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“United Against Racism”

“United Against Racism”, was convened as a first discussion at the conference by High Commissioner Pillay as a reminder and an inspiration to participants of the daily suffering and courage of so many around the world whose lives are affected by racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance.

United Against Racism: Durban Review Conference 20-24th April. © UN photo/ Patrick BertschmannThe panel included the High Commissioner and three others. Stephane Hessel, a member of the French Resistance during the Second World War and a Holocaust survivor was also among the drafters of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Berthe Kayitesi survived the Rwandan genocide but lost many members of her family, including her mother and father.
Gay McDougall is one of the world’s foremost human rights advocates and the first holder of the position of UN Independent Expert on minority issues.

“All of us know”, Pillay said, “that despite the varying of circumstances and the distinct historical causes or geographical roots of racism, the sentiment of loss, despair and exclusion are akin, at least in implications and effect, to all those who endure them.”

“Combating such shameful practices”, she said, “is a task of the highest magnitude…..a task that nobody should shun.”

Stephane Hessel recalled the words of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and urged delegates to face up to today’s new challenges “hand in hand”. He spoke of the importance of education in combating racism. 

“Let us tap the full potential of the wonderful human family”, he said.

“My entire world crumbled in front of my eyes.” Those words from Berthe Kayitesi describing the genocide in Rwanda in 1994.

“The Tutsis”, she said, “were not considered to be human beings. Genocide is the result of a very long process of dehumanisation. The genocide was the final result of discrimination.”

Kayitesi urged everyone to examine their consciences, to review their thoughts and gestures in the fight against racism and discrimination.

Gay McDougall attended the 2001 World Summit against Racism in Durban and today described the years since as being “long and hard”.

Nevertheless, she said, “Durban was an enormous step forward: a renewed commitment to equality expressed by a vast majority of the world’s states. Governments declared that the fight against racism is an international priority for all nations.”

McDougall said it was her “hope that each one of us will be mindful that the work that we are here to do this week is a solemn undertaking that transcends national or regional interests and rather, is compelled by our allegiance to our common humanity.”

The Durban Review Conference is being held to assess progress made since the 2001 World Conference again Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and related intolerance was held in Durban, South Africa.

The thousands of delegates attending the Conference will have the opportunity to participate in the formal discussions and the many side-events being staged alongside the formal proceedings.

April 2009