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Anti-racism conference outcome document – what it actually says

The outcome document of the Durban Review Conference is designed to bring real changes for the millions of victims of racism worldwide. It has identified “concrete measures and initiatives at all levels” to stamp out racial discrimination and intolerance.

High Commissioner Navi Pillay: the outcome document is a carefully balanced and yet meaningful outcome enshrining a common aspiration: to defy racism in all its manifestations and work to stamp it out wherever it may occur. © UN Photo/Pierre VirotVictims are given special consideration in the document, which was adopted by consensus at the Durban Review Conference. It represents the latest global consensus on how to fight all forms of racism.

Contrary to a common misconception, the Durban Review Conference and its outcome did not focus on a single issue, conflict or group of people – the Middle East for instance is not mentioned in the outcome document. Rather, it emphasizes that all victims of racism “should receive the same necessary attention and protection and accordingly appropriate treatment.”

The outcome document includes specific measures to address multiple forms of discrimination against vulnerable groups, such as migrant workers, refugees, asylum seekers and internally displaced persons, children, women and girls, persons with disabilities, victims of slavery and exploitation, trafficking and people living with HIV/AIDS.

It also urges governments worldwide to promote greater participation and opportunities for people of African and Asian descent, indigenous peoples and individuals belonging to ethnic, religious or linguistic minorities.

Concerning “defamation of religion”, there were concerns that the outcome document would introduce such a concept and threaten freedom of expression. The document does no such thing.

It unequivocally reaffirms the positive role of freedom of expression in the fight against racism, while also deploring derogatory stereotyping and stigmatization of people based on their religion or belief, as manifested in Islamophobia, anti-Semitism, Christianophobia and anti-Arabism.

The outcome document also launches a process to examine how the prohibition of incitement to hatred, a well-established concept as reflected in Article 20 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, has been implemented in various parts of the world.

The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) is to organize a series of expert workshops on the legislative patterns, judicial practices and national policies in the different regions of the world on the subject in order to assess the level of implementation of the prohibition of incitement.

While the outcome document represents pledges by governments across the globe to tackle all forms of racial discrimination, it also underlines the important role of international and regional organizations, national human rights institutions, civil society and their cooperation in fighting the formidable battle against racism.

It “invites the Human Rights Council, its special procedures and mechanisms, as well as relevant treaty bodies” to take into account the 2001 Durban Declaration and Programme of Action (DDPA) in their work. It acknowledges the need make the three follow-up mechanisms created by the DDPA more effective, and urges all governments to “cooperate fully” with the UN human rights mechanisms in the fight against racism.

OHCHR, which provides secretariat and substantive support to the UN human rights mechanisms, is also requested to continue its contribution to this end.

The outcome document further calls on governments to ratify the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination and other instruments adopted after the 2001 anti-racism conference, such as the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and its Optional Protocol, and the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

In the words of he Secretary-General of the Durban Review Conference, High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay, it is “a carefully balanced and yet meaningful outcome enshrining a common aspiration: to defy racism in all its manifestations and work to stamp it out wherever it may occur.”

7 May 2009