots of racism, xenophobia, and related intolerance.  His delegation was concerned about the adoption of legislation by several States that infringed upon human rights in order to fight terrorism.  Hatred against Islam and racial violence against Muslims and Arabs were a cause for grave concern, as was the use of the Internet to propagate this hatred and encourage such violence.

    Regarding the Middle East, he said it was incumbent upon the Committee to not lose sight of the main issue.  That was the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory and the implantation of settlements and the creation of walls.  There had been claims that an end must be put to Arab violence, but the world was faced by massacres of the Israeli military against Palestinian civilians.  Institutional terrorism was one of the worst forms of discrimination because it constituted an attempt to expel the Palestinians from their own territory.

    AMARE TEKLE (Eritrea) said the World Conference against Racism had been another milestone in humanity’s struggle and search for the essential elements that would foster an equal, free and fair coexistence, based on mutual respect and tolerance.  The Conference had provided an opportunity to further crystallize commitments and harmonize the struggle in tackling mutual concerns and collective searching for ways and means to eliminate racism.

    Racism and the emphasis on difference, invariably frustrated development, since it marginalized populations, he said.  Furthermore, racism ran counter to peace, since peace could only exist in an environment of equality, tolerance and harmony, as well as the rule of law, good faith and mutual respect.  Racism also promoted aggressive and ruthless foreign policies of hegemony and disrespect for international law.

    Eritrea’s first constitution was replete with references to unity, equality, harmony, tolerance and mutual respect, as well as the protection of individuals and communities from forms of discrimination, he continued.  Racism, racial discrimination and the politics of exclusion were no longer matters of the internal affairs of a State.  Racism had regional and international ramifications and consequently affected peace, security, stability, and good neighbourliness.  Remedies for, and the struggle against, those phenomena, must be sought and promoted at all levels of human interaction.

    NADYA RASHEED, observer of Palestine, said the ongoing colonial occupation of Palestine since 1967 remained one of the worst forms of colonization in modern history.  It was regrettable and shameful that the Palestinian people continued to be subjected to the most pervasive expression of persistent colonialism, racism, oppression and victimization.  Their right to self-determination had been withheld by force, in flagrant violation of international legitimacy and international law.  The Palestinian people were entitled to their right to self-determination and the right to establish their independent State with East Jerusalem as its capital.

    She said the Palestinian people would never succumb to any forces of oppression and violence.  Nor, would the indiscriminate and excessive use of force make them relinquish their legitimate struggle for freedom and independence.  Palestine would continue to hold steadfast in its belief that one day it would participate as a Member State of the United Nations.  She called on the international community to bring an end to the Israeli occupation and its illegal practices and policies.

     

    Statements in Exercise of Right of Reply

    A representative of Côte d’Ivoire, exercising his right of reply, in response to a statement made by Burkina Faso, said the representative of that country had stated that foreigners had been forced to leave Côte d’Ivoire.  The fact was that more than 26 per cent of Côte d’Ivoire’s people were foreigners, many from Burkina Faso, living in harmony.  There had never been a policy of the Government to expel foreigners.

    Since the beginning of the political crisis, some people had naturally wanted to leave the country, he said.  The Government had come to the assistance of people wishing to leave.  It was interesting to note that people were now starting to return.  The Special Rapporteur was welcome to Côte d’Ivoire and would be able to visit the entire country.  The statement made by Burkina Faso represented nothing more than provocation.

    The representative of Pakistan, responding to the statement made by India about the situation of minorities in India, noted a report by Human Rights Watch, that showed that “dalits” (untouchables) continued to be discriminated against, were denied land and were routinely abused at the hands of the police and of higher caste groups that enjoyed the State’s protection. 

                                                                                                                                                 

    Regarding the distinction between India and Pakistan, he said Pakistan had always upheld the United Nations Charter, while India had defied the Charter by maintaining its illegal occupation of Kashmir, and justifying that, as a fight against terrorism.  His delegation deplored the growth of fascism in India, as manifested in the racism and militarism that promoted religious intolerance and caste-related killings. 

     A representative of Israel, exercising his right of reply, said he regretted that the Palestinian speaker had attempted to recast the Israeli and Palestinian dispute as racial.  It was a dispute that was political in nature.  To name it as racist was not only false, but also dangerous.  The situation of the Palestinian people was a direct result of the actions and inaction of their own Government.  Israel respected the rights of its neighbours to self-determination, and had no urge to dominate them.  However, the right of self-determination must be exercised while respecting other people’s right to self-determination.  Violence, the spreading of hatred and suicide-bombings were not acceptable.

    Concerning the statement made by the representative of Lebanon, he reminded the speaker that Israel had withdrawn from Lebanon on 24 May 2000, in complete accordance with Security Council resolutions. It was actually Lebanon that was not acting in accordance with Security Council resolutions. Lebanon must control the activities of the Hezbollah -- one of the cruellest terrorist organizations in the world.

    The representative of Lebanon said the representative of Israel had attempted to politicize a fundamental issue relating to human rights and the fight against racial discrimination.  He wished to clarify that Israel did not withdraw from Lebanese territory of its own free will, but was compelled to withdraw, as a result of Lebanese resistance.  Moreover, Israel had not yet withdrawn completely from Lebanese territory.

    Regarding Hezbollah and other parts of the Palestinian resistance, he said those groups were exercising their right to defend their self-determination.  Israel daily practiced racial discrimination against the Palestinian people, and his delegation rejected what was said by the representative of Israel.

    The observer of Palestine, exercising her right of reply, said the situation was not a “dispute”, but an occupation.  Daily life was filled with killings, destruction and humiliation.  The Palestinian people were victims of flagrant violations of all human rights on all levels -- political, economic, social, and cultural.  Still, the Palestinian people had extended their hands for peace in the region, but it had become an unjust and flawed peace process, with Israel attempting to justify its settlers.

    Concerning the situation today, she noted that the Israeli government had

    14 reservations to the Road Map, while the Palestinian side had expressed no reservations.  With regard to suicide-bombings, she stressed that this was a response to the occupation, not the cause.

     

    Statement

    AFIFA SALAH GHANMI (Tunisia) said her delegation attached the greatest importance to the problem of racism and xenophobia, and to the instruments to combat this problem.  Tunisia had, therefore, been actively involved in the World Conference against Racism and believed that only tolerance and solidarity could possibly prevent racism and discrimination in all its forms.  Tunisia believed in a global approach to combat racism, including the respect for economic, social and cultural rights.  These were rights that were inextricably linked to the dignity of humankind.  The Government had established a National Solidarity Fund, as well as other mechanisms aiming to battle racism, xenophobia and extremism.

    Regarding the situation in the Middle East, she said her Government was concerned about the escalation of violence.  The current situation was a threat to the entire region, as well as the international community.  She stressed the need for the parties to the conflict to return to the negotiation table and find a just and durable solution, based on international law, in order to ensure peace and stability in the region.

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