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Human Rights Review

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Follow-up to the World Conference on Human Rights, New York 1998

V. Racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and other forms of intolerance

34. The prohibition of discrimination is rooted in the equal dignity of all people. The Vienna Conference made it clear that it is not enough to condemn racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and other forms of intolerance. These deplorable phenomena threaten the harmony and stability of societies, and undermine the values espoused in the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action. Action at both international and national levels is necessary to eradicate them. Governments, intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations and individuals have their own important responsibilities in this context.

35. Progress during the last five years is symbolized in the collapse of apartheid in South Africa. The Presidency of Nelson Mandela is a personification of a continuous struggle for respect for rights of all people. Several countries have changed their legislation, and have taken additional measures to prevent or stop racial or otherwise motivated discrimination. Examples of such policies include prohibition of the incitement of racial hatred; combating racist organizations; steps to halt the proliferation of hate propaganda on the Internet; penal regulation to punish discriminatory behaviour, hate crimes, and racial violence; and regionally based monitoring centres to combat racism and xenophobia. Special attention has been paid to education for tolerance and against discrimination. In many countries, special institutions have been created to develop programmes against bigotry and racism. An interesting example in this regard can be seen in the establishment of youth forums to counter xenophobic attitudes and racially motivated violence among young people. Special programmes have
also been implemented to demonstrate the value of capitalizing on linguistic and cross-cultural skills in the market and workplace.

36. Racism and racial discrimination continue to be high on the agenda of the General Assembly, the Commission on Human Rights and other United Nations organs and bodies. The Third Decade to Combat Racism and Racial Discrimination (see Assembly resolution 48/91) was proclaimed in 1993 to provide a framework for supporting national and international efforts to combat racism. 1995 was proclaimed the International Year of Tolerance (see Assembly resolution 48/126). The General Assembly adopted a draft model national legislation for the guidance of Governments in the enactment of further legislation against racial discrimination (see Assembly decision 48/426). The Commission on Human Rights, at its forty-ninth session, decided to appoint a Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance. OHCHR organized, inter alia, several seminars to promote the implementation of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination and support activities against new forms of racial discrimination, including in the context of migration. The United Nations Voluntary Fund for the Programme of Action of the Third Decade to Combat Racism and Racial Discrimination has played an important role in this context through support for studies, workshops, and seminars. Regrettably, the level of contributions to this Fund has been decreasing (see figure III).

37. Measures undertaken at international and national levels to combat racial and other forms of discrimination have unfortunately not produced satisfactory results to date. Examples of genocide originating in racial and ethnic tensions, waves of refugees and internally displaced persons following ethnic cleansing or similar practices have all taken place since the World Conference on Human Rights. The rise in xenophobic and racially motivated acts of violence continues to plague people in all parts of the globe. They are urgent reminders to the international community that reinforced efforts must be made to stop these abhorrent violations of human rights.

38. Penal measures are not sufficient to effectively act against racial and other forms of discrimination and violence. The eradication of such violations depends primarily on internalization by future generations of the culture of human rights. Educational programmes to promote racial and religious harmony, community programmes to overcome mutual distrust, youth exchange programmes, technical cooperation to assist in law reforms and establishing appropriate institutions and procedures are examples of activities that should be developed worldwide. New manifestations of racism and other forms of intolerance require further research and elaboration of appropriate policies. Early warning should be followed by early action to prevent the outbreak of conflicts.

39. The Programme of Action for the Third Decade to Combat Racism and Racial Discrimination should be reinvigorated and involve not only governmental agencies but wide circles of civil society. This is not just the responsibility of public officials - all members of society should contribute to that end. The Programme outlines, inter alia, educational and promotional activities, as well as advisory services and technical assistance concerning various aspects of racism, racial discrimination and xenophobia, including the implementation of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. To realize this Programme, national and international actions should be combined. The planned World Conference against Racism and Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance, to be held not later than the year 2001, should give a strong impetus to making the next century free of these phenomena.

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